The Design Lover's Guide to Richmond

By: House Method Design lover's guide

Everywhere we go, we like to surround ourselves with beautiful spaces.

There are the obvious domestic destinations for design lovers—New York, Chicago, San Francisco—but we’re on the hunt to discover the best of what smaller American cities have to offer in the way of design. That’s what the design lover’s series is about.

If Virginia is for lovers, then Richmond is for design lovers. This great southern city is home to world-class art museums and galleries, critically acclaimed restaurants, and award-winning hotels. Few southern cities are as walkable as Richmond, and even fewer have the scenery to invite it.

For the lover of history, beauty, preservation—Richmond is a must. It boasts such a wealth of immaculately maintained residential architecture. Richmond’s gridded streets teem with row upon row of late-Victorian row homes, each dressed in its own unique trimmings. Turrets, bay windows, corner plots with wrap-around porches, double doors, covered stoops, gated gardens, charming corner cafes, that vital mix of commercial and residential—and nearly every architectural style and flourish you can imagine—can be found in Richmond proper’s neighborhoods. 

Photo by Zayas Imagery

Where to stay

Quirk Hotel is a clear design lover’s choice in Richmond. Erected in 1916 in Italian Renaissance style, this former dry goods store now anchors the city’s burgeoning creative district as one of the most celebrated institutions of hospitality in Richmond. Quirk’s expansive lobby offers light-filled nooks for sitting and sipping and drinking in this beautifully designed space now adorned in a new-meets-old blend of playful modernism and turn-of-the-century sophistication.

Quirk has played a significant role in Richmond’s emergence as a premier American city, garnering national attention for its modern, bubbly, and stylish presence in the city as its streets are once again filled with the best of the best in culinary establishments and cultural magnetism.

Quirk is also home to the Quirk Gallery, which features work by emerging and established artists. Exhibits are challenging, explore an array of media, and invite visitors to rethink traditional form and even function.

Photo by Calder Loth via the American Planning Association

Where to walk

Residential architecture enthusiasts need look no further than Richmond’s Fan District. This fanning grid of streets between Monroe Park and the Museum District feels like an endless world of turn-of-the-century row homes, nearly all of them immaculately restored and maintained. Find Queen Anne, Gothic Revival, Richardsonian Romanesque, Second Empire, Jacobethan, Tudor Revival, Beaux Arts, and James River Georgian styles of architecture (just to name a few) along these tree-lined streets.

Photo by Iwan Baan

What to see

The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is an obvious and well-worth-it choice for art lovers visiting Richmond, but travelers would be remiss to overlook the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University, an institution known for its forward-thinking arts programs and affinity for producing and embracing provocative artists and their work.

Exhibits at the Institute for Contemporary Art will make you reconsider size and perspective, see material in a new way, and challenge the way you think about the original purpose of natural and manmade materials.

The modern brutalist building that seems to teeter on its base despite the laws of gravity, designed by Steven Holl Architects, sits smack in the middle of the bleed between VCU and downtown Richmond.

Photo by Longoven via Twitter

Where to eat

Longoven is Richmond’s playground for the refined palette. The restaurant’s bright and open front dining room offers traditional a la carte dining, but venture into the intimate tasting room to put yourself at the mercy of Longoven’s chefs, who offer experimental tasting menus.

Longoven’s style is modern minimalist, allowing the finest ingredients and culinary handiwork to sparkle.

Photo by Joey Wharton

Where to drink

When bartender and proprietor Mattias Hagglund began planning for the Jasper, he envisioned creating a space that Richmond didn’t already have—an actual cocktail bar.

Deep blue wainscotting, cognac-colored leather, a stack-tile bar, punched-tin ceilings, and plenty of chesterton seating line the insides of this cocktail-first establishment. Working with designer Lauren Stewart at Campfire & Co, Hagglund wanted to build an environment that is design-forward and libation centric—something he felt Richmond was missing.

The Jasper celebrates being a bar in that timeless way that mixes vintage and contemporary influences, both in its design and on its menu.

The menu is rich in classic ingredients and modern updates: find rainwater madeira and sherry alongside Earl Grey tea, cherry heering, and absinthe.

Where to go

Spend an afternoon at Hardywood, Richmond’s top-rated and award-winning brewery in the heart of the century-old German Brewing District. Hardywood is committed to using Virginia-grown ingredients, practicing environmental responsibility (it was the first VA brewery powered by 100% renewable energy), and producing the highest-quality beer around.

Design lovers will gravitate toward this brewery’s exacting attention to detail (make a reservation for a brewery tour) and the highly finished nuts-and-bolts industrial interior of the Richmond brew space.

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