Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Famous Faces, Personal Spaces

Recognizable Richmonders give us a glimpse of their homes.

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Lisa Schaffner

News anchor, WRIC-TV

It’s not surprising that Lisa Schaffner’s two-story brick transitional home is open and inviting. It reflects its owner’s cordial, accessible nature. The first floor’s steep ceilings, large windows and airy design are the perfect conduit for the sun’s rays. “I love the openness and all the windows,” Schaffner says.

This Chesterfield County home serves as a repository for two of Schaffner’s passions – Oriental rugs and artwork. Hardwood floors provide the backdrop for a scattering of rugs of different designs and sizes. Schaffner admits a penchant for purchasing these underfoot creations. “I have some stored in the attic so that I can change them from season to season,” she adds.

Walls throughout the house are adorned with framed artwork, including many original watercolor paintings by local dentist/artist Baxter Perkinson. Well known for being generous with her time, Schaffner is often invited to benefits. “I emcee a lot of benefit galas, and I purchase many of my art through live and silent auctions,” she explains. Each piece of art comes with a memory of the event or the artist. Even her daughter’s room sports an animal-related print. “It was the first thing I bought for her room,” Schaffner says. “It’s from Arts in the Park.”

If a person can be associated with a color, then Schaffner claims purple. The color flows throughout her home. The walls in the formal dining room where Schaffner’s great-grandmother’s antique dining room suite takes center stage combine two relaxing hues of purple. The rug beneath the table has deeper purples in its design. Purple also is the mainstay of the master bedroom, reading room and the color of the leather sofa and loveseat in the family room.

The real key to Schaffner’s house is her children. Their portraits hang in Schaffner’s master bedroom. Each year she adds new portraits. Artwork by Danielle, 9, and Jesse, 6, dots the house, especially in the kitchen and the adjacent dining area where pictures cover the fridge and a multicolor fish hanging clings to a droplight.

It was Danielle and a friend who recently rearranged the family room. “My daughter is into the show ‘Trading Spaces’ and she decided to rearrange the room into two room settings,” Schaffner explains. Now, the plum colored loveseat sits close the fireplace as does a pair of small white rocking chairs – Schaffner’s fathers’ chairs when he was a child. The larger plum sofa is perched in front of the family television. Power Ranger videos and a collection of books take top space on the TV.

Schaffner is fond of fresh flowers “but I never usually have them,” she says, laughing. Today she does. Vases of fresh spring bouquets add color to the sitting area. Most were sent to her in honor of the 2003 YWCA Outstanding Women Award given to Schaffner just days before.

In back of Schaffner’s home, a deck overlooks a small but deep body of water. “It’s called Finger Lake,” Schaffner says. “We have ducks and geese, snapping turtles and blue heron.” The deck serves as a quiet retreat for a busy news anchor. – Joan Tupponce; photos by Scott Elmquist



Joel Bieber

Lawyer

Joel Bieber hasn’t been in a spaceship since 1995, but people still ask him about his outlandish TV commercials, in which he pulls stunt after animated stunt to capture the public’s attention. “We’ve done dozens of ads, both funny and serious, all to get name recognition,” Bieber says. “In the past couple of years, we’ve taken it another step and are focusing more on what we do and on community involvement.”

That doesn’t mean that Bieber is any less fun-loving. “I’m a big Madden PlayStation 2003 guy,” he says, “and I love to watch sports and do eBay on the computer.” His canine companions, Pal and Fella, are at his feet whenever he’s home.

Home tends to change every two years, Bieber says. He and his wife, Jackey, are fond of house-hunting, and relish the process of relocating in the same way that some people enjoy shopping for shoes. It’s partially a capital-gains strategy, but also a way of capturing different facets of life in a city that conjures great fascination for both. They’ve just sold the house shown here, in the Riverlake Colony neighborhood, and are preparing to move to a city residence with turn-of-the-century architectural interest.

Wherever they relocate, interior designer Edgar Parrish of Renmark & Associates lends expertise in the selection and placement of furnishings, window treatments and objects.

Some things remain behind with the old house, and other items are acquired for the new one. “You have to be practical and have pieces that can adapt to different situations,” Jackey Bieber says. “Each time we move, we learn something new. So we find basic pieces and are always conscious of comfort, and especially things that are animal-friendly, and furniture that is the right proportion for the room.”

Parrish uses paper templates and floor plans to help his clients visualize the scale of furniture. “Sometimes if you’re looking at a photograph in a magazine or catalog, it’s tough to know how it will fit,” Jackey Bieber says. “We’ve actually had a ‘paper room’ of templates that we could move around, and that helped save a lot of money.”

The Biebers prefer large-scale upholstery and tables, and combine rustic dark woods with leather in the den, and floral upholstery and red window treatments in the sunroom. Red touches flow from room to room, providing a festive continuity that pulls the open spaces together.

For this house, Jackey Bieber chose Duron’s Crisp Khaki paint for the interior walls and white paint for the millwork. “Jackey likes neutral backgrounds,” Parrish says, “so that the little touches come to the forefront.” Large paintings and prints, mostly of pastoral scenes or Mediterranean landscapes, dominate the walls and perpetuate the sense of vacation.

“From my perspective,” Joel Bieber says, “my home life is easy. During the daytime we both go hard, and when we get home, it’s a relaxing thing.” – Deveron Timberlake; photos by Stephen Salpukas



Stephanie Rochon

News anchor, WTVR-TV

These are heady days for Stephanie Rochon and her husband, Jeff. Any moment now, their baby will arrive, to be swept up into a yellow-and-green nursery filled with sentimental touches. It is their first child, and they’re as prepared as possible. The stroller and car seats are purchased, the bedroom furniture installed, the decorative wallpaper border hung, even books and picture frames are in place and waiting.

The couple’s western Henrico County house is immaculate – the bonus, Stephanie Rochon says, of marrying a man who not only likes to keep things tidy but is a great cook and an astute entrepreneur.

The two met at a Fourth of July party in Austin, Texas, and knew right away that their attraction was rooted in commonality: active careers, reading, sports, travel and family. In the months before their “big, traditional Catholic dream-wedding,” as Stephanie Rochon describes it, Jeff Rochon completed a major development project at the Austin airport, she got a job as evening news anchor at WTVR-TV, and they orchestrated the ceremony, the honeymoon and the move to Richmond. All went according to plan, though they look back now and are amazed they survived the whirlwind.

After living in an apartment for a year, they found a house and garden with everything they desired – a family-oriented neighborhood, a pretty two-story house with mature landscaping and room to display their growing collection of art.

Walls are neatly arranged with prints, masks and sculptures by African-American artists and artisans. Special paintings by Charles Bibb bring their symbolic imagery and warm coloration to several rooms in the house. The Rochons enjoy scouring festivals and street fairs for pieces to add, and share particular joy in connecting with a work of art and finding a place to display it. Kinte cloth tapestries hang from twin niches in their stairway and are topped with woodcarvings that show a man reading and a family engaged in conversation. A dramatic print, “I Am A Man,” recalls the historic rally for Martin Luther King Jr. in Memphis, Tenn. “This Way to Freedom,” another of the couple’s favorite lithographs by Bibb, is handsomely framed and hung in the master bedroom.

Though they agree on art, they come from different points of the spectrum when choosing home furnishings, “because I’m more traditional and Jeff’s more contemporary,” Stephanie Rochon says. “But somehow we’ve been able to merge our tastes.”

Large leather seating pieces in the den are comfortably positioned to view news and sporting events on the Sony large-screen TV system. Jeff Rochon hoped to sneak in this surprise purchase while his wife was at work, but too-early deliverymen foiled his plan. “I hadn’t really told her I was getting it,” he grins, but how could a TV news anchor reject such an addition to the home? “I’m lucky that my wife likes lots of sports so we watch college football, pro football and boxing,” he says.

And they’re likely to entertain friends with Louisiana gumbo, lasagna, enchiladas or other spicy dishes whipped up in the spacious kitchen with its abundant white cabinetry and view of the back yard.

Former owners planted roses, iris, azaleas and Japanese maples around the property, and the lush lawn and deck will be appealing play spots as the baby grows up. “We love the quality of life in Richmond,” Stephanie Rochon says, “and we know it will be a great place to raise a family.” – Deveron Timberlake; photos by Stephen Salpukas



Billy Surf

Morning show host/Program director, WRVQ-FM

When Billy Surf first hit the airwaves in Richmond about 10 years ago, he lived in a small apartment in the city’s South Side. His decorating scheme included stuffed animals on a massive water bed. Times and tastes have changed since then. Today Surf owns a quaint English Tudor-style home in the near West End. He chose the house based on the location. “The area is great,” he says. “It’s the most conveniently located place that I have lived. I really like the house because it has so much character.”

Fretting that other homes highlighted in this issue may overshadow his, Surf jokes about the size of his abode. “It’s really 60,000 square feet. What you’re seeing is only a small portion.”

As one might guess, Surf has converted a side room off the living room into a home office where music rules the décor. Walls are covered with autographed band posters, a framed article on Surf from Billboard magazine and a platinum record plaque. One side of the room houses his collection of CDs, which numbers more than 3,000. “I’m big into music,” Surf explains. Playing the guitar is a hobby that he enjoys and his guitar resides in a small sunroom.

Surf also fancies electronics and gadgets, especially stereo equipment and televisions. A 57-inch television serves as the focal point of the living room. An Italia espresso machine from Starbucks has a hallowed spot in Surf’s kitchen. “It makes espresso in 25 seconds,” Surf notes, “and it grinds all the beans. It’s become part of the family.”

An avid fan of the “Emeril Live” cooking show, Surf discloses that he loves to cook. “I’ve got quite a few recipes from the restaurant Pasta Luna. I enjoy making Italian dishes.”

Surf has added his special touches throughout the house. Candles, framed prints and a tar black art deco lamp add to the living room. The sentiment “To love another person is to see the face of God” is stenciled over the French doors that lead into the dining room – complete with a knight’s suit of armor. One corner of the dining room serves as a cache for the family’s footwear. Framed photographs of Surf’s 4 1/2-year-old daughter, Carrington, are scattered throughout the house. Her artwork is displayed in the kitchen.

Upstairs, Surf has tossed out the water bed – “It was hurting my back” – for a traditional king-size bed. A corner dresser is topped with another large TV and as Surf puts it, “All my many hairstyling products.”

The stuffed animals that lined Surf’s water bed have made their way to Carrington’s bedroom, where tubs of toys line one wall of the room and an antique Victorian twin bed hugs another wall.

“I am so blessed to know this little person,” Surf says. “She is the most important accomplishment of my life. She is totally a daddy’s girl. All my stuffed animals have migrated to her room.” – Joan Tupponce; photos by Scott Elmquist



Peter Solomon

Radio jazz host, WCVE-FM

Peter Solomon has trouble avoiding tangents. They’re everywhere when he’s trying to tell a story. Solomon is the DJ of public radio station WCVE’s evening jazz show. For his two hours on the air each night, Solomon says he has to write down everything he’s going to say so he doesn’t stray from the topic.

And his brick arts-and-crafts-style house in the Battery Park area of the North Side reveals a personality with many interests and not much time for organization. From obscure jazz biographies to Hungarian dance 78s, his eclectic tastes are revealed in the things piled on bookshelves, leaning against the walls in the living room or simply sitting in the middle of the floor. On top of some shelves sit three straw hats he inherited when a friend’s father passed away. The ’40s-era toppers are Solomon’s signature look.

The one thing Solomon says he’s proud of in his house is his father’s artwork, which is scattered throughout on the floor and on the walls. His father was a printmaker who used woodcuts to make his mostly black-and-white prints. Many are based on Judaica, and although they’re moody and shadowed they capture a sense of humor.

“My family is a family of accumulators,” he says, describing his mother’s house. She has so many books on the floor she has to carve paths to walk through, he says. Solomon’s home isn’t that bad yet, but he does have a knack for placing things in odd spots. Like the bread-maker on the floor of the dining room or the TV tray being used as a CD tower. Since Solomon makes his living spinning records, one thing noticeably missing in his house is a stereo system. He recently bought a little hand-held stereo but says he only uses it to listen to NPR news in the mornings. Instead of listening to music at home, Solomon makes it with his trombone. “When nobody’s home I like to open the windows and play my horn,” he says.

– Carrie Nieman; photos by Scott Elmquist





Justin Dray

Actor/Filmmaker

When a house is kept by a self-described “clown” like local actor Justin Dray, you don’t expect fine china, silk couches and Persian rugs.

And you are not surprised to find focal points like Batman action figures, Castle Grayskull and an original movie poster for “Deep Throat.”

Dray was most recently on the big screen in the Civil War epic “Gods and Generals,” getting inducted into the Confederate army by Stonewall Jackson, and then shot for desertion.

One thing he’s never deserted are his childhood belongings.

“I have all this stuff,” explains Dray, who shares a 1920 row house with his girlfriend and business partner Stephanie Kelley, “and I just can’t let go of any of it.”

Some of this colorful stuff ends up in the movies and plays they produce. Dray and Kelley are vice president and president, respectively, for Yellow House, a nonprofit drama- and film-production company they started while living in an actual yellow house on Allison Street not far from their current home.

The basement of their Fan house serves as an editing room where the movies are put together. Kelley uses another office on the second floor for fund raising and organizing projects. The rest of the house is stuffed with the toys from Dray’s childhood, and any and all weird objects the two have collected along the way.

“I’m a pack rat,” Dray admits while wielding a large and lethal-looking sword. The reason? “Everything’s a potential prop.” – Wayne Melton; photos by Scott Elmquist







Jan Guarino & Bo Wilson

Actor and Playwright

You’ve undoubtedly seen Jan Guarino in two decades’ worth of TV commercials for Haynes Furniture; her perky blonde persona barely changed from those first campy spots in the 1980s. And yes, Haynes furniture is all over her suburban house: a roll-top desk in husband Bo Wilson’s office, sofas and tables in the living room, even the flooring in the kitchen.

Although commercials and industrial scriptwriting may be the couple’s bread and butter, it is theater that brought the two together. Guarino has appeared in 60 or more plays on Richmond stages, and is in rehearsals now for “Annie Get Your Gun” at the Barksdale. Wilson just finished a play, “In Service of the Queen,” and is shopping around another script, “My Uncle’s Business,” which was a finalist in a recent national playwriting competition. He teaches a summer program for gifted students at Johns Hopkins University, and helps Guarino shepherd their two children, Nora, 11, and Zach, 9, through sports and riding lessons and even the occasional play or voice-over role. Both children have the effervescent charm that gets noticed by casting directors, though they downplay the drama of having a famous mom. Dad’s the ham, they say, and the one most likely to initiate a sing-along with his guitar or a baseball game in the backyard.

There’s a remarkable closeness to this foursome, forged in part by Wilson’s and Guarino’s choice to work independently and to raise their children without day care. The trade-offs are insignificant, they say, and the rewards are raucously evident, as dogs and friends parade through the house and the parents are likely to be barefoot and smiling. Though they often pass in the night, with Bo writing from home by day and Jan rushing to rehearsals after dinner, theirs is a creative rhythm that satisfies their interests and talents. In 15 years of marriage they’ve accomplished what few self-employed thespians can manage: a comfortable home, happy children, active careers and enough time to sit together at the piano for a portrait in the middle of a spring afternoon. – Deveron Timberlake; photos by Scott Elmquist





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