all photography by Mal Terranova @dust.and.light.photo
Tucked away on 70th Street at Virginia Beach's oceanfront, there's a house painted in a warm, earthy orange. Surprisingly, you wouldn't know it exists unless you venture down a long driveway behind another home. It's the first of the North End's signature "back houses" ever built. Welcome to the unique home of Vanessa Bertini.
A piece from Roxy Hall's kimono studies in her upcoming 'Homebody' collection is staged here in Vanessa's family room.
A world map hangs in one of the upstairs bedrooms with pins indicating where each of Vanessa and her daughters have traveled.
Dreaming in Color
Entering Vanessa's home is like stepping into a world where beige doesn't exist. Each wall tells a story with its vibrant hues of reds, blues, yellows, and greens. The furniture is an intriguing blend of eclectic and worldly pieces, as if everything has journeyed from distant lands like Bali, Peru, or Mexico - and indeed, many of them have. Vanessa's home is filled with objects from her travels, and each is a conversation starter on it's own.
"I am a memory keeper and a lover of art and words. Everything in my home holds a memory or is testament to a moment, a chapter, an experience within a life well-lived. I'm a humble fan of this magical life and the mystery beyond it. I appreciate differences, miracles, philosophies and authenticity. Nothing contrived or fancy. I hope that's what's felt when you enter."
The color choices themselves even come with a story. "When I was a little girl, someone gave me this stationary for my birthday. The stationary is long gone, but I've saved the folder it came in for my entire life because the colors on it were just, everything. I remember saying to myself 'these are the colors I want to paint my house someday.'" In one hallway, you'll find a duo of framed and matted vibrant colored art prints which are, in fact, pieces of that very folder, and the colors of the walls are identical.
If you look closely, you'll find refractory crystals hanging in every window. Vanessa loves how they scatter morning light along the ceiling, which she has termed 'rainbow confetti.' "I have always been a human who thrives in color, creativity, and a bit of chaos. No neutrals here. Life is so multidimensional, a rainbow of moods and emotions, and I feel like having those colors surround me taps into the magic and lessons that life experiences provide."
A House Built on Love
Vanessa is a mother of three girls, her eldest being yours truly. Her strong Italian heritage, filled with the warmth of her upbringing - from delicious home-cooked Italian meals every night to the captivating stories from her immigrant Italian mother and her father from New Jersey, with his adventurous spirit and childhood reminiscent of the kids in 'Stand by Me,' have inspired her to create a haven of love for her daughters.
"When I think of home, I think of a place where you come to be refueled. It's a place where love is no matter what. I've taught my girls to go out and explore the world, but this home is a space where they know they're always welcome."
A Roxy Hall original "Free The Fireflies" from last year's "In The Garden" collection hangs in Vanessa's stairwell.
"I love my loft, and that green ladder that asks you to discover it."
Shown here: a photo of Patrick Murphy, Vanessa's long-time significant other and the girls' long-time homie, sits under "The Singing Butler" by Jack Vettriano, a painting that also hung in the master bedroom of their Arizona home.
Style Type: Refined Bohemian, Elevated Hippie, Eclectic Seeker.
Vanessa's bedroom is a testament to her deep love for India, with a distinctly Eastern hemisphere feel and worldly art adorning every wall, mostly tokens from her travels. It's impossible not to notice the unique textiles throughout the home. Whether they're casually draped over a couch or artfully hung from the walls, each piece exudes a one-of-a-kind, unmistakably non-American charm. Her pillows and blankets are artworks in their own right. A custom green ladder leads to a charming reading nook down the upstairs hallway filled with books from all over. "The Alchemist" by Paolo Coelho and "The Little Prince" are strewn next to the Moroccan pouf. Moon and sun oil lamps illuminate the stairwell, where you'll also find a very cool curvy driftwood piece mounted to the adjacent wall which many would have left blank.
Shown here: Christopher Smith. Vanessa's late husband who raised the girls until 2010. Memories of him and his many rugged, exotic travels are dispersed throughout the home as a reminder of the best of times.
A Striking Balance Of - Everything
At the heart of her home is a strikingly bright red fireplace set against a green wall. These are not colors one might typically choose, especially together, but in Vanessa's house, they create a vibrant harmony that you find yourself utterly amazed at how well they work. "I feel like the fireplace sets the tone for the rest of the house. It says 'An enthusiastic welcome! Look around, touch stuff, ask bold questions.'" The term 'maximalist' is perfect for Vanessa's home style- she embraces boldness and abundance in contrast to the simplicity of minimalism. After the tragic loss of her husband, Vanessa moved from Scottsdale, Arizona to Virginia Beach. She brought with her some of the furniture from their custom-built adobe home in the desert, and these pieces have found an unexpected and welcome home by the sea. Again, it all surprisingly works. An effortless uniting of two worlds.
"It's hard to find furniture out there to my liking - especially where I live - so I tend to make my own additions to the things I buy sometimes, like this chair at my dining room table. It needed some spunk."
"Shibori Moon," an original Roxy Hall is staged here in one of Vanessa's guest bedrooms.
An original nude sketch from renowned architect and artist Paolo Soleri hangs in Vanessa's master bath.
The Influence of Frida Kahlo - And Art in General
Vanessa's favorite artist, Frida Kahlo, leaves her mark throughout the house. A cow skull, affectionately named Frida Cowlo and adorned with a crown of roses, serves as a unique centerpiece. A guest room upstairs is affectionately referred to as "the Frida room," paying homage to the renowned artist's influence. "She's just an inspirational woman to me. I like how she lived her life and how she was irrepressibly positive despite all the things she went through."
Vanessa created and taught a pop-up class called 'Art Masterpiece' during her daughters' elementary school years, introducing the children to diverse artists from history. Emphasizing the significance of art has remained a cornerstone of her parenting philosophy.
"I love that I have no real yard that requires upkeep but still have magic outdoor spaces that provide me atmosphere. And how the Wisteria has taken over my courtyard in the most beautiful of ways."
Some of the daily routines that Vanessa prioritized when curating her space were watering the flowers, checking for her precious box turtle visitors, her May and October plantings, making sure there are always sunflowers or citrus on the tables, taking outside showers in the summer and in the winter, sitting and writing by the fireplace.
Authenticity and Gratitude Abound
The home resonates with an earthy and welcoming atmosphere. Vanessa's Italian Catholic faith is evident, with rosaries adorning picture frames, Mexican folk art crosses adorning the walls, and a wooden Saint Francis statue beckoning you from the garden near the front door.
"You'll see little milagros in every room. Milagros are little tokens of miracles. They remind me what to pray for and what to be grateful for." Most of these devotional pieces of art in Vanessa's home were purchased from street vendors in Mexico and Central America, as well as cities in the southwest like Santa Fe and Tucson. In Vanessa's house, love, memories, and art harmoniously intertwine to create a space that has endless nooks and crannies to explore. And the doors are always open for people to do so because she thrives on deep conversation and new experiences. Her curiosity leads her to welcome everyone.
She'll hate that this is being shared, but just three weeks ago Vanessa met an Uber driver on a work trip in Washington DC who said he and his family had never seen the ocean so she offered for him to bring his kids and come stay at her home for the following weekend while she was away traveling. They did. They ate dinner with the neighbors, went into the ocean with all their clothes on, and left her the sweetest note of pure thanks. That's the type of home Vanessa has. "I want my guests to know they have entered a place of great love, joy, acceptance, compassion, depth and feeling and that they are welcomed here to be who they are. They should feel encouraged to sit a spell and linger in the now around my old rustic table in the living room. Tables are for sharing- food, ideas, opinions, dreams, memories, tears, song, wine, laughter and milestones. Such important times are etched around this space, much like my childhood table."
all photography by Mal Terranova @dust.and.light.photo