Until moving back to Charlottesville two years ago, designer Alexandra Bracey spent most of her life—professional and otherwise—in larger cities, having attended the New York School of Interior Design and working there as a senior designer for Alan Tanksley. No wonder, then, why the Washington, D.C., native says she’s more “city” than “country.”
“While I love some time in the country and exploring nature,” she says, “I want to be where the action, the good restaurants and the stores are.” But we get the feeling she’s not having any trouble making a home here in Charlottesville. The UVA alum and her husband, Dan, an architect, launched Bracey Designs earlier this year after Alex left local firm Stedman House.
We asked her to tell us her favorite design word, her least favorite design rule and her first design memory.—Caite White
Resides in: Charlottesville
Best known for: Eclectic and modern interiors.
Antique or modern?
A mix of both! A great room contains many layers and that’s best achieved by pulling from different styles. A modern sofa juxtaposed with the patina of an antique table or lamp creates a richer and more unique look.
Which colors do you gravitate toward?
Blues and oranges (and not just because I’m a UVA alum). I love cool, calm neutrals like blues and grays for basic pieces and wall colors but think it’s so important to introduce some pops of color in accessories.
Which materials or textures do you frequently use in your own home?
Throughout my house you’ll find textured linen basics, velvet for softness and luxe leather for some interest and tactile accessories. I think a contemporary crewel or embroidery on throw pillows or tactile art pieces introduce some unexpected flair.
What is your favorite interior design-related word?
Style, because it has so many uses. You can “style” a bookcase (a secret pleasure of mine), select a fabric or accessory with “style” and work within your clients’ “style.”
Does your home look like the one you grew up in?
While I have applied the comfort and warmth from my childhood home to my personal home and style, aesthetically it is quite different from the house I grew up in. But, as a designer, my house is constantly evolving.
What’s one thing that can really transform a room?
Good, soft lighting. Everything should be on a dimmer! The use of good lighting can play off of the natural light in a room and can help transform it for different uses (e.g. bright for a baby shower, dimmer for a cocktail party).
I love the work of Billy Baldwin, a true design pioneer. I am also inspired by many of the fantastic designers working today—Celerie Kemble and Jamie Drake are two favorites.
Which design blog, website, TV show or magazine do you peruse religiously?
Domaine Home is an absolute favorite site and I love Elle Décor. I get inspired by new products and ideas and what other designers are doing. I am also a huge fan of following other designers on Instagram.
Décor-wise, what should a homeowner never scrimp on?
Good upholstery. Inexpensive upholstery is often uncomfortable and does not hold up very well. It’s worth it to spend the money upfront so you don’t have to replace something every few years.
Design rule you like to break?
Scale. As far as I’m concerned, there are no rules when it comes to scale. Sometimes it’s important to introduce larger pieces where traditionally a small item is called for. I find this particularly true with coffee tables.
What is your favorite room in the house?
The den or library. While not a lot of people have the luxury of a dedicated den, when you do, it can be such a rich and special room. I love a den that features darker colors and leather, creating a comfortable and Old World vibe.
What do you wish you could do without?
The unattractive baby play mats and accessories that are taking over my house! I’m due in November with my first child (a girl!) and while I am going soft, neutral and contemporary in many places, I know that babies need that primary color stimulation.
What are you afraid to DIY?
Hang wallpaper. I have seen and heard too many horror stories.
Have you ever had a change of heart about an object or a style?
I have embraced the eclectic and the traditional. When I was in school I was strictly interested in contemporary and midcentury modern, but as I’ve evolved as a designer, I appreciate the incorporation of other styles and pieces to create a more interesting and personal home.
If you could live in one historical figure’s house, whose would it be?
Charles and Ray Eames’ California case study home. The Eames’ compact house, part of the case study experiment, has long been a favorite of mine. The compact multi-use function of the house and the incredible furnishings inside it would make it the perfect choice for me and my architect husband.
The Gene Davis lithograph I inherited from my grandmother. Purchased from a local D.C. gallery, it hung in her townhouse until the day she moved out. Ever since I was a little girl, I admired the piece in her hallway and was so excited when it became mine. It’s now hanging in my kitchen and I get to admire the colorful vertical stripes every day and love that my grandmother was a pioneer in supporting local art.
On what movie set would you like to live?
The 1999 Thomas Crown Affair. I would relish living in his townhouse and/or on his island!
If you were reborn as a piece of furniture or an object, what would it be?
A great chandelier! I don’t think anything gets me as happy as seeing a wonderful, interesting light fixture illuminate a room.
What is your first design memory?
As soon as I could crawl I was interested in furniture. My parents called me “quality control,” as I was constantly pulling on furniture legs. As a toddler I pulled the leg off a family friend’s table.