by Lacelliese King
“Are you a human snail?” read a humorously titled recent headline. “People are now so reliant on their smartphones, the devices are ‘becoming our homes.” And home is a place we want to be more than ever. According to Barron’s, as of last summer, U.S. homeowners had spent a median of $17,140 on home improvements since the beginning of the pandemic, and 58% had undertaken an interior improvement project.
Surrounded by so many beautiful design ideas on Instagram, I’m happy to call my phone an extension of home, especially when it leads to happy connections with other design enthusiasts and home-restorationists like Jenny Bohannon of Tallwood Country House.
Jenny caught our eye at The Glam Pad not only because of her elegantly-presented Instagram grid, where she documents the renovation, restoration, and decoration of her family’s Northern Virginia estate known affectionately as Tallwood Country House. Her work has been illuminated by Mark D. Sikes, Southern Living, and numerous brand collaborations, and her menagerie of charming (house-trained?) animals is also irresistible, surrounded by the comforts of Jenny’s Grandmillennial-esque home. After a delightful phone conversation ahead of this feature, it is my pleasure to welcome Jenny in this Style Profile and TGP debut!
(All photos courtesy of Jenny Bohannon)
Q. Tell us about Tallwood Country House. Where are you located, how did you get started?
A. A former horse farm, Tallwood is located only a short drive from the nation’s capital, in Northern Virginia horse country. My childhood home sits only a few doors down, and while I had never been inside, I often ran past in high school, training for volleyball, lifeguarding, etc… Who could have known that, in a later season of life, while visiting my parents one Sunday afternoon, my husband, children, and I would happen into the open house of what had become a possible tear-down and fall in love. But, fall in love we did, with both the potential of the faded interiors and the beauty of the land.
While Tallwood is, first and foremost, our beloved home, the public aspect came about quite by accident, when I began sharing peeks into our renovations, featuring also the little things that were working together to make our house a home: a gallery wall here; a tablescape there; flower arrangements; new bedding; etc… Slowly but surely, things were coming together, and our growing readership began to catch something of our vision, being especially fascinated with, what we hoped were, thoughtful decisions intended to honor the past and those who had come before us: to preserve the fine old wall-coverings rather than to take them down: for instance, to leave alone the dark woodwork in the Evening Room, thus allowing the room to serve its intended purpose as a cozy space in which to gather by the fire each evening.
At the time, everyone was ripping out and painting over, making our approach of preservation unique. From the moment I first stepped into the glamorous front hall of Tallwood, enveloped by its vintage flocked wall covering, I felt a kinship to the women who had gone before me, shaped, no doubt, by the Old Hollywood movies and their glamorous vintage sets and costumes had grown up watching. It seemed the sort of place in which Grace Kelly might appear at any moment, and I was determined to preserve that spirit of vintage glamour and loveliness.
Our Little Boys’ Room, for instance, was inspired by the famous photograph of Lee Radziwill with one of her children in her Turquerie Living Room at Buckingham Palace. To my great surprise and utter delight, I walked out of church one Sunday morning to thousands of new readers, sent over by Mark D. Sikes, who had shared our Little Boys’ Room with his readers. The rest, as they say, was history; that is, until the pandemic hit.
On a whim, I began to share snippets of our hobby farm, including a video of our sweet ducklings swimming in our farm sink. This video, and those which proceeded, went viral around the world and have, to date, accounted for more of our growth than any other content.
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Q. What is a usual day like for you at Tallwood?
A. A day in the life at Tallwood is idyllic and lovely; also, lots of work to keep all the farm animals happy. I am so very grateful for my husband and boys who take care of the property and animals, which gives me time for homemaking, socializing, and documenting bits and pieces of our life on social media. My days are now split between getting the boys to and from school and activities, housework, decorating, and more recently, working with brands to style, photograph, and feature their beautiful products and pieces in the lovely rooms and surroundings here at Tallwood. Instagram is the most lovely community, and I am truly in awe of the talent that is regularly on display and feel blessed to be a small part of showcasing such lovely brands to the world.
Q. Were you trained in interior design? Who are your top five interior designers (past/present)?
A. Believe it or not, I began playing the piano when I was four and am a trained classical pianist, having gone so far as to play at Carnegie Hall in college as part of our local orchestra. Having said that, I am as passionate about the arts as many tastemakers of the past who also were not trained in design but who had a natural affinity; Jackie Kennedy, for instance, comes to mind.
Soon after my husband and I bought our first house, I began to realize how much I had to learn and so began pouring over the work of designers such as Suzanne Rheinstein and Brooke Giannetti; both of whom, ironically, were also never trained in design. Having grown up in historic Virginia, I was naturally inspired by design rooted in history and deeply appreciated the patina and sense of timelessness antique and vintage pieces could bring to a home. Those with a keen eye often remark that the Washington D.C. area seems to have its own, very special aesthetic; that is true and due, in part, to the heavy influence of the English who settled her. Fine country living is more of a European thing than an American thing, but because Virginia happened to be settled by the English, it is also very much a Virginia thing. And so, the aesthetic of Tallwood Country House was born, influenced by designers of the past such as Bunny Mellon, Mario Buatta, and Dorothy Draper, to name a few. Mark Sikes has also been a kind supporter and an enormous influence, with a true decorating genius rooted in the brilliance of his love for historic and vintage design.
Q. How would you describe your decorating style?
A. The term “Grandmillennial” was recently coined by House Beautiful editor Emma Bazilian to describe those of us who seek fashion and design inspiration from our grandmothers’ glamorous era of the 40s and 50s. Think Slim Aarons photography, socialites like C.Z. Guest, and others of that era, such as Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy, and you’ll have a good sense of our aesthetic.
Q. What has been the most challenging (and the most rewarding) part about developing Tallwood?
The challenge for us is time; always, time. My husband has the most demanding career, our boys attend a private Christian school almost an hour away, and many of the projects we undertake, my husband and I like to undertake together. So, we steal away time here and there, and I’ve learned to be patient. That’s actually one of the reasons I posted that first photograph to social media: I figured that if, each day, I looked for something lovely to be grateful for and share, it would keep my mind from focusing on all that was not lovely we still needed to sort, and breed contentment with where we were rather than discontentment with where I wished we were. PSA: IT WORKED!
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Q. Tell us more about your menagerie. We absolutely adore the ducks!
A. Believe it or not, our menagerie began with French Guinea Hens! Because the property had been let go, the summer we moved in, we were overrun by ticks, yellow jackets, and all the bugs and insects. We quickly got down to the business of educating ourselves and learned that French Guinea Hens were the best natural pest control, especially where ticks are concerned, and went for it! From there, we decided to add ducks, because we have a pond and natural habitat perfectly suited to their needs; and then sweet barn cats to help with mice, goats to help clear the woods, and so on and so forth. It’s been the loveliest to see the boys take ownership of caring for the animals, and to teach them in the process that each has their special God-given purpose to fulfill, just like they do!
Q. What are you currently working on that we can look forward to in the coming months?
A. So many fun things to look forward to in the coming months! I’m currently working on a website and blog (we’ve never had one!) with the lovely Sally of Roselind Co., design collaborations to drop for Christmas with Dogwood Hill, Fenwick Fields, and Jefferson Lane, along with a few European magazines that would like to include us in upcoming features. (Note to self: Will need to brush up on French and Italian!) Most of all, looking forward to continuing to capture and share all the pretty moments that come our way, both big and small, thereby, (I hope), giving back to a community from which I have drawn endless inspiration over the years, including from The Glam Pad!