A design alley of sorts is forming on a stretch of Grove Avenue, as two firms centered on interior design have opened offices next door to each other, aided in part by a real estate brokerage’s recent move around the corner.
The two firms – Pillar & Peacock, and O’Brien & Muse – have set up shop at 5612 and 5610 Grove Ave., respectively. The latter address is the former home of Select Properties of Virginia, which moved in June to a smaller space at 411 Libbie Ave., about a block away.
That Libbie Avenue space, in the back of the Thistles gift shop building, was previously a nondescript local outpost for Pillar & Peacock, which has offices in Irvington and Florence, Alabama, but has been active in Richmond for the past two years.
Adrianne Bugg, who runs Pillar & Peacock with fellow principal Brandeis Short, said they had been subleasing the Libbie space from Select Properties’ Doug Dorsey, who opted to move his brokerage there when Bugg and Short signed a lease for their Grove Avenue studio.
Noting their previous space on Libbie didn’t have any signage, Bugg and Short said the Grove spot – on a corner across Granite Avenue from the Westhampton on Grove development – is their first proper storefront in Richmond, where they’ve been picking up business from clients with second homes in and around Irvington.
“I live in Irvington full time but I have a place in Richmond, so I split my time,” Bugg said. “There’s this natural Richmond city-river connection, so a lot of our clients that have second homes at the river would then ask us to work on their main homes in Richmond.”
The firm’s move to the Grove space, and Select’s subsequent move to Libbie, in turn opened up the space for O’Brien & Muse, which had been renting the building back to the real estate brokerage since purchasing it in February.
With Select Properties out, O’Brien & Muse moved in, relocating from its previous home at 3100 Kensington Ave.
City property records show principals Lili O’Brien and Leigh Anne Muse purchased 5610 Grove through an LLC for $625,000. A city assessment most recently valued the 1,500-square-foot converted residence at $459,000.
“We’d been looking for a building for a while to purchase for our business, and this fit the bill,” said O’Brien, who launched the firm with fellow VCU grad Muse in 2004. “We needed more space, and the location was desirable, convenient to our clients.”
Pillar & Peacock, meanwhile, has been readying for a ribbon-cutting and open house today for its space, which previously housed sconce maker Reprotique, now located a few blocks east on Lock Lane.
A former financial advisor and consultant, Bugg switched careers after meeting Short, whose husband worked with Bugg at Wachovia Securities. Short, a Randolph-Macon and VCU grad who worked at Richmond architecture firm 3north at the time, has since moved to Alabama and leads their firm’s Florence office.
Bugg said they signed a five-year lease for the Grove space, with CBRE’s Matt Hamilton representing them in negotiations. She said the push into Richmond was facilitated with the hire of Pamela Horst, previously an interior designer at 3north.
Push into architecture
Launched in 2011, Pillar & Peacock – the name selected to denote form and beauty – has grown from Bugg and Short to a total of 11 staffers firmwide, including recent hire Byron Knowlson, a former 3north architect who they said is helping Pillar & Peacock branch out into architectural services.
“We’ve always been able to do renovations and built-in bookshelves, designing those and doing the drawings for them, but now we have an architect on staff, which most interior firms do not have architecture in-house,” Bugg said, adding that they now can go beyond interiors to include designs for new-construction renovations and additions.
Area projects have included D.F. Lunsford Construction’s renovation of a former hardware building on North South Street in Petersburg, and residential work has included residences in Kilmarnock, Florence and a Richmond family’s vacation home in the Bahamas.
The two firms add to other design-based businesses along that stretch of Grove Avenue. Across the street, Beaty & Brown Interior Design is at 5611 Grove Ave., while HG Design Studio is at 5701 Grove.
And the newcomers aren’t the only designers moving to the Libbie and Grove area.
Oliver Street Designs, a lighting design company previously based in New York City, is opening a headquarters space this month at 401 Libbie Ave.
Farther west on Grove, Dana McKenna Designs is moving into the former Pearl’s Cupcake Shoppe storefront at 5812 Grove Ave. The interior design firm with a focus on kitchens and bathrooms is aiming to open by year-end.