A design lover’s guide to Charlottesville, Virginia
Located in the middle of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville is a must-see destination. Although best known for being home to the University of Virginia (UVA) and Thomas Jefferson’s estate, Monticello, the charming town is a treasure trove of wonders, from exceptional antique shops to an ever-expanding foodie scene.
And I would know – I recently had the pleasure of exploring the city on a round with the Institute of Classical Architecture and Art and Classic excursions, alongside a roster of star-studded interior designers, all of whom have flocked to Charlottesville for its shops, hotels and historic architecture. Naturally, I gathered tons of recommendations from designers, architects, and locals (and even had the opportunity to tour historic private estates with them!) for where to shop, eat, drink , explore and stay in the city. With their favorite spots on your radar, you’re sure to make the most of your trip.
Where to stay
Built on two adjacent 19th century houses, the Quirky hotel is located in historic downtown Charlottesville, which means many restaurants, shops, and tourist attractions are just steps away. The property boasts a minimalist design and is brimming with art, from its gallery featuring rotating exhibitions to its rooms with hand-painted headboards by local artist Kiki Slaughter. “It has fantastic concierge service, a super cool bar and wonderful rooms,” says Madison Spencer, a Charlottesville-based architect. “You can recuperate, meet clients and friends, and exercise in an atmosphere as hip as you’ll find anywhere in Washington DC or Richmond.”
Keswick Hall Hotel
Look no further than the Keswick Hall Hotel for a luxury retreat. The resort has it all: stylish rooms with homey touches, a golf course called Full Cry which was designed by famed architect Pete Dye, a tennis center, restaurants, and a horizon pool with an infinity edge. T-shape for swimming laps or lounging in a cabana by the pool.
Boar’s Head Resort
Historic decor, simple furnishings, and modern amenities fill Boar’s Head Resort’s 168 immaculate rooms and suites. During your stay you will have access to the resort spa, tennis and pickleball facilities, restaurants, community events and more. Not to mention that the property, owned by the University of Virginia Foundation, provides the perfect setting for morning or evening walks.
“The Boar’s Head is well-located to both downtown Charlottesville and UVA, as well as glorious countryside with historic homes, vineyards and other attractions,” share designers Robert Lindgren and Thomas Gibb by Lindgren Gibb Studio. They add: “It’s a large resort-style campus with varying amenities. It lacks a sense of privacy and the interiors are more modern than atmospheric and charming. It is, however, very comfortable and, for some purposes, a perfect hotel. . “
Where to eat and drink
Septenary Winery at Seven Oaks Farm
There’s no shortage of wineries in Virginia, and Septenary Winery at Seven Oaks Farm is worth the 15-minute drive outside of Charlottesville to Greenwood. Open to the public Thursday through Sunday, the adults-only family destination is set on 109 acres of rolling hills. Go on a tasting flight, buy a picnic pack with a selection of wines and snacks, or plan a private tour.
“All seating is full-service, whether you choose to sit on the porch, around the pool, or in the shady grove of Magnolias (no queuing at a crowded bar!),” says Sarah Zimmerman, co-owner of the establishment. She also notes that the owners and staff enjoy sharing the history of the farm — which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a registered Virginia landmark — and the stories of its former owners with visitors. “We also like to educate our visitors about wine in general and the specific winemaking and tasting notes of our wines,” she adds.
Orzo kitchen and wine bar
“I’ve known Ken Wooten and Charles Roumeliotes for over 20 years,” Spencer says of the co-owners of Orzo Kitchen & Wine Bar. He continues, “Orzo is their take on Northern Italian cuisine based on extensive research done in Italy over the past 20 years. Outstanding dining experience and very professional and knowledgeable staff – hard to find these days – and they take care of it. of you. I often eat at the bar solo and always end up meeting characters. Full view of the kitchen and all the action.
Cou Cou Rachou
At the Cou Cou Rachou bakery, you will find a fine selection of French breads and pastries that almost too good to eat. Among the strawberry galettes and puff pastry croissants, the shop also sells coffee, drinks and related products.
Greenwood Gourmet Grocery
If you need picnic supplies, head to Greenwood Gourmet Grocery. The family-run establishment offers tons of prepared foods, ciders, wines, beers, and more. “It’s like a French village market,” Spencer gushed. “Browse their website to order sandwiches ahead of time, as it often gets busy and for good reason.”
Kenny Ball Antiques
Ask anyone with a bit of expertise exploring Charlottesville, and they’ll recommend going to Kenny Ball Antiques for all manner of European treasures, from art and mirrors to lighting and to furniture. And if you see something you like but doesn’t fit in your suitcase, good news: you can have it delivered directly to your home! The shop also has a full-service design department, if you’re in the market for a design consultation.
“I follow Kenny Ball on Instagram, and he makes furniture videos every day,” says designer Linda Weisberg, who had the pleasure of browsing the European antique shop. She adds: “They have beautiful traditional furniture, lots of artwork and accessories. Prices vary – some things are more expensive, some are cheaper, so there’s something for everyone.
blue whale books
Located in Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall, Blue Whale Books offers books in virtually every genre, as well as maps and fine art prints. You could spend at least an hour there. “Unlike a lot of musty [vintage bookshops] with haphazard piles of books everywhere, the Blue Whale is neat and tidy – the books are easy to find and archivally packaged,” Lindgren and Gibb explain. pleasure in discovering otherwise unknown titles!”
The shadow shop
The Shade Shop is truly a playground for shade lovers. From colorful and bespoke shades to neutrals, this shop is sure to meet everyone’s lighting needs. Its extensive inventory also includes floor and table lamps, ceiling and wall lights, works of art, furniture, books, candles and pillows.
“It’s very hard to get interesting lampshades, and they have a really good selection of lamps and all kinds of lampshades,” Weisberg raves. She continues: “They have wicker lampshades. They have fabric shades. They have all kinds so you don’t have to get a typical white shade. They also have a lot of decorative finials because many people look at lamps not only for lighting but also for decoration. »
With its flagship store in Charlottesville (and a location in Paris!), Caspari is a go-to source for colorful tableware essentials, stationery, and gift wrap. Many of the retailer’s pieces feature designs from renowned museums around the world and independent artists, varying in style. Stop by for paper plates for your next al fresco dinner party, or grab a gift like a decorative platter.
Where to explore
University of Virginia
Envisioned by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia is a must-see for history buffs and architecture admirers. “It’s open to the public; gardens, buildings…all of it,” says Spencer, a former UVA. of Jefferson at the center of everything.”
The university even offers historical tours grounds for anyone who prefers additional guidance and knowledge as they take in everything.
Monticello by Thomas Jefferson
Throughout his life, Thomas Jefferson enslaved over 600 people. At his estate, Monticello, visitors can learn about the enslaved men, women, and children who built Jefferson’s home, planted his crops, tended his gardens, helped run his home, and raised his children. The outdoor walking tours focus on the experiences of these enslaved people. While many details of their lives have gone unrecorded by white historians, “decades of archaeological, documentary and oral research have helped uncover some of the stories of those held captive at Monticello,” according to the domain official website.
Blue Ridge Parkway
For a dose of surreal views and a glimpse of the area’s flora and fauna, spend some time at Blue Ridge Parkway. Considered the longest linear park in America, the scenic route stretches 469 miles through Virginia and North Carolina. You can cross it by car or opt for cycling or hiking. Spencer recommends taking in the view while enjoying a picnic “prepared for a sunset or sunrise to recharge your batteries.” If you fancy even more epic views, consider going hot air ballooning.
The Fralin Museum of Art
At the University of Virginia, the Fralin Museum of Art exhibits nearly 14,000 wondrous objects. Spend an afternoon exploring the museum’s extensive art collection of permanent and temporary exhibits. The best part? Admission is free, although donations are always welcome!
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