Inside Homes: Southern Hospitality

by Erica Moody

‘Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta’ star Monte Durham and husband Jack Evans bring Jackie O flair to their antique-filled Alexandria residence.

Monte Durham and Jack Evans in front of their Alexandria home where they’ve lived since 1995.

Parked in the driveway of Monte Durham and Jakob (Jack) Evans’ historic Alexandria colonial is a classic baby blue Jaguar sporting the license plate “JACKEOH.” The tag is a hint of what’s to come once inside their front door.

The center-hall colonial house is roughly 75 years old.

Durham, who stars in TLC’s popular show “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” is well known for his Jackie obsession. “There are many reasons I admire Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy [Onassis] … her elegant, understated style, love of family, historic preservation books and sense of adventure. She always spoke and acted with dignity and grace,” says Durham, who could just as easily be talking about himself, so fitting are the accolades.

Monte and Jack sit on their staircase with rescue Welsh Terriers Patsy Jo and Charlie.

In true Southern style, guests are greeted warmly by Durham and his husband Evans with snacks and beverages (West Virginia born Durham is partial to iced tea) and the opportunity to pet the couple’s sweet Welsh Terriers, Charlie and Patsy Jo, rescue dogs from WTCARES.

Welsh Terriers, if you don’t already know, were Jackie’s dog of choice at the White House. She also ordered stemware for the social rooms from West Virginia’s Morgantown Glass Company. (Monte and Jack collect it as well.)

A replica of Mrs. Kennedy’s wedding gown, a JFK rocker and other memorabilia are displayed in the upstairs study.

The second floor reveals the most conspicuous homage to the late first lady—a copy of her wedding gown by Priscilla of Boston in a study that displays other Kennedy memorabilia, including rare photographs and a replica of John F. Kennedy’s White House rocking chair. When it’s not displayed or being loaned out for charity events, Jackie’s dress rests in a chest that once belonged to Durham’s grandmother. “Grandma watches it for me” he says with a smile.

“I like this room because I can turn around and be inspired,” he continues, surveying the office while slipping on his 60th birthday gift to himself: an exact copy of Jackie’s Van Cleef & Arpels emerald engagement ring. “I truly sit in this room and go, ‘what would Jackie do?’”

The couple collect china, mostly purchased from consignment shops, and recently completed an English King by Tiffany sterling silver set, seen here on the dining table.

The former first lady’s theory of decorating is reflected throughout the house. “Jackie never said she decorated, she always said she restored,” Durham affirms. “You put things back to their natural state.” Take the newly remodeled kitchen, where they took pains to salvage what they could of the original wallpaper. Nineteenth-century antiques, many of them family heirlooms, are mixed with more modern pieces to create a unique, lived-in atmosphere.

The yellow room, the main room for entertaining, became a double parlor when a wall was removed after they moved in.

Durham and Evans support the local Alexandria community, where they have lived for more than 20 years (and where Durham will soon be opening a hair salon) by purchasing most of their artwork locally: French paintings from Gallery Petalouth, portraits by Steven Holt and the folk art styles of Sissy, one of Evans’ favorite artists.

The blue room, one of three guest rooms, was completely made over after the ceiling crashed down earlier this year. The double bed, 1940s nightstand and antique chair were local finds they had restored.

Their home is a testament to the late first lady’s approach. It was a fixer-upper that Durham and Evans restored to its former glory. Durham, whose favorite color is yellow—“no, chartreuse!”—painted most of the interior walls himself. Since they were moving into a white house and its decor is based on Durham’s affection for Jacqueline Kennedy’s White House, they opted for yellow, blue and green rooms as well.

The study was converted from a sun porch a few years after they moved in. They spend most of their time with the dogs there and it has the only TV in the house along with family mementos and books.

“It’s amazing how many people in the neighborhood will come by and talk about the house,” Durham says. “They knew the original owner and when we bought it they thanked us for saving and putting it back to what it was.”

A recently remodeled kitchen highlights platters on the walls that belonged to their grandparents, a constant reminder of good Southern meals.

Nary a space remains unfilled by striking furniture or art. “If you buy things you love, they’re going to love each other,” Durham explains. Ever the bargain hunters, the couple of 25 years scout thrift stores and consignment shops for deals. Evolution on the Hill is a favorite. The living room sideboard came from a farmer’s market.

“The holidays are a great time to not only share the warmth of your own home and hospitality but also the finer things like the silver on the table,” Monte said.

An eye for quality at a bargain and making use of what you have was honed early in Durham’s life. “I grew up poor, in a house with no running water and a toilet outside,” he says. He tells his story to young people regularly to inspire them to reach their dreams and was honored by the Ronald McDonald House for his work with underprivileged students.

Jackie would certainly approve.

This feature appears in the Holiday 2018 issue of Washington Life Magazine.

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