With good cheer and color, Leigh Glassmire makes an old room new

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Photo: John Robinson Photo: John Robinson

Twenty-five years in one kitchen is enough time for several eras to unfold. “I moved here in ’87 and I’ve been here ever since, much to my surprise,” said Leigh Glassmire of her Charlottesville house. Perhaps a resonance with the places of her Northern childhood is the reason: “This house reminded me of upstate New York architecture. So many houses here are little brick boxes.”

Over the quarter century, her tastes have evolved and so has her design savvy, as she moved from a career teaching preschool into her current gig in sales and art buying at Kane Furniture. She does interior design on the side, too, realizing a talent she’s always possessed: “Even as a kid, I would ask my mom, ‘Can we move? I want to redecorate.’”

The eat-in kitchen reflects her growing affinity for contemporary design—the pottery collection features lots of clean lines—balanced with the nature of the house, built in 1925. “With this room, I keep trying to find the balance of tweaking it to be more contemporary. This tabletop brought in straighter lines. I collect pottery and try to clean out the vintagey stuff. My tendency I have to fight against is to fill the space. I’m trying to get into less-is-more.”

Buddha masks, antique teacups, and a vintage fan on a miniature leopard-print chair all find a place in this room without becoming chaotic. “I want it fun but peaceful,” she said.

“I do tend to go shopping in my own house—pull something from one room and put it in another. I love tone on tone—mixing all my different greens. The colors are kind of strong but they’re also somehow restful to me, and cheerful.

“I always have loved this Asian influence—Zen, or calm and serenity, because I’m normally more of a wired, energetic person. When my living space is calmer and more simple it’s a better thing for me. One’s space and mood are really intertwined.

“The table is actually from the 1940s when they started doing the enamel tables. I saw this one and loved it. But it was so small, and when I was having my guest room painted the painter said ‘Why not bring this tabletop downstairs?’ Then I found three of these folding card table chairs. A friend found two more in Colorado and brought them back for me. I’ve had Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners with eight or 10 people and it’s worked, even though it’s not a great working kitchen.

“I found this old parrot poster in an attic of a house I was renting when I was 27. This painting I just got from Kane maybe a year ago. Then there’s my yard sale plant—it was just a little thing. I’ve had it for 10 years and it’s taking over. I’m just fortunate I haven’t killed it.

“On weekends mostly I’m in here. I come in here and heat up my coffee. I’m not a big cook. My oven hadn’t worked for 25 years. I have a new stove now so I’ll cook more in the winter.

“I put on NPR and listen to piano and jazz. It brings me back to my roots. I’ll make my lists and pay my bills. I like to be in this space especially on a sunny day. My friends’ kids and the little boy next door will come over, and I love to do art projects with kids. I have my paints there and it’s a nice big table.

“It’s the idea of, it doesn’t have to be perfect, it’s more the matter of doing it.”

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