Change of Scenery

Originally published in Richmond Magazine

With fewer possessions and help from design pros, Ellen and Larry Campbell trade yardwork for recreation in their modern condo overlooking the James River

After 13 years living in the Westham neighborhood near the University of Richmond, Ellen and Larry Campbell found themselves spending less and less time at home. Their sons had grown up and moved to Chicago and Long Beach, California, and Ellen and Larry were traveling more.

Upon returning from one of their trips, they stepped onto their front porch and surveyed the yardwork that awaited them.

“We like to travel,” Larry says. “But every time we’d come back, we’d spend weeks getting the place shaped back up again.”

Larry set out to mow the grass, and Ellen got ready to trim the trees — and then they stopped. “We just looked at each other,” Ellen says, “and asked, ‘What are we doing?’ ”

They immediately started investigating their options for a new home, one that was smaller, with no yard to maintain.

Still, they wanted to be close to nature; their primary criterion was to live near the water. The Campbells looked at a few options, but when they first set foot in a condo at Riverside on the James, with sweeping views of the James River, Ellen knew they had found their next home.

Ellen and Larry Campbell worked with Circle Design Studio and VMAX Custom Homes to transform their Riverside on the James condo into an efficient and modern retreat. The Campbells downsized considerably to make the move. (Photo by Anna Zagorodna)

“I walked in and said, ‘This is it. This is the one,’” she recalls. “We love the river. And we’re hikers, so we love all the trails.”

Moving from a 3,400-square-foot home on a half acre to a condo one-third the size required plenty of downsizing. Emptying storage areas, like the attic, was the first step. They also had to pare down their furniture and artwork, collected over years of traveling and living abroad. They passed on some pieces to their sons; others they sold and donated.

“We had to go through every single drawer, every single item,” Ellen says.

Larry adds, “It simplified our life, for sure.”

To modernize — and maximize — every inch of their new space, the Campbells brought in Max Zagorodniy with Henrico-based builder VMAX Custom Homes and Circle Design Studio, an interior design and architecture firm in Roanoke.

“We’ve raved about Max before; he worked on our Westham house,” Ellen says. “He was very good at keeping us focused on how we wanted our place to look. We wanted to simplify. We didn’t want anything to take away from the view.”

Ellen and Larry knew they wanted a modern design, with an all-white kitchen and flexibility both to entertain friends and host overnight guests.

The original master bedroom was transformed into a TV room/guest room to make better use of the space. A wall covered in navy grasscloth helps to define the space and adds warmth and character.

They also had several must-have pieces — from Ellen’s grandmother’s pine cupboard and chairs from the years they lived in China, to small sentimental items and Larry’s record collection — they wanted to bring to their new home.

Theresa Dorlini, principal interior designer and creative director at Circle, says working with a clients’ existing furniture may sound counterintuitive to creating a modern aesthetic, but she enjoys the opportunity to help clients curate a collected look.

“It makes their interiors a lot more rich, and a lot less like a model home,” she says. “To do a modern design well, without making it seem sterile, can be a little bit difficult. Bringing in their collection made it warm again.”

Circle’s proposal completely reimagined the riverside condo. Most dramatically, they turned the guest room into the master suite, and removed the wall separating the former master from the living room, opening up the primary living space. A movable wall allows the Campbells to quickly convert the family room into a guest room, with a private bathroom, when needed.

“We wanted to simplify. We didn’t want anything to take away from the view.” —Ellen Campbell

Other features are smaller, but no less critical to maximizing limited space. For example, the Campbells’ kitchen includes an 18-inch dishwasher and 24-inch refrigerator. And Larry’s closet doubles as an office and workshop; it’s wired for a printer, houses their toolbox and has shelving for linens.


“We utilized every nook and cranny,” says Stefanie Locklear, junior designer at Circle. “Wherever there was little recess or a niche, we put built-ins for shelving.”

The process of downsizing has taught Ellen and Larry to see double duty in even the simplest objects. Just recently, when Ellen was making banana bread, she realized she no longer had a mixing bowl, so she grabbed her Crock-Pot instead.

By moving to Riverside on the James, Ellen and Larry wanted to be able to pack their bags and travel for weeks at a time, and they’ve taken full advantage of their new lifestyle. When we spoke in November, they had been home for only a week after spending five weeks on the West Coast.

“We came in and everything was clean, just the way we left it,” Larry says. “We just get back in the groove again.”

Did someone say shiplap?

It’s time for our most recent bathroom renovation reveal! This was a fun project, especially because our clients wanted to incorporate a shiplap wall. As a result , we got a beautiful and a very bright bathroom with lots of light, a big shower, and lots of storage space! Check out the dramatic Before and After!












VMAX LLC Awarded Best of Houzz Awards 2018


VMAX LLC of Richmond, Virginia Awarded Best Of Houzz 2018

Over 40 Million Monthly Unique Users Nominated Best Home Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals in North America and Around the World

Richmond, Virginia, January 20, 2018 – VMAX LLC of Richmond, Virginia has won “Best of Design” and  “Best of Customer Service” on Houzz , the leading platform for home remodeling and design. This company was chosen by the more than 40 million monthly unique users that comprise the Houzz community from among more than one million active home building, remodeling and design industry professionals.

The Best of Houzz is awarded annually in three categories: Design, Customer Service and Photography. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 40 million monthly users on Houzz.

“We are so excited to have been awarded the Best of Houzz for 3 years in a row”, Maksim Zagorodniy, Vice President of VMAX LLC.

“The Houzz community selected a phenomenal group of Best of Houzz 2018 award winners, so this year’s recipients should be very proud”, said Liza Hausman, Vice President of Industry Marketing at Houzz. “Best of Houzz winners represent some of the most talented and customer-focused professionals in our industry, and we are extremely pleased to give them both this recognition and a platform on which to showcase their expertise”. Follow VMAX LLC on Houzz

About Houzz: Houzz is the leading platform for home remodeling and design, providing people with everything they need to improve their homes from start to finish online or from a mobile device. From decorating a small room to building a custom home and everything in between, Houzz connects millions of homeowners, home design enthusiasts and home improvement professionals across the country and around the world. With the largest residential design database in the world and a vibrant community empowered by technology, Houzz is the easiest way for people to find inspiration, get advice, buy products and hire the professionals they need to help to turn their ideas into reality. Headquartered in Palo Alto,CA, Houzz also has international offices in London, Berlin, Sydney, Moscow, Tel Aviv and Tokyo. Houzz and the Houzz logo are registered trademarks of Houzz Inc. worldwide. For more information, visit

See more images in the “Best of Houzz 2018” Ideabooks here .

Transformation Tuesday: Master Bathroom Before and After!

Since it’s Transformation Tuesday, let us share this Master Bathroom Renovation.

Before: The original master bathroom was a pretty small space with one sink, a small shower and only one small window. Overall space was very dark and clustered, not functional, and least to say -outdated. Our client’s main request was to open the space and make it bright and airy. At the same time, the owner wanted to make sure that the new master bathroom would fit with the design of the rest of the house originally built in the late seventies.


After : To create the feeling of a bigger space, it was decided to remove the shower walls, linen closet area and separation walls. We added the double french doors, installed recessed lights and pendant lights for the make-up area . The double sink feature and and a large mirror helped to  visually make the new bathroom even bigger. For the shower area we installed a rain and a hand held shower heads, a bench and glass doors. For modern rustic look, we chose the trim in Venetian Bronze. Both the floor tile and the shower tile were chosen in the colors to compliment the wall paint color and the granite over the double vanity.


How To Clean Algae Off Vinyl Siding

Vinyl siding is one of the most popular siding choices for homes of all shapes and sizes. While there’s certainly merit in choosing stone, brick, stucco, and other materials, the reality is that vinyl makes more sense in many situations. 

If exterior areas of your home are in the shade and hold moisture, they can develop unsightly green algae. The mildew and algae are feeding on sugars, dust, dirt or other things that are attached to the siding. Many people are unaware that trees, both evergreen and deciduous, often broadcast ultrafine aerosols of sugars at different times of years.

algae on vinyl siding

To keep vinyl siding looking its best, it should be washed periodically to remove the mold, mildew, dirt, and chalky oxidation that collects on the surface. You should get your house washed every two years. Some lighter colors of siding that are in the shade a lot may require washing every year.

power washing richmond va

Normal cleaning with laundry or dishwashing detergent can remove new algae formation, but it’s necessary to use a stronger cleaner and method of cleaning for older algae. Pressure washing can remove dirt and grime from siding, or you can combine pressure washing with the use of a cleaning agent.

Far too often, untrained and inexperienced people rent a pressure washer for their siding cleaning needs. When pressure washing is done improperly, they often find that they caused far more damage than was worth the effort. Using the wrong pressure setting, method, or cleaning agent can result in damage to the siding and leaks. The water that’s ejected from the tip of the pressure washer wand can be driven into cracks and crevices where water is not supposed to go. The intense water stream can and will erode the lighter-colored spring wood in your wood siding, causing it to look older than it actually is. It’s best to check your manufacturer’s recommendations and warranty information before going this route. They should provide you with some tips or things to avoid. You should never spray water up at the siding, or you may force water underneath the siding and cause damage. Wear safety glasses or another form of eye protection when working with a pressure washer.

It is highly recommended that you hire a professional pressure washing contractor for help. When you hire professionals to clean the exterior of your home, you do not need to worry about any of the above mentioned issues. All you need to do is sit back and relax while your residence is restored to its best possible condition. You and your family are guaranteed to be complete satisfied with the results. You will always know who to trust with your future siding cleaning projects.

Happiness is where your Home is !

Helping people find their perfect home and creating their dream spaces has been our company’s mission for many years. Yet we are also passionate about our four legged friends having a place to live, as there are thousands of pets each year looking for a home and a loving owner!

Last week we were honored to be a part of such a great cause by donating to Richmond Animal League (RAL) , humane organization dedicated to a principle that every life is precious. If you are looking to make a difference and get involved, you can too by visiting their website

Happiness is where your Home is !

Contemporary Cool

Originally published in Richmond Magazine

A sleek and modern renovation gives new life to a 1980s West End home | Photos by Anna Zagorodna
by Elizabeth Cogar
January 30, 2017

Contemporary home renovation Richmond VA
LIVING ROOM: Jessica Berliner’s contemporary home follows a calm color scheme with black, white, many shades of gray and an occasional cool blue — such as the pair of CB2 chaises that face the newly installed gas fireplace in the living room.

When California native Jessica Berliner moved to Richmond in 2000, she searched for a house that felt like home. She chose her West End neighborhood for its proximity to coworkers and her workplace and because the family-friendly community has an architectural mix of traditional and contemporary homes, her personal preference. At the time, contemporary houses were less expensive in Richmond than in other parts of the country, she found. “Nobody wanted them!” she says in disbelief — and delight.

The 1980s brick-and-glass house sits on a bluff on a quiet cul-de-sac. Over the years, it served the family well with minor updates here and there, but, even though there was enough room for three children and an array of pets, the interior space never felt quite right to Berliner. “The house is a contemporary, but the way it was designed inside was not contemporary. … it was more traditional,” she says. The floor plan felt awkward and inefficient. The sunken living room had potential but was never used, and she wished for a guest room to host visiting family and friends.

Newly single in 2015, Berliner felt the time had come to modify the house in ways that would accommodate demands of children and her hectic and varied physician’s schedule. “I wanted to open it up and modernize,” she explains. Kid and fitness activities occupy her time, and she wanted her living space to be easy to maintain with a streamlined aesthetic. The resulting interior that she envisioned is spectacularly sleek and modern, not your ordinary house in the ’burbs and not what one might expect of a 1980s residence.

“Our goal was to open up the floorplan.” —Maks Zagorodniy

Berliner knew that transforming her home would require expertise in modern family vernacular. Looking at interiors on, Berliner discovered that she liked a number of spaces by Richmond-based Circle Design Studio. Once Circle Design was on board and had completed design drawings, builder Maks Zagorodniy of VMAX won the contracting bid and joined the team.

“Aside from modernizing the look for the entire main floor, Jessica wanted to make use of the sunken living room, which sat empty and unfurnished for years,” Zagorodniy says. “Our goal was to open up the floor plan, making the kitchen the central ‘hub,’ with visual openness between all spaces but also separating the areas that would be used by adults and the children.”

Work began in the summer of 2015 and was complete a year later. It encompassed total renovations of first-floor common areas — living, dining and family rooms — plus a master suite addition that was added to the job midway through. With direction from Berliner based on photos she saw on Houzz, John and Theresa Dorlini of Circle Design Studio made selections for everything from furniture and rugs to kitchen surfaces and lighting fixtures. “I knew I’d like whatever they did,” Berliner says.

Meanwhile, Zagorodniy peeled back the layers of structural and cosmetic details that no longer fit the plan — walls, fixtures and tile — with a few obstacles along the way. “The biggest challenge was uncovering structural problems in the original framing,” Zagorodniy says. “We investigated the root cause of the cracks in the ceilings and sagging floors overhead, and we fixed them during the renovation. Also, the construction of modern details requires additional time to coordinate between quality craftsmen to achieve the clean-lined look.”

The new look is light and breezy with easy-to-maintain surfaces and furnishings. Laminate cabinets in wood grains, quartz countertops, aluminum and Thermador appliances combine for a look that’s both retro and contemporary in the kitchen. Where Berliner’s three children once romped, she and her and guests now enjoy a serene living space with sophisticated seating including two chaises that face the fireplace. Attaching the 1,000-square-foot master suite addition — bedroom, bathroom and personal gym — to the house required some fancy footwork, but Zagorodniy finessed it with flair. A carefully curated group of photos and artwork is the only personal décor. “I can’t stand stuff,” Berliner says. “No knickknacks!”

Truly a happy ending, everyone involved is pleased with the work. Berliner is a thrilled homeowner, and the Dorlinis and Zagorodniy enjoyed their partnership and have worked together twice since completing this project. “I absolutely love the way this project turned out,” Zagorodniy says. “I am happy to see more modern work around the Richmond area, but it takes a mutual partnership between the builder and designer to achieve a stunning end product that pleases our customers.”