Better known as my Grandma & Grandpa and Mema & Bepa. I was lucky enough to grow up equally close to both sets of my grandparents who lived about and hour and a half from each other in Southwest Virginia.
Though officially a Virginian, my parents relocated us to Pittsburgh when I was young and we proceeded to live a life of “split-identity”… house, friends, activities, work in Pennsylvania but family, heart & soul down South.
Summers, holidays, long weekends and every occasion in between were spent in Virginia alongside family. I was fortunate this carried on through my college years and cherish the long relationship I was lucky enough to have with all of my grandparents.
This space is an ode them. An ode to heritage & hospitality. To the space where tradition meets progress. To classic concepts re-imagined for modern living. And to the places, spaces & the stories that influence me the most.
To living a life inspired by the past but ever-evolving for the future.
Meet the Robinsons
Jane & Hiter Robinson. She was a city girl from Richmond, Virginia who fell in love with a boy from the coal country of Norton, Virginia. They settled in the small Blue Ridge mountain town of Galax to raise their five children. Hiter "Moose" was the town dentist as well as an avid golfer. Jane chaired the church's Garden Club and local events bringing an elevated elegance to everything she did.
Their natural ease and gracious manner towards everyone influenced and inspired me. No matter the occasion or amount of people they hosted, there was never a sense of tension or stress. They were genuinely glad you were there and happiest opening up their home to anyone (and everyone) that came by.
Their home was truly magical; a treasure trove of the unexpected alongside classically beautiful heirlooms and antiques. But no matter how precious, nothing in the house was off limits- a bold move for a space that eventually catered to nine of us grandchildren. The house was our playground. We jumped on the beautifully made beds moving from room to room to search out the best bounce factor. We hosted tea parties for the older generation using the actual silver tea set to serve up the V-8 juice found in the fridge.
From a young age, I closely studied my grandmother and observed the way she moved through life. Every detail of her day to day felt naturally curated. She thought through all decisions with grace and care. Everything was important, yet nothing was of urgency. I observed the way she planned meals for holidays making sure the event felt festive in menu and décor yet informal in gathering. I observed the way she read through her design catalogs making notes to change up the interiors each season. I loved nothing more to then to come back each holiday and see what was new in the house. Often times this was furniture layout and fabrics- a complete change achieved with minimal resources.
My grandmother was always busy with her household activities alongside whatever church event called upon her decorating & floral skills. Our special time together came in the afternoons. Like clockwork, every day at 3:00pm we would break and sit in the living room to watch Days of Our Lives. A comical yet true constant in my life, as she got older it remained a way for us to always connect.
Our outings together typically consisted of a trip “downtown” – the one street stretch that housed the town’s jewelry store, hair salon, antique store, book store, clothing store and a few small restaurants. We would get “dressed” and go have a coffee and chicken salad croissant together at the Antique Apple’s in store café. We would chat with George the owner and I loved every minute of the small-town familiarity. Following lunch, we would slowly and methodically walk the aisles as I watched her “hunt” for new treasures. I learned what to look for in antiques. I learned the satisfaction of starting a “collection” and seeking out pieces to add in over time.
My ‘one on one’ summer time with my grandfather moved at the same relaxed pace. He adored his grandchildren and was active with us in an “inactive” yet joyously involved manner. Nothing brought him more pleasure than taking the grandchildren to the pool at his country club and introducing us to his golf buddies. He made sure to always gather up the cousins and take us all out to a special lunch which always concluded with a huge Sundae that we all technically shared though the bowl never left his seat at the table.
On hot summer days, he would load us into the back of his pick-up truck while he and Sugar the golden retriever rode up front. Driving fast and not so legally through the mountainous backroads the goal was simply to hear us shriek with joy. In quieter moments at home, he always shared his favorite classic movies pulling out a favorite each evening and transporting us all back in time. To this day when I need a pick me up, I will pop on Meet Me in St. Louis and think of him fondly.
Over the years, there was truly no better feeling than to come back each visit, to open up the rickety screen on the back door and walk in to their home. Furniture re-arranged. Fabric slightly different. Snacks on the table. Flowers cut from the garden. Frank Sinatra on the radio. Golf on the television. A constant. A gracious welcoming back home.
Meet the Millers
Jane Ann & DeWitt Miller. Both originally hailed from the Harrisonburg, Virginia area, located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley, Jane Ann left home at the age of 16 and moved to Pennsylvania to work for a bridal store exploring the “world” and her passion for fashion at an early age. DeWitt, a farm boy, helped raise and sell the pigs on his family farm before moving to Blacksburg Virginia to study engineering at Tech (Virginia Polytechnic Institute).
Their love story remains a little vague but purportedly after turning him down a few times, my grandmother accepted his “pin” and they married eventually settling in the quaint town of Waynesboro, a booming 1950s town where my grandfather worked as an engineer for G.E.
Along with raising three children, my grandmother was socially active in the Junior Women’s Club- her claim to fame as she likes to remind us was title of “Pecan Chairwoman”.
Later in life they moved a bit further south to Roanoke. Their Roanoke home was my other special playground. Given my sisters and I were the only grandchildren, we considered it ‘our other home’ along with everything inside. The house was always immaculate but for young girls, full of treasures. A china cabinet that housed my grandmother’s collection of miniature crystal salt cellars provided endless hours of mock dinner parties. The basement served as my grandfather’s office and featured his large wooden desk complete with every office supply you could imagine. The personalized rubber address stamps were my highlight and I stamped anything and everything creating custom stationary for hours on end.
Summer trips to their house were a magical combination of my grandfather’s practical outdoor focused outings alongside my grandmother’s fashion forward socially influenced activities. My grandfather was a steadfast and grounded spirit. He took me on excursions; fishing, canoeing & camping where I learned of the peace that comes from spending time in nature. He taught me that hard work produces tangible results. I was his field assistant when he rented a plot of land and set up a vegetable garden for many summers. He taught me that we must never forget where we come from as I accompanied him to the library where he researched and wrote our family genealogy.
But it was not all hard work and no play. We often went to catch an afternoon movie in the historic Grandin theater in the Old Southwest neighborhood of Roanoke where I could usually squeeze out a popcorn and a box of Junior Mints. Many evenings we snuck out to Katie’s Ice Cream Parlor for a secret sweet treat while we waited for my grandma to return from work.
My grandmother worked part time for a women’s boutique solely out of her absolute passion for clothes. In the mornings I would dress up and “go to work” with her. I closely observed her interactions with customers. She made everyone who entered the store feel like they were the most important person on earth in that moment. Generous in time and attention, she taught me how to make people feel heard and valued. My coveted work responsibility was the jewelry display situated at the front register. I spent hours taking out every single piece of jewelry and re-arranging it in an artful manner. Whether she kept it that way after my trip ended I don’t know. But during that moment she made me feel as if I was the most avant-garde jewelry arranger to have ever graced the earth. Post jewelry organization we would “break” for lunch, a toasted tuna fish sandwich in the back room as we waited on my grandpa to pick me up for our ‘afternoon activity’ time.
I loved these summers and the “constant” they provided me over the years. I appreciate the gift of time and the undivided attention my grandparents offered. I am grateful I can equally steer a canoe and style merchandise in a boutique.