Text: Alice Welsh Doyle
Photos: Ben Finch
Most second homes involve a little effort—you typically must drive some distance, perhaps in traffic, before enjoying your getaway. Not so for Todd Richesin and Bobby Brown—they simply head to downtown Knoxville, a mere 20 minutes from their personal home. “It’s close, but it’s a whole different feeling,” says Richesin about the couple’s condo. “We lived downtown in the late 1990s when it was basically a ghost town, and we were urban pioneers; but it has been transformed completely with many dining and entertaining options, and we love the energy it has.”
Finding the perfect place took some effort, but the pair was rewarded with a spacious window-filled condo on the eighth floor—high enough for city views but low enough to engage with the buzz of downtown life.
The couple went at it with a clear vision and a fast timeline, purchasing the place in September 2020 and moving in four months later. “We had been collecting pieces for the condo and keeping them in storage at our house in West Knoxville, so we had a foundation to build on, and we also included items from our two retail shops,” says Richesin. “We didn’t have that work-on-it-for-years attitude; we wanted it completed and ready to enjoy at the same time, so we focused on what was available without compromising on style.”
The overall feel of the design is playful and comfortable with sink-in upholstery and cozy carpets underfoot. “Our primary residence is very traditional, and we wanted a departure from that look, although we did include some classic pieces in the mix,” says Richesin.
The décor presents a send up of references and styles—fashion notes, Napoleon-era Regency antiques, animal prints, vintage finds, streamlined contemporary furnishings, and a plethora of art and collectibles from busts and porcelain to leather books and a series of nudes by Knoxville artist Joseph Delaney.
By employing rich textures and a mix of high/low pieces, the main living areas show off a blue-and-cream palette with a flocked velvet wallpaper on the curved corridor entry wall, enlivened by tiger print fabrics, cheetah rugs, and dramatic chandeliers—a crystal French style and a sculptural design, both from Niermann Weeks. For the adjoining kitchen, the couple looked to a classic black-and-white scheme that feels crisp and sleek with painted cabinets and a quartzite waterfall-style island.
In the main bedroom, blue and white continues along with jolts of yellow. A traditional check dresses the gilt-carved full tester canopy bed and all the windows. “We wanted it to feel like a Napoleonic tent and included some Empire pieces and chinoiserie,” says Richesin. One bathroom is covered in a blue-and-white wallpaper, while another has hand-painted de Gournay wallpaper featuring a swimming fish motif, both with black cabinetry, which links the rooms back to the living/kitchen spaces.
All the rooms are filled with disparate selections of art and collections—a gallery wall of portraits in the main bedroom, framed Hermes scarves and traditional scenic oil paintings in the living room, and even an iconic mid-century original artwork for the Sunbeam bread girl that enlivens a hallway that leads to the bedrooms.
Richesin and Brown also wanted to be surrounded by some of their favorite things to collect, such as mother-of-pearl inlaid and tortoiseshell boxes, Napoleons, and blue-and-white vases. All these accents give the place a lived-in and gathered look that was acquired over years instead of put together in a few months.
“The condo is a work-free zone, and it’s a happy place to be,” says Richesin. “We wanted this place to be an escape from everyday busyness, where we can relax and enjoy city life.”