Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Real Estate: Martinis at Twilight



Owner: Tom Yeaman, community volunteer and retired advertising executive.

Residence: Two-bedroom, two-bath condominium suite in Vistas on the James, with downtown views and luxury amenities alongside the Canal Walk and the river.

Former homes: After spending 35 years in a Libbie Avenue house that once belonged to his grandparents, Yeaman has moved four times in the past six years: into a large two-level condo at 1 Monument Ave., a luxury condo at Riverside on the James, a Shockoe Bottom apartment and now Vistas on the James. He also owns investment properties in Nicaragua, a country where he hopes to enhance tourism and development.

What he's known for: Yeaman is ardent about entertaining and for years has thrown Merry Martini Monday parties for up to 100 friends as well as Mardi Gras costume parties. Now that he's recently moved into a 1,200-square-foot condo, entertaining is limited to smaller functions. "I'm still looking for a warehouse large enough to hold my collections of art and paintings and a place that I can use for entertaining," he says. With large collections of movie posters, military hats and photography, he's got far more items in storage than at his new home.

Why he chose this property: "The views and the location," Yeaman says. From his living room, he can see across the balcony to the State Capitol, Old City Hall, Main Street Station, Church Hill, all the way west to the minarets of the Landmark Theater and, in the distance, the Carillon. Looking straight down to the Canal Walk and Toad's Place, he can watch an endless parade of people and vehicles. Skyline views turn from pale blue to cobalt at twilight, and the hum of the city is a continual source of satisfaction to the longtime resident, who's actively involved in community affairs, from the Red Cross and the Byrd Theatre Foundation to the Richmond Jaycees (past president), Leadership Metro Richmond (outstanding alumnus) and dozens of civic and cultural groups.

What condo living is like in his building: Several high-profile Richmonders own units in the building, and during the General Assembly, many legislators and aides rent space from investor-owners. The 18-story building has 168 units, with about a dozen currently listed for sale in the $240,000-$600,000 range. A fitness center on the ground level looks out over the canal; a club room with a billiards table, lounge seating and a big-screen television is an alternate gathering place for residents and guests.

"The fun thing is to wake up, turn on the news and watch the traffic conditions and grab the binoculars to check it out," Yeaman says with the laugh of a non-commuter. Because the glass-walled building is visible to passersby, some owners choose to curtain windows, but Yeaman, whose unit is on an upper floor, says privacy is not a concern and that obstructing his panoramic views would be a shame.

How he changed his decorating style to fit the space: "I've gone from antiques and corner cupboards and Williamsburg 1800s to this," he says. "I put mirrors on one wall to double the view and used earth tones in beiges, grays and brushed metals to bring the outside in." He acquired Diane Clement paintings from Plant Zero, pottery from artist David Camden, and contemporary furniture and lighting pieces from La Différence, across the street from his building. Neutral brown microfiber chairs grouping the sofa are scaled to fit the space and keep the view lines open, and pieces like a modern drop-leaf dining table can be pulled into the room for entertaining. While most of his collections remain in storage, travel artifacts and photos are arranged on bookshelves.

What's still to come: Yeaman, a board member of the international gourmet food and wine organization La ChaŒne des R“tisseurs and l'Ordre Mondial des Gourmets Dégustateurs, plans to install a lighted bar back and a 500-bottle wine cellar off the den and a small wine refrigerator near the granite and stainless kitchen. He'll add tailored window blinds in the east-facing den, art and other decorative details when he's not away on frequent world travels. "I'll always keep Richmond as my base no matter where I am," he says. "This is a great, vibrant city and I want to be around to see it grow. I love it here."

What he hopes for his hometown: The Thomas Jefferson High School and University of Richmond alumnus is bullish on downtown and enjoys showing the city's cultural and gastronomic highlights to those who usually stick to the suburbs. "I'm hoping the city will eventually open the locks so that boats can go from Rocketts Landing all the way to Maymont," he says. "You look at Dubai and these gorgeous hotels, and we're steady old Richmond. What Richmond needs is a developer and a company with enough vision to build a sail like Dubai, or a Sydney Opera House, or a signature piece that everyone will know is Richmond, something new on the skyline." Until then, Yeaman plans to spend a month at a time living in other countries, writing and photographing, collecting objects for his Christmas travel tree, and enjoying an active retirement that always leads back to his hometown, his parties and his signature martinis. HS


Add a comment