History Lessons – richmondmagazine.com

Social media isn’t just for mindlessly scrolling through photos, videos and semi-funny memes. Kristy Porterfield utilized Instagram as a way to launch an upgrade to the Old Church home she shares with her family. Built between 1720 and 1740, it hadn’t seen any major additions in almost 100 years.

It was on the social network that Porterfield discovered interior designer Nicole Rutledge, ASID, whose style meshed with the vision she had for the house. “Typically, she is more modern in her work, [but] she also has a great respect for Colonial Williamsburg, and those were the two vibes we wanted to embrace in our home,” Porterfield says.  

Rutledge, a VCU graduate, started her interior design journey on commercial projects, but her transition to residential work in 2017 was natural and revealed her true calling.

“Being able to affect the spaces and lives of others is a gift,” she says.

Rutledge believes in making spaces beautiful but also highly functional. Her love of design and appreciation for how spaces flow started at a young age.

Growing up with a family member who was a hoarder, she would play the video game The Sims and virtually build homes to “imagine what a healthy and happy space would look like.”

“Interior design has real implications for mental health,” Rutledge says. “The emotional space we occupy can manifest in the physical space. For me, controlling the physical space we occupy is a way to have some tangible control over that emotional space.”

She specifically enjoys working on historic properties, so signing on to help with Porterfield’s project in 2019 was a natural fit.

Striking a balance between respecting the past and adding stylish, modern design elements and amenities was important for both parties. The reimagined space meant adding an additional 3,000 square feet, including a two-car garage, a main suite and an extra bedroom, to the home that sits on 30 acres.

While Rutledge and Porterfield appreciate the new, keeping some of the home’s original features intact, like the hand-blown glass windows on the first floor and the hardwood flooring, was a no-brainer.

To accommodate the family’s everyday and entertaining needs, the kitchen and dining room were expanded. “The original kitchen was very small and not functional,” Rutledge explains. “By opening a few walls, we were able to create a grander kitchen space. With all-new flooring, appliances and cabinets, we differentiated this as the newer portion of the home, [to] bring function and modern amenities into play.”

While the first floor is the perfect mashup of yesteryear and today, the upstairs space has a more contemporary touch.

“When entering the newer portion of the home on the second floor, you will see a shift to a modern aesthetic,” Rutledge says.

That fun, slightly funky vibe includes a lounge and media room in the attic for Porterfield’s two teenage daughters.

Rutledge describes it as a feminine space that includes moody floral wallpaper and lounge furniture, but it also has antique furniture and original fireplaces.

Even the upstairs bathroom nods to the past, with a refinished clawfoot tub that was original to the basement.

“We literally still pinch ourselves some moments that we live here and had the opportunity to restore this home.” —Kristy Porterfield

Keeping the overall look of the home cohesive but also distinctive was something Rutledge was able to do with a collaborative process, in-depth meetings and mood boards.

“The main concept was respecting the integrity of the original home,” she says. “And how do we make it look seamless, but look like it fits?”

The aforementioned original flooring on the first floor is one of the features that guests marvel at the most, Porterfield says — there are no seams, and it spans the entire length of each room.

However, the new flooring is clearly distinct from the original, while still flowing well and not looking like a random puzzle piece haphazardly thrown in.

“If you look at the main entryway, you can see the flooring transitions,” Rutledge says. “We made sure that the new flooring was different, and you can definitely see that the older portion of the home is just mainly the rectangle space.”

The yearlong process, Rutledge’s largest residential project to date, certainly paid off, as Porterfield says that she and her family never want to move again. “We literally still pinch ourselves some moments that we live here and had the opportunity to restore this home.”