Dana Gibson is no stranger to the world of interiors. For nearly 30 years, the Richmond-based artist has designed an eponymous collection of home accessories and textiles, beloved by customers for its mix of worldly, whimsical patterns and bold hues. Nor is Gibson new to the trials and tribulations of home renovating: Along with her husband, a general contractor, she’s rehabbed a total of six houses. But it wasn’t until recently, after Gibson purchased a stately brick Colonial Revival in the city’s Ginter Park neighborhood that she decided it was time to hire an interior designer for the very first time.
Built in 1912, the house was in need of some serious investment when Gibson and her family—which also includes two sons and a beagle—moved in. “My husband and I both love old homes and bringing them back to life, but this was a big job—we had to replace the roof, repair leaks that had ruined the plaster, and reconstruct all seven chimneys,” she says. “For seven months, we were patching it and trying to make it livable during construction! The plan was to paint everything white, freshen it up, and then slowly redo it.”
Enter designer Sara Hillery. Gibson had seen her work at a local designer show house and “immediately fell in love” with her graphic, colorful sense of style. Even though Gibson had spent decades in the home business, she knew that her latest project would require a true professional skill set; Hillery was just the right person to help bring her vision to life.
For the next six months, Gibson and Hillery worked together to transform the white-walled house into a colorful, character-filled home. “We both enjoyed bouncing ideas off each other,” says Gibson. “She recognized that I had a sense of what I wanted to achieve and shared so many of her ideas and skills along the way,” from the right way to do window treatments (“I would have skimped on the kitchen shades,” Gibson admits, “but the fuller shades look so much more elegant”) to dealing with the “orange-y” wood floors in the foyer (they had been sanded down to practically nothing, so rather than trying to re-stain them, Hillery suggested painting a faux-tile pattern).
“The dirty secret is that everyone makes mistakes while decorating their house, whether you’re a professional or not.” Gibson says. “The best thing about hiring an interior designer is having someone by your side when things go wrong!”
Because Gibson has so many antiques, Hillery suggested adding in a glossy, Granny Smith-green Oomph console as a more modern accent. The Venetian glass mirror was a result of a “wild goose chase” that eventually ended in Europe: “I finally found it on a trip to England and we shipped it home,” says Gibson. “There aren’t a lot of Venetian mirrors out there that are this size and with this patina!” Door paint: custom Fine Paints of Europe. Lamp: vintage Karl Springer-style through Chairish.
A portrait by Gibson’s great-grandfather, renowned artist (and creator of the “Gibson Girl”) Charles Dana Gibson, was the inspiration for the living room’s statement-making curtains. “Sara must have swatched 20 different fabrics,” says Gibson, who eventually landed on the reverse side of a bold fuchsia silk. “The curtains are probably my favorite detail in the house!” Sofas: vintage in a Sunbrella velvet. Pillow fabric: Designer’s Guild. Chair: antique in a Dana Gibson fabric. Table lamp: Palette Paint and Home. Mirror: Shades of Light. Ceiling paint: Polar Sky by Benjamin Moore.
Hillery used deep-green piping to highlight the scalloped shape of the Lexington sofa. Pillows, wallpaper and sconces: Dana Gibson.
After a failed experiment with moss-colored walls (“It felt so dark and cave-like”), Gibson found success with a soft gray. The pale coral on the coffered ceiling is a nod to the house’s front door. Ceiling fixture: John Richard Collection. Buffet lamps: Dana Gibson. Armchairs: Barclay Butera for Lexington in a Dana Gibson fabric. Side chairs: Dana Gibson for Norwalk. Rug: Annie Selke.
Peter Dunham’s iconic Fig Leaf fabric, which she used for window shades, is a favorite of Gibson’s. “It was a joy to mix prints and art from designers I love with my own,” she says. Wall shelves: RH. Lamp: Dana Gibson. Tile: Morris Tile.
There’s no need to hang art in this tiny room—Gibson’s own Grackle wallpaper is a gallery in itself. Mirror: antique. Hand towel: Dana Gibson.
“This wallpaper is how Sara Hillery and I met,” says Gibson: The designer used the same blue-and-white Thibaut print in her room at the 2018 Richmond Symphony Orchestra League Design House. Pendant and table lamp: Dana Gibson. Desk: Ballard Designs. Chair: vintage in a Dana Gibson fabric.
The scheme for the bedroom’s dramatic decor began with an architectural fragment that Gibson found in High Point and reimagined as a bed crown. Hillery designed the bed hangings using a trio of fabrics: a blue silk, bright pink spots (Little Ditty by Dana Gibson for Stroheim), and a small-scale apple-green print (Bellamy by Dana Gibson). Prints: Ornis Galley, framing through Richmond Frame and Design. Bedding: Designers Guild. Nightstands: Le Chateau European Interiors. Lamp and chair upholstery: Dana Gibson.
“Taking a cue from the original black-and-white tile, I used black-and-white accessories with an antique portrait,” says Gibson. Bath accessories: Dana Gibson. Side table: One Kings Lane. Towels: John Robshaw. Faux geranium: The Green Vase.
Gibson kept the original tile floor and tinwork ceiling in the sunroom. “We use it for morning reading and coffee, and then later in the day for drinks!” Settee: Dana Gibson for Norwalk. Chair: Selamat. Side table and pillows: Dana Gibson. Stool: Target.
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