At Home in Carytown

A shopper's paradise in Richmond yields treasures for home and hearth


Janet Brown Interiors offers a wide selection of custom-order
furniture and ready-to-go accessories.

Richmond, Virginia, is a bustling urban city with historic charm and a plethora of things to do. And shopping is definitely one of them. Along the west side of the city, parallel to the James River, is West Cary Street, a nine-block-long district known as Carytown—a Mecca of shopping for just about anything, including home wares from funky and unique accessories to fine antiques. Shop owners who have carved out a niche for themselves—whether they are new arrivals or early groundbreakers—are proud to call this cozy neighborhood home.

Dead center in the Carytown district is the Cary Court Shopping Center, built in the 1930s and now home to several large design stores. Interior designer Janet Brown had been in business in Richmond since 1994, but moved her shop to Carytown four years ago. “It really does have everything in one neighborhood,” she says.

Janet Brown Interiors is a nest of stylish home goods, as well as a home base for her design firm. The shop grew out of the desire to have on hand “what you need to finish a room’s design,” says Brown. The collection ranges from interesting tabletop décor to accessories such as mirrors, lamps and pillows galore. Fun finds include antique French copper pieces and pillows made from vintage fabric remnants—Brown likes to carry things with a history behind them. Brown’s firm will create special-order upholstery and furniture on request.

Also in Cary Court is EQ3, one of two area showrooms for this hip Canadian furniture dealer. It is the place to find cutting-edge design at a reasonable cost, from gracefully curved chairs to funky dishes and accessories. Search among the stylish room settings in the spacious showroom for that perfect modern accessory—or an entire new dining set, perhaps. Personal favorites include the sleek Space flatware and the wide, cozy platform beds.

At the end of the shopping center sits Leo Burke Furniture, a family-owned business dealing in an eclectic range of high-end home furnishings. Leo Burke opened in the summer of 1958, and at the time, “Cary Street was a thriving suburban retail district,” says owner Jack Burke. “It has evolved into an incredibly successful retail and restaurant district in the center city.” The Burke family store, too, has also progressed into a successful enterprise, delivering to the neighborhood such classic lines as Baker Furniture and Hickory Chair, among others.

On the corner of the block is The Elephant’s Toe Antiques—recognizable by the trademark suit of armor on guard by the front door. Visitors can often be seen getting their photos taken next to it, and “he’s become quite the fixture in Carytown,” says store owner Jim Strickland. An antique dealer for 14 years, Strickland moved his shop to Carytown four years ago. Here you can find a wide selection of eras represented, but the main focus of the furniture leans toward classic, Continental pieces, as well as a good selection of American primitive items.

On the facing side of West Cary Street, you’ll find a bevy of flooring options, whether you’re looking for a hand-knotted carpet in the classical style, or something fun, say, to spice up a country kitchen. For fine imported rugs, visit W. Hirsch Oriental Rugs. Or try Pirouzan Oriental Rugs on the next block down, which features new, antique and semi-antique Oriental rugs. Looking for something more playful? Check out Carey Burke Carpets next door to W. Hirsch. The family-friendly shop stocks colorful rugs and mats in all shapes and sizes, along with matching accessories, from subtle to kitsch. It also has a large room dedicated to whimsical rugs and accessories for children.

Moving back up this side of West Cary Street, on the small stretch between Beaumont and McCloy Streets, visitors pass the Richmond location of Ten Thousand Villages, known for gathering beautiful, handmade goods from the world over. A member of the International Fair Trade Association, the company supports global artisans within their communities, and offers them not only an outlet for their craft, but a sustainable, fair wage to help improve their quality of life. Here you will find everything from silver jewelry and beaded home accessories to smooth, wooden serving dishes and utensils.

Nearby is Garden Designs, a cozy, multi-story house that is bursting with anything you could want to decorate your garden, from petite benches to fun statuary and iron trellises, as well as one-of-a-kind finds by local artisans. Glittering wind chimes and reflectors fill the space with light, and the scent of herbs flutters throughout. Looking for some tips? Landscape design consultations are available.

On the next block of West Cary Street, between Freeman and Nansemond, there is a cluster of several interesting antique and collectible shops and galleries. In the middle is Anthill Antiques, Etc., a place to play, with colorful crystal prisms sparkling throughout, a wide variety of vintage and handmade jewelry, plus dozens of accent pieces to add just the right touch to any room. Look around for beaded fringe or perhaps a length of chain to finish restoring that old lamp pull. On our visit, the large orange tabby cat that has been wandering the streets of Carytown for the last eight years was stretched out lazily on the floor of the upstairs room, enjoying a patch of sunlight.


EQ3 in the Cary Court Shopping Center.
Photo by Tyler Darden 

For larger furnishings, visit Martha’s Mixture, Ltd., a few doors up. With a variety that ranges from French Country sideboards and rustic plank tables to nautical accessories—including several large model boats—Martha’s Mixture is indeed a mix. The collection of antique and hand-crafted reproduction furniture is accented by unique accessories, including a stunning collection of colorful oyster dishes when we stopped in. The glittering entryway is a credit to sister company, House of Lighting, which has filled the ceiling with chandeliers ranging from geometric Swarovski crystal concoctions to traditional six-armed chandeliers. Along the side wall run shelves of lampshades in every size, color and variety.

The warm, subdued Brazier Fine Art, Inc., on the corner of West Cary and Freeman, carries the work of nearly 30 artists from across the United States, Canada, France and Russia. The collection tends toward Modern Realism and Impressionism, mostly original paintings in oil, but some sculpture as well. Here and there graceful antique furnishings accent the gallery, many of which are for sale. Brazier opened in Carytown 11 years ago, choosing the neighborhood for many of the same reasons other shop owners do. In addition to being easily accessible, “it is an area that is unique in its individuality, with privately owned shops,” says gallery owner Loryn Brazier.

Similar feelings struck a chord with Teri Ward Rettman and Sheri Ward, who opened Fringe across the street in 1999. They moved to West Cary for “its uniqueness,” says Rettman. “It’s full of one-of-a-kind vendors and boutiques. It’s a gathering of small business owners that have a unique eye.” They have filled Fringe with custom furnishings and accessories, both of their own design and gathered from the world over, turning it into a charming design shop. Their goal has been to collect things that you won’t find anywhere else. Warm-hued walls, dark woods and plush chairs welcome visitors into an indoor courtyard complete with a bubbling fountain set into the tile floor. The scent of handmade French block soaps and old eather fill the air. Rettman, an interior designer, recently decorated a luxurious bedroom with vintage touches reminiscent of world travels at the 2006 Richmond Symphony Designer House.


EQ3 is a showcase of stylish modern furnishings.
Photo by Tyler Darden

The streets are full of many more resources than we can list here, from several interior designers’ boutiques to consignment stores and framing galleries. And if you ever happen to tire of shopping for furniture and accessories, try some of the other fun stores in Carytown, from All Fired Up!, a paint-your-own pottery shop; and Compleat Gourmet, full of the best in cooking tools and toys; to several of the neighborhood bookstores—most of which have cats of their own. Pick up the free “Carytown Guide,” available in many shops, for a full list and a map, or visit the newly created Web site, www.carytown.org, which promises to be a complete resource on all the happenings and openings about town.

RESOURCES

Tip: If you’re just in town for a visit, several area hotels offer shuttle bus services directly to West Cary Street.

Anthill Antiques, Etc
3439 W. Cary Street (804) 254-2000

Brazier
3401 W. Cary Street (804) 359-2787 www.brazierfineart.com

Carey Burke Carpets
3115 W. Cary Street (804) 355-3512 www.careyburke.com

The Elephant’s Toe
3100 W. Cary Street (804) 353-9100

EQ3
3142 W. Cary Street (804) 358-4142 www.eq3.com

Garden Designs
3317 W. Cary Street (804) 358-8763

Janet Brown Interior Design
3140B W. Cary Street (804) 358-9548

Leo Burke Furniture
3108 W. Cary Street (804) 358-5773 www.leoburke.com

Martha’s Mixture Antiques
3445 W. Cary Street (804) 358-5827 www.marthasmixtureantiques.com

Pirouzan Oriental Rugs
3015-3017 W. Cary Street (804) 353-6808

Ten Thousand Villages
3201 W. Cary Street (804) 358-5170

W. Hirsch Oriental Rugs Center
3117 W. Cary Street (804) 359-5463


Brazier Fine Arts.

Photo by Tyler Darden<


Martha’s Mixture and House of Lighting.
Photo by Tyler Darden

 


Patrick Newman of House of Lighting.
Photo by Tyler Darden.

 


Terese Cerully, “co-conspirator” of Anthill Antiques.
Photo by Tyler Darden.