RICHMOND — If you’re going to Richmond to shop, why not stay in a hotel carved out of an old luxury department store?
I recently checked in for two nights at the super cute Quirk Hotel, which started out in 1916 as J.B. Mosby & Co. and still has the original arches and ornamental ironwork of its predecessor. The local artwork, the repurposed Virginia walnut bed frames and even the pink accents throughout the hotel got me in the mood to explore Richmond’s hipster hangouts, curated consignment shops, vintage marketplaces and independent boutiques.
I had been to Richmond many times but found it full of fresh surprises as I followed my GPS from the polish of Carytown to the industrial landscape of Scott’s Addition.
Richmond has always been an off-the-radar destination for design die-hards hunting for deals on designer fabrics and antiques, but I wasn’t here for brown furniture and monogrammed silver trays. I was on a quest to learn more about how the maker movement is becoming mainstream here and how the furniture tastes of a new generation are trending toward the 20th century, as opposed to the 18th. I savored the musky charm of incense cones by a local fragrance source, the allure of an exotic staghorn fern and the simple beauty of a rewired vintage electric fan. The antiques are still here. But so are kombucha growlers, locally sourced llama wool rugs and trinket trays.
Although Richmond, about a two-hour drive south of Washington, is far from a small town, it’s downright neighborly, and the community welcome mat is out. You do need a car to get around, but what a treat it is to pull up and find free street parking directly in front of a shop, instead of fumbling with your Parkmobile app or navigating a winding parking garage. Each shop beckons with its own jazzy or indie-rock soundtrack, and friendly shop dogs are waiting to be petted.
2415 Jefferson Ave., 804-819-1729, shopdearneighbor.com
There’s always a birthday or holiday around the corner or some other reason to be on the lookout for a little gift. This was the thinking of jeweler Kristy Santelli Cotter and her husband, Evan Cotter, who opened this shop in Church Hill inside a carriage house that had spent time as a shoeshine parlor and a brewery. They are dedicated to local makers and often host events in the courtyard that adjoins their own house in back. You might pick up a Vietnamese pompom sea-grass basket ($45) or a porcelain wall hanging for displaying your air plant ($28). Soft rugs are made from llama wool from a nearby farm, and the aromatic essential oils are from Richmond’s own
Na Nin. Kristy will tell you about the boho velvet pillows; the blush color comes from a dye made from avocado pits.
As you leave this little design way station, fortify yourself for more shopping with a treat from the famed Sub Rosa Bakery down the block.
1601-A Roseneath Rd., 804-321-0156, danagibson.com
Need decorating inspiration? Head over to designer Dana Gibson’s studio and outlet, where the candy colors, graphic patterns, animal prints and whimsical motifs will entice you to go bolder in your own home. You may recognize some of Gibson’s home accessories from shelter magazines: shelves of tole lamps, stacks of roomy trays and piles of jewel-toned pillows. Mostly it’s slightly flawed or irregular pieces or discontinued items. You might discover $30 trinket trays that normally sell for $50, or $300 lamps normally ticketed at $500. Gibson loves to rummage around old stuff, so you will also come upon unusual chairs she’s reupholstered in fabrics of her own design and antique chests she’s updated with new hardware.
This is her workroom and warehouse (which is open only on weekdays) in the Scott’s Addition neighborhood, so don’t expect a manicured boutique. Do expect stylish stuff at a discount.
5805 Grove Ave., 804-282-4282, fraichehome.net
Fraîche has a little bit of everything in that sort of tradition-with-a-twist category. The shop, opened in 2008 by two BFFs, is both a place to shop with a friend and a place to find them a present. Yet it has a solid collection of furniture and entertaining accessories to outfit any bachelor pad or formal dining room. There are lots of tasteful and stylish frills for brides, babies and hostesses, and an especially large Juliska dinnerware selection. Fraîche sits in the shopping mecca of Libbie and Grove, a place locals love for its men’s shops, coffee bars and ice cream. Check in with Fraîche for the date of the annual August sidewalk sale.
207 W. Broad St., 804-340-6036, quirkgallery.com
Pink is the signature color in Katie Ukrop’s stylish Richmond art gallery and design store, now off the lobby of the Quirk Hotel, which opened in 2015. The gallery had been around for about a decade when the hotel opened, establishing an audience for its edgy art and photography shows and intriguing selection of home and design items and artisan jewelry. If you stay at the hotel, you’ll be drawn to the resin ice buckets ($117). The gallery sells bars of Icelandic volcanic ash soap ($8) and cute kitchen gloves ($13.50) mixed in with mint green or gray watering cans with a spray nozzle attached ($15) and local coffee and peanuts in beautiful pink floral packaging. “We want to bring energy and fun back to shopping,” Ukrop says. “It’s not so fun to just click to buy something. I want everything I sell here to have a soul.”
2708 E. Marshall St., 804-647-7301, tinyspace-rva.com
Sam and Anna Vanneman were looking to open a vintage home-goods shop when they heard about a gritty garage for rent in a happening block of Church Hill. They grabbed it. After three months of renovation and stockpiling “hand-picked and handmade” home goods, clothing and curiosities, they rolled up the garage door for business in August.
“This place used to be a woodworking shop,” says Anna. “It was perfect for our stuff.” Anna and Sam have different tastes, so there’s a wonderful jumble that might include 1960s ceramics, vinyl records, teak shelving, wicker, vintage electric fans and Shaker-style baskets. Sam curates books, which range from philosophy to Amy Vanderbilt’s “Complete Cookbook” from 1961. There are gems by local makers. Stuff comes in every day, and there are lots of finds under $20. “Our prices are super low, and we like to keep things moving,” Anna says. “My joy is getting the right thing to the right person.”
423 Strawberry St., 804-213-0232, strawberryfieldsflowersandfinds.com
In a funky former hair salon in a historical and vibrant block in the Fan district, Deanna King runs a sweet neighborhood flower shop that has also become a community gathering spot. It’s far more than just a place to order arrangements: It has a lot of nooks and crannies to browse through, filled with thoughtful gifts made by local artisans and lots of fresh green plants. Dedicated terrarium and succulent departments are stocked with healthy specimens, equipment and how-to books. Customers drop off vases to be filled before a dinner party or put together their own artful bouquets. King will show you how to use a giant monstera leaf as a place mat. Come down for a flower design workshop; some are also held at nearby breweries. Recent topics: creating an arrangement in Greenery, Pantone’s Color of the Year; and tarting up terrariums with cactuses and crystals.
4903 W. Leigh St., 804-370-3765, vervehomefurnishings.com
Roaming through the vast rooms of Verve is sort of like visiting a Hollywood prop studio. Verve specializes in modern — as in ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. But there are splashes of almost every look from industrial to Regency glam to chinoiserie to hunt country kitsch. Yes, I did spot a burnt-orange fondue pot.
If you like poking around warrens of vintage treasures, this is your place. The shop is a favorite of decorators and stagers. “We like to say that we have just the right amount of wrong here,” says Kim Vincze, who presides over this 12,000-square-foot warehouse. “Richmonders like to mix it up. You have to strike the right balance.”
2003 Huguenot Rd., 804-320-1730, williamsandsherrill.com
It’s okay to have a fabric fetish at Williams & Sherrill: The staffers are used to customers who view searching out perfect fabrics as a blood sport. There are more than 4,000 in-stock bolts of cottons, silks, linens and velvets at discounted prices, says owner Patrick Williams. Most in-stock fabrics sell for $17 to $45 a yard, and you’ll find hundreds of choices in every color. Brands include Brunschwig & Fils, Osborne & Little and Designers Guild. The shop has a team of well-trained consultants who can help you make your final decision and order things from a custom workroom. There is furniture, wallpaper and more. More goodies can be found a few doors down at the Interior Outlet sister shop, including a wall of ready-made 20-inch pillows ($45) lined up in rows of tempting prints.
Shopping trip tips
A few suggestions to make the most of your road trip:
• Check store hours the day before you jump on Interstate 95. Small businesses aren’t open the hours of malls; all operate on different days and hours.
• Ask the locals their favorite lunch spots. After a tip from a native, I dropped in to the charming Sally Bell’s Kitchen (2337 W. Broad St.), which serves tasty old-fashioned box lunches — deviled egg and homemade cupcake included — for $8.98.
• Talk to the shopkeepers; you want their input. That’s why you aren’t shopping online. “I love to see the look on the face of someone that has really connected with an item,” says Anna Vanneman of the Tiny Space vintage shop on historic Church Hill. “That’s what I’m in this business for.”