Designer Janie Molster turns up the fun factor in a 1950s Virginia home.

By Kathy Barnes
May 07, 2021
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Trisha Krause's walking route often took her through an established and desirable neighborhood in Richmond, Virginia, an area modeled after an old English village. She and husband Sanjay Bhagchandani had been house hunting for years, watching each house they wanted to buy slip away. Then the couple heard about a well-cared-for but nondescript 1950s builder house that would be coming up for sale. "I walked by this house for 13 years, and I don't think I'd noticed it a single time," Trisha says. The couple think it was likely a spec home of its era—which, when it became theirs, provided them a guilt-free opportunity to make structural and design changes to express their style and make the home sing.

sunny living room with yellow curtains and large cream couches
“I like to throw in something that’s a little off or irreverent or funky,” designer Janie Molster says. “The lambskin pouf does that.”
| Credit: Gordon Gregory

Sanjay knew designer Janie Molster and her husband socially and had been curious to see her home and take in her personal style. The couple signed up for a progressive dinner that stopped at Molster's house—and loved her style from the start."It was spectacular," Sanjay says. "We left and said, 'One day, we are going to ask her to help us with our house.'"

But first, the couple hired an architect to elevate and "age" the house, adding significant character with pocket doors, moldings and trims, and historical hardware, while bringing contemporary function to the flow and usability of the rooms. The bones were in place. It was time to call Molster.

sunny sitting room with yellow curtains and furry pouf
sitting room with green, yellow, and purple accents
Left: A cabinet layers in the visual texture of burled wood. | Credit: Gordon Gregory
Right: Art over the sofa informed the color palette, adding pops of rich merlot, matcha green, and gold. | Credit: Gordon Gregory

"Sanjay and Trisha came to the table with a passion for design and very much caring about the aesthetics and finding special bespoke pieces to create those visual moments," Molster says. "We always say to our clients, 'We want your home to have an evolved look as if we've collected it over time.' And for this particular couple, there was no education needed. They got it."

elegant dining with large window, fireplace, and artwork
Credit: Gordon Gregory

Trisha loves the warmth of gold. "I'm always ready to layer in a little more," she says. "This room is so glamorous at night. The pendant throws the most beautiful light. It makes everything shimmer."

Richmond is typically a traditional city, sitting just 45 minutes from historic Colonial Williamsburg, in a part of the country that enjoys its design history. Molster says Trisha and Sanjay might have had a traditional home from the outside, but inside they wanted a fresh, worldly approach.

navy room with leather couches and modern touches
Credit: Gordon Gregory

"Trisha wanted to introduce more color into the rooms. She has a love of color and pattern. From her wish list, we added a beautiful yellow that carries throughout every room. She's interested in livability, pattern, and color," Molster says. "Sanjay wants to create a mood and a vibe with international flavor. It's a sexy, layered look that you really see in his teal salon. For them, it was good to have divergent tastes. They have an appreciation for what the other brings to the table. Sometimes, as a designer, you have to wear the hat of a marriage counselor and negotiate between a couple, but we didn't do that here. In this case, our three heads were better than two."

dark blue, black, and gold liquor shelves
Credit: Gordon Gregory

"This romantic room makes you feel like you're in a sleeping car on the Orient Express," Molster says. Her trick for success when using deep color like this teal? Coat everything. "It's like hitting the mute button. It turns down the volume if you don't have a different color on the ceiling and trim."

dining room with floor length curtains
antique curved dresser against patterned wall
Left: Drapery panels with a scalloped gold band draw the eye up in the dining room. “I will never be accused of doing skimpy curtains,” Molster says. | Credit: Gordon Gregory
Right: She deftly mixes classic elements such as antique furniture pieces with contemporary touches, including fresh color. | Credit: Gordon Gregory

The couple's taste converges in the dining room wallpaper. Years before, on a trip to New York, Sanjay and Trisha planned a stop at the de Gournay showroom. The couple fell for a mural of gold peacocks painted on a luxurious silk ground. They returned home with a sample and couldn't let go. "By the time they brought me on board, the sample was crumpled and dog-eared. If they had carried it around for that long, that was all I really needed to know. It would become the star of the dining room," Molster says. She layered golden and gilded finishes to complete the space: a light from Marrakesh, golden pulls on the sideboard, an early-18th-century half-sunburst on the mantel. "We dripped gold all over the room to make it glow."

artistic colorful bench at foot of stairs
Credit: Gordon Gregory

Other patterns define the couple's look. The lines of the foyer wallpaper follow the curving stair walls. Molster layered the space with a pink rug and a curved settee, a playful welcome to the home. Art hangs above the settee and over the molding. "It's applied molding, so you can ignore it," the designer says. "Think of your whole wall as space for art. Sometimes our brains need a permission slip because we don't want to break those lines."

kitchen with cream cabinets and marble backsplash
Credit: Gordon Gregory

Classic cabinetry, crown moldings, and lightly veined stone on the backsplash make the kitchen timeless.

breakfast nook with colorful wallpaper and plants
Credit: Gordon Gregory

A bright Schumacher wallcovering infuses this casual dining spot with personality.

Sanjay says working with Molster has been a perfect fit. "We've been so thoroughly excited about everything that she's suggested and shown up with. There is a lot of joy in what she does. She's serious, but her work doesn't look serious," he says. "Janie brought the fun back to our house."

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