This 1930s Virginia Home Proves That Vintage Finds Always Add Character

Ashley Hanley is probably in an antiques store right now. The Virginia interior designer knows that you can’t fake a layered, curated look, so she puts in the time—searching the shelves in out-of-the-way thrift shops, making friends with dealers at consignment stores, and tracking auction listings online to get pieces that give each of her clients’ homes a style that can’t be replicated.

About three years ago, her constant hunt paid off. While on a run in a neighborhood near downtown Richmond, Hanley spotted a 1939 brick house with an estate-sale sign out front. For once, she skipped the bargains and called her Realtor instead to see if the place would be on the market soon. “This was during COVID times, when we were living in a small 1940s home. We’d recently had our second child and were feeling very cramped,” she says. The four-bedroom house with an addition on the back meant extra breathing space for her and her husband, Brendan, as well as their growing family. After they wrote a personal letter explaining their wish to honor the architectural style—a pleasing mix of Georgian, Colonial, and Federal—it was miraculously theirs for under the asking price. Hanley had scored her best find yet.

“It was just meant to be,” she says. “We wanted an older house with lots of character, one that would also be a little bit of a fixer-upper so we could put our own spin on it.” True to her letter, Hanley left the structure almost exactly as she found it and focused her renovation energy on true trouble spots, updating a timeworn main-hall bath and transforming the third floor from a mirror-lined man cave into a whimsical playroom for her two young daughters, Frances Miller and Louise.

James Ransom; Stylist: Alya Hameedi


The remaining spaces all had beautiful wainscots, thick crown molding, and built-ins. Nothing needed tearing out, just a little TLC. “I tell my clients that I can help them find a lot of stuff, but they should look for things they love and gravitate toward,” Hanley says. “It’s so fun to pick up items that have meaning on your travels.” In her family’s home, she followed the same script, drawing up plans to slot in as much of her existing furniture as she could before making a shopping list (with detailed measurements) of what was needed to fill in the holes.

While biding her time for those just-right items, she populated the rooms with goodies she already had on hand: generations of family photographs, blue Wedgwood jasperware, treasure boxes, and books. “I love collecting. I’m always out and about finding things,” she says.

What holds it all together isn’t matchy-matchy fabrics or furniture (she’s not into those) but paying attention to the flow of the home and being willing to tweak a room when something isn’t working—or leave it alone when it is. She had plans to update the 1930s kitchen and rearrange the second floor to score a true primary suite, but after being here a few years, she’s happy to pump the brakes. “It’s funny. At first, I thought, ‘We’ll make the family room larger and have it open to the kitchen,’ but now we think we’ll keep it as is to honor the integrity of the house.”

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi.

“We swapped the living and dining rooms because we love to entertain and our families are here in town,” says Hanley. “Switching those gave us space to host them.” The table is from a local shop, but the real coup is the crystal chandelier. The designer saw it online and bid on it, not expecting to win. She did, so she went to Philadelphia to get it. “Talk about a nerve-racking drive home!” she recalls.

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi


Hanley had just purchased two velvet sofas to anchor the cottagey style in their past house when the couple decided to move. No problem: The curved arms and painted bases prove just as pretty in the family room here. “This is where we really live, where I have coffee and catch up on TV before the kids wake up,” she says.

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi


The primary bedroom came together around the vintage Oushak rug—a favorite existing piece. “That was the decor’s driving force,” she says. “I’ve always loved blues and greens.” After picking the hue for the walls, she lucked out at an antiques shop and came across a walnut four-poster bed that contrasted with the palette. Neutral window treatments and bedding by Biscuit Home will allow a future life for this room as a spot for guests or a grown-up space for one of the girls, if needed.

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi


Hanley kicked the color up a notch in the bedrooms—especially in Frances Miller’s, painted with Farrow & Ball’s Pink Ground (No. 202). “It’s beautiful—not too bubble-gum but more of a dirty blush pink,” she says of the shade, which complements the chintz draperies they brought with them from their previous home. The two beds accommodate the girls’ frequent requests for sister sleepovers.

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi


In her daughter Louise’s room, which is the smallest in the house, Hanley thought ahead to when it might one day be a guest space, choosing the versatile Cambridge Stripe wallpaper from Cole & Son.

James Ransom; Styling: Alya Hameedi


A long-beloved Sister Parish wallpaper was the jumping-off place for the fanciful playroom, which was inspired by the sets of movies that Hanley enjoyed as a child, like Mary Poppins and Little Women. “I was going for that English-cottage look where nothing matches but it all still makes sense,” she says. She carried the paper up over the angled ceiling to envelope the area, punctuating it with semigloss trim in a bold, leafy hue (Benjamin Moore’s Clearspring Green, HC-128). A twin-size daybed is flanked by two closets, one for toy storage and another for dress-up clothes.

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