Text by Rebecca Brennan
Inside the 1931 Williamsburg Revival cottage that sits behind the gate is a home that at first glance is unmistakably traditional and sophisticated, but look closer and you’ll see that each piece of furniture, every accessory, even the plants in the garden have been carefully chosen to create a warm, personal, and inviting home for Tricia and Benjamin Carswell.
Tricia’s decorating approach is inspired in part by renowned interior designer Bunny Williams. “She mixes old with new and everything is comfortable, eclectic, and yet it all fits,” Tricia explains. “I like being able to point to something and say that we purchased it on a trip, or a friend or relative gave it to us. Pulling out family monogrammed or embroidered napkins and partnering them with antique crystal and silver goblets is just my favorite thing. Filling a porcelain tureen with flowers from my garden just makes me smile.”
An innate sense of family, tradition, and beauty is at the core of this home’s cozy ambience. When selecting furnishings—whether for their home’s interior or garden—the Carswells are mindful of the legacy and memories these pieces will impart to their daughter, Mary Lindley, and their family’s future generations. From the chiming tall case clock in the living room to the garden’s boxwoods that the family packed along with their other belongings when they moved to the Tennessee home, it’s evident that these treasures have been thoughtfully collected to convey love and family traditions. Each treasure has its own special provenance—beginning with the house itself.
Though the house has undergone several renovations, the floors are original, as are many of the plaster walls. The encased front door also is original to the house and still shows evidence of all its previous locks—a loving nod to the home’s bygone days. Architect Stephen Wells, worked with the family to retain the original sight lines of the house when adding a new den and wet bar as well as a stone patio and fireplace. He also included Ben’s idea for a loggia-style walkway to a two-sided carriage house. The loggia features old windows with wavy glass repurposed from the original house. The mantel in the den is made from a 90-year-old walnut tree that fell in the home’s front yard—even more confirmation of the meaningful, personalized nature of the things that make this house a well-loved home. “When we travel, we always seem to find something special from each destination. One of my favorite finds is an old sieve we purchased in Cashiers, North Carolina,” Tricia says. The Carswells look for objects that bring them joy as well as serve as heirlooms, like the antique William Hogarth prints that hang in the living room. “We love living in a home with so many unique little twists and turns,” Tricia says. “It’s a modest home in size, but we like the closeness that such a house inspires.” A true testament to a home inspired by joy.