Growing up in the restrained and WASP-y West End of Richmond, Va., I struggled to come to terms with my decorator mother's unconventional ways. She would breezily roll up to my school in her sleek phantom-gray BMW sedan, 25 minutes after the sea of navy-blue station wagons had vanished, and impatiently tell me, "Get in the car this instant. We're going to go see a film called 'Whore'—there's a scene with a wallpaper that I want to use in your father's office." I never grasped how original my mother was until recently. - Sara Ruffin Costello 
"Anything but Boring," Wall Street Journal (November 9, 2012).

Sara Ruffin Costello's "First Real Apartment" on Great Jones Street, NYC.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's style has intrigued many since her days as founding creative director of Conde Nast's magazine Domino. Raised in Richmond, she is a member of a Southern family with Virginia roots dating back to 1666. The Ruffins formerly owned Evelynton Plantation on the banks of the James River. [The family sold the home approximately seven years ago.]


"Evelynton was originally part of William Byrd's expansive Westover Plantation. Named for Byrd's daughter, Evelyn, this site has been home to the Ruffin family since 1847." [The family sold the home approximately seven years ago.] The original house and out-buildings were burned during the Civil War. The existing Georgian Revival home pictured above was designed by architect W. Duncan Lee in 1937.
Evelynton Plantation.
Text source: Virginia's James River Plantations.
Image via Pinterest.

 Patriarch Edmund Ruffin's "agricultural contributions - from scientific soil testing to the publication of The Farmer's Register - rescued 19th-century Virginia from a declining agricultural economy and earned him the title 'father of American agronomy' " (source). Tragically, this same Southerner who fired the first shot of the Civil War at Fort Sumter "wrapped himself in a Confederate flag and fired a final, fatal shot" (source) after the war destroyed his home and family fortune.

Sara Ruffin Costello's "First Real Apartment" on Great Jones Street, NYC.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Perhaps what is so appealing about Ms. Ruffin Costello is her authenticity. She grew up entrenched in Southern history and later worked with Martha Stewart. She knows the rules - yet she breaks them with confidence, and she shares her design secrets with others. "My style is modern, a little bohemian, and a bit classic. It’s informed by growing up in Virginia around old houses with antiques —  then revolting against that" (source).  Even scandal doesn't diminish her appeal. Lurid tales of a literary affair a few years ago made her seem more human - not in a freudenschade kind of way - but in a refreshing manner that acknowledged that marriage is hard, but problems can be resolved.

Sara Ruffin Costello's "First Real Apartment" on Great Jones Street, NYC.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

If you are with the right person who makes you laugh and you want to hang out with all the time and who looks good across the room at a party, it doesn’t matter what happens or what horrible things you do to each other, you are gonna stay together and get to that blissful apex (that Joanne Woodward-Paul Newman-ass-kicking-togetherness) while having a ball along the way. Somebody once told me to get rid of expectations. That was kind of amazing. Try it. - Sara Ruffin Costello to Stone Fox Tales (January 26, 2014)

Sara Ruffin Costello's "First Real Apartment" on Great Jones Street, NYC.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

We long for old-fashioned elegance and civilized and silver and pretty glasses, and all that kind of stuff, but at the same time we want to hang out and be casual and sit around in the living room. … I think if you can marry those two things, it’s such a beautiful balance. - Sara Ruffin Costello ("The Domino Effect" by Carrie Nieman Culpepper, R-Home [September/October 2008]).

Sara Ruffin Costello's rental in Soho, New York.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

"I've had this classic table in every one of my apartments. It's small enough to fit in the kitchen, but you can squeeze in six people. Upholstery's almost never used on kitchen stools for a good reason. So I was happy to find this Moroccan oilcloth - chic and spillproof. This burlap-covered Louis settee was a major score - perfectly diminutive and actually comfortable." [Text from Domino - The Book of Decorating]
Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Sara Ruffin Costello's West Village Townhouse, New York City.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Image via Sara Ruffin Costello.

Trellised garden room in Sara Ruffin Costello's New Orleans home.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Photography by Paul Costello for The Wall Street Journal.
The Wall Street Journal (May 11, 2013). 

Sara Ruffin Costello.
"Sara Ruffin Costello: Grand Designs" by Melissa Goldstein.
Domaine (May 1, 2013).

Sara Ruffin Costello's 19th-century home in New Orleans's Garden District.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Architect: Michael Carbina.
"Sara Ruffin Costello: Grand Designs" by Melissa Goldstein.
Domaine (May 1, 2013).

Colonial palm chandelier.
Sara Ruffin Costello's 19th-century home in New Orleans's Garden District.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Architect: Michael Carbina.
"Sara Ruffin Costello: Grand Designs" by Melissa Goldstein.
Domaine (May 1, 2013).

Sara Ruffin Costello's 19th-century home in New Orleans's Garden District.
Interior design by Sara Ruffin Costello.
Architect: Michael Carbina.
"Sara Ruffin Costello: Grand Designs" by Melissa Goldstein.
Domaine (May 1, 2013).

Sara Ruffin Costello
New Orleans, Louisiana
Design consultant, Decorator, Writer, sararuffincostello.com  
“The Southerners whose style I most admire have an enviable quality that suggests nothing is more important than what is happening right now, in front of them.”
Photography by Paul Costello.
Southern Living.


Domino: The Book of Decorating - a room-by-room guide to creating a home that makes you happy
By domino editors Deborah Needleman, Sara Ruffin Costello and Dara Caponigro.
Copyright 2008 Conde Nast Publications.

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