Q&A: Tess Shebaylo from Historic Church Hill

Q: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself. What are your interests or your hobbies?

T: I grew up in Chester and have been living in the city proper for about twelve years. I’m a VCU grad, and I’m a Director of Support at Tumblr. But as technology-forward as I am, almost everything else in my life is very old-fashioned. As a friend once put it, I’m an “old church lady in disguise.” I love to spend time daytripping around Virginia, visiting historical sites, house museums, antique stores, etc. I also enjoy cooking, gardening, running, reading, watching period pieces, and hanging around with my husband and our cat.

All images supplied by Tess Shebaylo.

Q: Describe your style in three words or less:

T: Historical / Vintage – Inspired

Tess’s beautiful home, located in Church Hill…one of the most historic neighborhoods in Richmond, VA.

Q: What inspired you to purchase a historic home?

T: Nothing else has ever even crossed my mind. Unless you have unlimited resources, most new construction is character-less. You wouldn’t be able to tell your house from the one next to it if all the house numbers suddenly went missing. I find that very, very depressing. On a budget, wanting to get a house with history and character, Church Hill was an obvious choice.

A room with a view…

Q: What are some key rules folks should know before they begin to renovate an old home?

T: This is going to cost way, way more than you thought, but probably still not as much as moving to whatever suburb is considered hip right now. Do your research ahead of time and know what kinds of changes you can introduce if you want to take advantage of historical tax credits. Don’t forget to add storage wherever you can. Take lots of pictures.

The ceiling and wainscoting in this room are drool worthy!!

Q: Is there a trick to adding wainscoting to an old home?

T: That’s a good question. There had been a fire in our house before we owned it, so some of the walls had to be replaced entirely, and my husband was able to do that in such a way that it wouldn’t be hard to add the wainscoting. But really I think it just takes a lot of math. There are a ton of corner calculations that go into wainscoting and how each piece fits into the next one, and my husband is the really the genius behind all of that. I know he consulted some books and YouTube videos on wainscoting which helped a lot too.

Oooo….Ya’ll know how I feel about black and white bathrooms! LOVE them!!! Great mirrors!

Q: You’ve nick-named your home the “Good Ship.” Is there a good story behind that?

T: Sort of! In buying the house and starting to renovate it, we found ourselves using a lot of nautical metaphors for whatever reason, and was started informally referring to the house as The Good Ship Shebaylo. Which eventually was shortened to The Good Ship, and that stuck. Someday it’d be cool to have an actual legit estate with a name and all, though. I could see myself living at Westover, for example.

What a tranquil room! Love that sofa!

Q: I LOVE your farm table and your Victorian sofa! Do you have a favorite piece of furniture in your home?

T: Thanks! I’m crazy about those pieces too. I think my favorite piece of furniture right now is what we call our “curiosity cabinet,” a beautiful cabinet with glass doors that we stuffed full of all our antique tchotchkes. It’s kind of the piece de resistance in our parlor now.

Q: What inspires your taste/style in home decorating?

T: Historical interiors. I love everything really, but particularly the late 18th century to the early 20th century. So everything from Marie Antoinette to antebellum to steampunk to early industrial. You could look at my Decor board on Pinterest and get a pretty good example of the kinds of things I like. I’m predictable, which makes me the easiest person ever to buy presents for. The best presents I get are the ones that my friends describe as “screaming Tess” to them. Really though, I enjoy stuff from all different kinds of periods. I love Mid-Century Modern stuff, and used to have a bunch of MCM items, but I’ve sold them off gradually just because they didn’t go with the rest of the house. Ideally I’d like to have a separate house for every different type of style I like, but you know. Best case scenario. Haha.

Sit and stay a while…

Q: Do you have a favorite flea market or antique store that you like to visit for treasures?

T: It’s hard to narrow it down, but I love Old Town Petersburg for antiquing. Particularly The Oak, just because it’s curated so well, but there are several great stores nearby. Recently I also discovered Through the Garden Gate, so our parlor now looks like the inside of that store because of all the furniture we’ve gotten there.

Special Note: Thanks to Tess for taking the time from her busy schedule to do this interview! Stop by Tess’s blog at:


Mark your calendars: Here are some fun upcoming events that you may want to attend:

DC Big Flea Market, Nov. 3-4th, Sat. 9-6 and Sun. 11-5. Parking is Free. Admission is $8. At the Dulles Expo Center, Chantilly, VA. www.damorepromotions.com

Through the Garden Gate, Christmas Open House. Nov. 3rd. 10 am. www.throughthegardengateantiques.com

Copyright 2012. The Savvy Seeker blog by Erin Hurley-Brown. All Rights Reserved.

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