A Bedford County custom build full of color and contrast
Photos by Laura Beth Davidson
Before Jill Rufus can answer a knock on the front door, the family’s Golden Retriever, Hershey, has long beaten her to it. Almost on cue, the gentle giant lays down on the foyer rug, rolls over onto his back, and stops—hoping for a belly rub from this new stranger-turned-best friend.
It’s a very fitting welcome to the Rufus household. While the impressive craftsman-style home is impeccably styled down to the very last detail, there is a down-to-earth vibe here. From her husband Jim’s obvious aversion to wearing a tucked-in button down and khakis to Jill’s easy and approachable conversation, this is a place where it’s okay to kick off your shoes and be yourself.
Jill and Jim—owners of real estate and rental investment company The Rufus Group—stumbled across the “Tranquility” house plan by Garrell Associates while attending a party at a friend’s house in 2012. With four sons—now ages 16, 17, 18 and 20—they were outgrowing their current space, a traditional historic home.
“What sold us on [the new house] was the open spaces, and I liked the different levels of the ceilings,” Jill said, adding that only three homes of this style have been built in the Lynchburg area. “It’s not cookie cutter.”
Neither are Jill’s décor choices—she’s not afraid to mix colors, patterns and textures. “I’ve just always been attracted to color,”
Jill said. Turquoise is one of her most-used hues.
The living room is especially vibrant with its floor-to-ceiling wall featuring patterned hardwood tiles from Mirth Studio, based in Charleston. “I call this my Charleston room,” Jill said. The couch, zebra-inspired ottoman, and large floral oil painting over the fireplace are all Charleston finds.
While Jill has always been a do-it-yourself kind of person, (she also is part owner of Ideal Cabinets of Lynchburg and oversees kitchen designs and other renovation projects regularly), she recalls a gentle nudge to get some design help as they built. “We were about 25 percent in when the kitchen designer said, ‘do you not have an interior designer?’” Jill recalled. “It had never dawned on me at all.”
The friend with the same house plan they saw at that party, Kate Avello, agreed to take on the job. Because she had lived in the same house, and had a similar modern style to Jill’s, it was an easy fit. “We had a really good time together,” Jill said.
Instead of always focusing on perfection, Jill loves to talk about all of the things that went wrong throughout the building process—but ended up being “happy accidents.”
In the keeping room right off the kitchen, dark wood, mirrored inserts frame the fireplace and instantly catch the eye. They were designed by a jeweler-turned-home builder, who also does other custom projects. He laser cut the design, but the final pieces were too small. “Jimmy did the measurements one day, and I took a pic of those and sent them to the builder,” she explained. “Well, apparently Jimmy’s 7 looked like a 1.”
This led to a months-long back and forth between the designer, decorative painter, installation crew and mirror company to come up with a plan to salvage the original design: “But it was all worth it in the end,” she said.
There are other “happy accidents” in the kitchen—featuring antique white cabinets and a leathered granite in Antarctica white.
The Rufuses chose to not only increase the size of the island but also double stack the granite—which caused the slab to sag. Jill had meticulously measured the space and bought chairs. At first, she was frustrated they wouldn’t fit with the added support posts. “Our builder said, ‘Jill… put two of the chairs on each side. You’re going to have better conversation that way.’ Now, I love that.”
The kitchen is truly the heart of the Rufus home. “We usually eat right here [at the island],” she said. “The computers go up and everyone just hangs out.”
It’s also a place that Jimmy shows off one of his hidden talents. “His degree is in hotel/restaurant management. He does everything involving cooking,” she said. “I don’t cook at all!”
The Rufuses enjoy hosting dinner parties in their formal dining room a few times a year. But even when they aren’t expecting company, the table is always set. “Every time people come over they are like, ‘Are you about to have a party?’ For my eye, I like to see that it looks put together and not empty.”
A herringbone dresser in the dining room ties into the other black and white accents found in the home. It’s the only piece of furniture that came from their old house, a $300 auction win. “Other things I’ve shed,” she explained, “but that will always stay with me.”
In the master bedroom, the brighter colors found in the rest of the home are taken down a notch—including the classic drapes, a $50 find from Estates and Consignments. Chandelier-style lamps give the room another touch of elegance.
On the tray ceiling, a decorative painter, who also did work in other parts of the home, created a unique bronze design. Again, Jill wasn’t worried about perfection. “Kate called me and said, ‘Jill, it’s not even.’ I said, ‘No, I kind of like it like that.’ Because the painter freehanded it. And it’s another part of the story of this house.”
Jill and Jim reminisced about another “happy accident” many years ago. With two young sons already, they were finalizing plans to adopt a newborn baby boy, when Jill found out she was pregnant. “My life at that time was a blur,” she said. “Is he a happy accident? He is. I would have definitely been done after our third.”
Opening their home to a child in need came second nature to the Rufuses. Jill’s previous career was running an infant adoption agency. It was also in this season where she developed a passion for interior design. “I would go on these home visits all over the state and was just wowed by some of the interiors I saw,” she said.
The main level powder room is the room for the daughter Jill never had, she joked. It’s the smallest, but loudest, room in the house—inspired by the beachy prints of
Lilly Pulitzer. “The boys will bring the girls they are dating in here and show it off,” she laughed.
The Rufuses four sons all live at home and have plenty of space to themselves. Right off the foyer is a set of open stairs leading to the basement, where there are three of the boys’ bedrooms, a kitchen, billiards room and home movie theater.
It’s a major upgrade from their last home, where all of the boys shared one bathroom. While Jill certainly has moments where she misses their younger years, she’s also the type of mom who thrives in the present. “Years ago, my first house was very matchy matchy. It looked like kids lived there and I wanted it to look that way,” said Jill. “But I knew once my kids were older, I could really invest in stuff that would stay nice. Once that time came, I knew and did exactly what I had always wanted to do.”