re·viv·al: an awakening, rebirth, or renewal
Anchoring the cool 1904 Warehouse Row in Chattanooga, aptly named, REVIVAL, is known as one of the chicest antique stores in the country—and is certainly that, but oh, so much more. A modern emporium of antiquities, home furnishings, lighting, and luxury gifts, it also includes a warehouse annex and full-service design studio. Founded by Rodney Simmons and Billy Woodall, the masterminds behind Chattanooga’s modern-day renaissance, REVIVAL has become a design mecca where designers, artists, creatives, and the curious flock. If there was ever a destination that generated enthusiasm and appreciation for all things beautiful, REVIVAL is the place. Under Rodney’s discerning and well-trained eye, one finds a well-edited mix of objects: old, new, eclectic, and extraordinary. We sat down with the one and only, Revival Rodney, as we like to call him, to delve into the alchemy of what makes REVIVAL unrivaled.
Have you always been in design?
Everything Is Design.
I’ve not always been in design, but I’ve been aware of design since childhood. It started in church. Sitting on the pew as a little boy, I was captivated by the way my minister Father preached loudly, then tumbled to quietness. I discovered how intentional selection can direct the ear and manipulate the eye. Content, Intensity, Repetition, and Contrast became meaningful: empty/filled, bright/dark, rough/smooth, tight/loose, high/low, loud/soft, savory/sweet. Design awareness shaped my experiences of everything: art, prose, music, food, merchandising, landscape design, architecture, entertaining, fashion, and indeed, interior design. Even now, design that provokes my senses is shaped by those same elements which made my Father’s Sunday sermon so captivating to that little Tennessee boy.
What did you do before you opened REVIVAL? You and Billy have different career backgrounds. Do you wear different hats?
I joke we are the prototype for opposites attract. I’m “shapes and colors” and he’s everything else. Immersed in New York, I worked for Polo Ralph Lauren as a Director of Presentation for the menswear labels–imagining showrooms and store environments. Now as Revival’s co-owner and creative director, I edit the look of the retail and design studio through product procurement, intentional merchandising, and evolving the design aesthetic.
Billy’s early financial and construction career flourished Revival Home into a home furnishings, upholstery, and lighting showroom alongside our original antiques and luxury gifts. With his comprehensive business experience, Billy continues to propel Revival. It would not exist without us wearing two different hats, working in tandem, or without our wonderfully talented team.
What made you decide to start the business?
After coaxing our late-19th century Tennessee house into new life with the inimitable vision of the architectural team of Bobby McAlpine, Ray Booth, and Scott Torode, Billy and I realized that we wanted to continue to work together and be part of renewing Chattanooga. Indeed, it is Chattanooga’s much-lauded 21st-century renaissance, a nod to Greek and Colonial Revival, that nudged our naming of the design store. Rebirth. Renewal. Renaissance. Revival.
REVIVAL is all about the mix of old and new, eclectic, classic, and the unexpected. You have such a discerning eye. How do you select what you carry in the store?
Billy and I seek antiquities, vintage finds, and hand-crafted, one-of-a-kinds by perpetually answering a few questions: Is this item evocative of a time, place, person, or mood? Would I take this item home? Would I own this item in ten years? Is this item inheritable? Revival also has wonderful home furnishings and gifts from resources such as Verellen, Hickory Chair, Chaddock, Lee Industries, Visual Comfort, Match 1995, Simon Pearce, Cire Trudon, and Assouline. We are particularly enamored by Tennessee artist Addie Chapin’s art, photography, and objects.
You travel the world in pursuit of beauty for REVIVAL and for pleasure. Where is your dream destination?
Diana Vreeland insisted that “the eye has to travel,” and we follow that mantra in both work and play. Indeed, our wanderlust greatly influences the look and spirits of our home and of Revival. While Billy and I do submit to the Amalfi Coast’s siren call repeatedly, specifically Positano’s le Sirenuse, it’s our own home, gardens, and pool atop Missionary Ridge that proves a pretty darn satisfying dream destination.
Where have you not been but would love to go?
Africa! A dear client/friend is currently conjuring another home in Kenya, overlooking the wilds of Africa. We’re hoping abating pandemics and calming politics will soon allow our visit.
What is your favorite museum or historic property?
Musée Rodin. This tucked-away Parisian gem combines architecture, landscape, and art, housed in an 18th-century hôtel particulier, surrounded by lovely gardens, and filled with wonderful works by master sculptor Auguste Rodin. For historic properties, I’m mad for the Gilded Age architecture of Vanderbilts, Fricks, and Goelets, but my first great country house still tugs. Biltmore, George W. Vanderbilt’s North Carolina retreat, continues to overwhelm with its French renaissance perfection. Who wouldn’t adore the Gilded Age dream imagined by Vanderbilt, architect Richard Morris Hunt, and landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted? Although swamped with tourism, the parts and the whole of the estate are wonderful inspiration.
What has been your most treasured find from your travels and exploration?
During our first shared sojourn to Paris more than 20 years ago, Billy and I were caught in an impossibly Woody Allen-esque Parisian rainstorm. We ducked into the shelter of a Left Bank antiquarian and found a petite 17th century carved wood figure, “le chasseur.” The small item is not really refined or highly valuable, but it is emblematic of our shared love of the hunt for beautiful things and of that impossibly imperfect perfect wet afternoon.
Walking into REVIVAL, absorbing such a finely curated mix of art and objects is inspiring. What inspires you?
Authenticity, passion, kindness, and excellence in everything.
REVIVAL is a true emporium, offering such a vast range of items for the home, but it also encompasses a full-service design studio. Did the store come before the design studio? Tell us how these entities work in tandem.
Revival Uncommon Goods launched in 2002 as a curated collection of antiquities, curiosities, and luxury gifts, followed by Revival Interiors as a separate design studio, creating residential interiors and contract environments. In 2009 Revival Home evolved at Warehouse Row, now a purveyor of upholstery, case goods, lighting, and art, selling to architects, interior designers, and homeowners. In 2014 we opened the Revival Annex, a warehouse to the trade and public. Revival Home sells items that can be purchased or had in a few weeks…sort of prêt-à-porter, while Revival Interiors is a design studio that collaborates with architectural offices and contractors on whole-house, fully conceptual design projects.
Given the current pandemic, how have you altered your business to rise to the occasion?
In store and studio alike, Revival Home, Revival Annex, and Revival Interiors continue safety measures (knock, sanitize, mask) and are completely open for business and thriving. Quarantines and travel prohibitions have narrowed the physical world for many people. They are hyper-focusing time, attention, and budget on “nesting in place”. Thus, great architects, interiors designers, and consumers are now shopping online or scheduling private appointments to imagine a more beautiful new world. Talk about a #milieumoment, indeed!
Thank you, Rodney…a true Renaissance Man!
For more information, please visit revivalhome.com
For interior design inquires, please visit revivalinteriors.net
For more Industry Profiles, click here.
INTERVIEW BY LESLIE NEWSOM RASCOE
Images courtesy of REVIVAL