House Crashing: A Foursquare Facelift

Lock your doors folks, cuz we’ve got our house crashing pants on again. This time we’re in Richmond’s Union Hill neighborhood visiting Diana Mathews, one of the gallery rockstars we met at Quirk during our last crash. We were told we had to see the amazing century-old American Foursquare style home Diana and her family transformed three years ago (which Diana now shares with three roommates). So off we went to meet her…

And her house was fantastic, as promised. In fact, someone described the work Diana and her family did as “a gift to the neighborhood” and when you see these jaw-dropping before and afters, you’ll see why. I mean, like, woah:

When Diana began house hunting a year ago, she knew she wanted a fixer-upper. But not in the lukewarm sense that Sherry and I wanted a fixer-upper. She wanted to put her family’s renovation and restoration skills to the test (her dad is a master woodworker, for instance) to create a fresh, personality-filled home that she could save from demolition in the process (it was already condemned when they snagged it for only 45K). And check out some of the amazing exterior details that they introduced along the way – from a new, stacked balcony and fence (with hand-carved accents courtesy of her father) to the classic trimwork and columns (some of which her pops created by hand to match the existing exterior woodwork).

Once inside we loved that Diana blended the old, restored details of her home with her playful and eclectic personal style. For instance, her “music room” pairs the exposed brick fireplace with a stacked bookshelf (organized by color- which of course made me über jealous… remember how I drooled over this trend when I saw it a while back). Diana took things a step further and did the same to her DVD collection in the living room- keep an eye out for that a little later.

The “music room” occupies one of the four original first floor rooms in this foursquare, which Diana has actually turned into three by opening up the wall between the kitchen and the living room (she calls the fourth space the “art room” because “you can’t have three living rooms”). She left some original brickwork to help define the updated kitchen and living room, but used a bold, apple green wall color to visually link the two spaces. The open rooms and high ceilings have allowed Diana to make a few more bold design choices too. She turned her grandfather’s large, antique dentist chair (the death-trap looking thing in front of the brick) into a whimsical art/conversation piece and also welcomed a big ol’ hunk-of-puppy-love named Bruce into the family.

Note the floor under Bruce, as well. The house had limited salvageable flooring, so they collected planks from all over the house and used them to restore the floor in the foyer (under Bruce’s rear) and adjoining music room. The rest of the house, like the kitchen and the living space below, features new hardwood flooring that blends really well with the 100-year-old planks that they rescued. And those great french doors (framed out in impeccable wood trim, of course) open to the downstairs balcony. Green with envy yet? We were the same color as the walls.

The style continues upstairs into each of the – you guessed it – four bedrooms. Diana rents out three of them to family and friends, so we restrained ourselves and only snapped pics of her own domain (we’re nosy but not that nosy). Our host’s bedroom was a perfect example of how antique pieces (bed & trunk), original art (from Quirk above the bed) and bargain finds (that great IKEA rug) can blend together to create a one-of-a-kind space with interest and charm to spare. Think we can convince Diana to rent out her bedroom to us for a weekend or two? Or at least that swanky master bath?

My guess is that in a house this sweet, neither Diana nor any of her roommates are planning to leave any time soon. But who could blame them? We love seeing house transformations like this – especially when it’s not just a flip but a home that’s meant to be lived in and enjoyed after all the hard work (while giving back to the neighborhood at the same time). So Diana, thanks so much for letting us crash your four-star foursquare. Oh, and before I forget, Burger would like you to ask Bruce not to eat him.


  1. Tatyana says

    I love the orange doors! That’s such a great contemporary accent on an classic home. And her bedroom looks very cozy.
    Great remodeling/renovating job. Someday I wish I could do the same.

  2. says

    This is the second renovated foursquare I’ve looked at today and I have to say that this one wins hands down. I love the exposed brick, the new kitchen, the floors…beautiful!

  3. says

    Oh my word, this house just embodies everything I want my house to be ‘when I grow up’!! I LOVE having the books and DVDs in colour order, that is such a novel concept to me and is just brilliant. I’m just falling in love with your blog.

  4. Jamie says

    I love love love that green paint color. What qualities does a room have to have to use such a dramatic paint color?

    In many of the cool home designs, including this one, I have seen really cool chairs that really seem to give a room style. Where do you shop for chairs like that?

  5. YoungHouseLove says

    So glad you’re all enjoying our latest house crashing adventure. It’s super fun to share our pics with such appreciative (and vocal) people! As for Jamie’s question about the green paint color, we think there are a few rules to use such a bold hue:

    #1: The room has to get a lot of light and be pretty spacious in general (high ceilings and big windows are always a plus)

    #2: There need to be other rich colors going on in the space so the wall color doesn’t completely dominate (the warm cherry cabinets and rustic brick fireplace along with that fun blue chair are other elements that help diffuse the bright green color)

    #3: It should work with the palate of the rest of your home (Diana has bright pops of color in almost every room, so the green kitchen doesn’t seem out of place)

    Hope that helps! Feel free to chime in if you guys can think or more rules for using a bold color in your home. Oh and as for where to find such fun chairs, we’d suggest everywhere from a thrift store to Crate & Barrel (they have some great vintage modern looking pieces that come in every color from pale blue to bright orange). Happy chair shopping!


  6. robert says

    orange and green and all that beauty in between!
    what a remarkable transformation -a wonderful mix of modern and historic. thanks for sharing!

  7. Union Hill says

    Just a quick correction: Diana’s home is in Union Hill, not Church Hill! But you’re right….it is a gift to the neighborhood!

  8. Bill says

    Union Hill has so many houses ready for someone to love. And the great thing is that Union Hill is layed out in a quirky way with houses of many styles and layouts.

  9. says

    I love love love this house! I love exposed brick- I’m about to take a hammer and chisel to one of my walls because I suspect there is brick under there… crossing my fingers there is!

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