Clifton, Virginia, population, 282, isn’t what some might consider an antique lover’s destination. The town’s Main Street runs a few blocks lined with attractive historic homes. There’s a general store, a few places where visitors can buy a snack or homemade ice cream, and a fine-dining option, Trummer’s, with a creative menu that makes the most of locally sourced ingredients.
What caught our eye, however, was La Bella Luce, an antique wonderland that would easily fit into upscale shopping areas in Georgetown, Old Town, Greenwich Village, or the Hamptons. Finding it tucked into this out of the way Virginia hamlet only increased its appeal. Discovering that the store is owned, managed, and staffed by a group of military wives, makes it truly special. The emporium boasts Italian antiques—furniture, chandeliers, fabrics, even stationery.
Aly Rohlong, the owner, was in Italy the day we visited. We chatted with Rea Ann Knapp who told us a little about La Bella Luce then left us to browse through the downstairs and upstairs rooms. Aly is the creative force behind the store and brings back items she finds during her travels. And what finds they are! The inventory constantly changes (Rea Ann said they have trouble keeping the rooms filled) but the pieces are always show stoppers.
Each room is beautifully laid out. The large downstairs room resembles a cozy living and dining area. The furnishings on display include sofas, chairs, tables, mirrors, china cabinets, lamps, ceramics, candle stick holders, and other accessories. Baskets are filled with pillows in the shape of fruits, vegetables, and chickens. There are rolls of elegant fabric and rich, fringed tassels to hold back formal curtains.
The kitchen (and it really is a kitchen with an old fashioned sink and stove), is filled with unusual serving pieces (we particularly loved one shaped like an artichoke), copper pans, glass bottles, candles, utensils, aprons, and so much more. We were tempted to linger, but wanted to see the rest of the house.
The first bedroom we stepped into resembled a well-appointed guest room in a fine inn. The wooden headboard had a graceful design and provided a beautiful backdrop for the many pillows artfully arranged. Several crystal chandeliers tinkled and sparkled above, while a tea set left on the bed left us feeling we had interrupted an intimate afternoon chat.
In a second bedroom, the real treasures were found in the closet—vintage christening gowns made from linen and cotton with intricate embroidery, rows of delicate crochet, and satiny ribbons. The prices were surprisingly reasonable for something that would certainly become a family keepsake.
Our last stop was the upstairs bathroom. The sink was filled with fragrant soaps, while baskets held lovely hand towels, soap dishes and dispensers, and candles. Nesting boxes in soft pastel colors sat on one shelf, while our eyes were drawn to the oval mirror above the sink and the crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling.
We stopped to revisit some of the rooms, seeing things we had missed the first time around. And we know when we visit again, there will be other treasures to discover.
La Bella Luce
7137 Main Street
Clifton, VA 20124