Room of Her Own at the Rotunda

Julie Hashagen

Local designer “reclaims her nest” in industrial loft-style space at The Rotunda in Downtown Norfolk

By Betsy DiJulio  |  Photos By David Uhrin

In A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf argues that women, in order to reach their full creative potential, require a literal and figurative room of their own. Norfolk resident Julie Hashagen took that to heart. But not because she lacks financial independence or is hamstrung by a patriarchal tradition as was Woolf’s 1929 audience. 

No, Hashagen, who recently sold her assets in a woman-owned energy company she co-founded, craved an inspiring space to support her full-time pursuit of design and photography after more than two decades as a commodity trader.  

But she and husband Jerry, who recently retired after more than 20 years as a Navy Reserve Master Chief, also donate the space annually for charity auctions and host visiting family members.

With her design business named Reclaim Your Nest, Hashagen did just that in a renovated 1966 office building known as The Rotunda, since converted into loft-style residential apartments, in Downtown Norfolk. Purchased in 2022, her piece of paradise was a virtually empty nest. The former rental unit has floor-to-ceiling east-facing windows with fourth-floor views that infuse the space with the energizing urban vibe on which this Baltimore native thrives.

After canvasing six different condos in downtown Norfolk, she chose this one, whose warm stained and polished concrete, exposed ducts and high ceilings spoke to her in her love language. She found the industrial loft-style shell not only to be the best deal—her unit comes with parking and is located near MacArthur Mall, which she is betting “becomes something”—but an exciting design challenge.  

After closing, she lost no time in feathering her nest in a way that would showcase her design sensibilities for future clients. Impatient for the transformation to start, she took a sledgehammer to a view-blocking wall before the ink was dry on the contract.  With a newly wide-open floorplan, she began to implement her pre-purchase vision for how she wanted the space to look, feel and function.   

Chosen as the springboard for her entire designscape is an aerial view photo of a spiral staircase she shot at the Vatican in Rome. Writ large as wallpaper, the commanding image serves as a dramatic focal point behind the contemporary burnished brass canopy bed while establishing the masculine flare she sought. 

The pie-shaped floorplan had originally felt very “stiff,” so the repeating circles and curves of the photograph are mimicked elsewhere, softening the hard edges and sharp corners.  

In fact, the overall design is a seemingly effortless balance of opposites. The existing floors and warm maple cabinets in the kitchen nudged the remaining color choices in a cool direction to offset this “hot” sun-drenched space. Black, white, khaki and navy turn down the heat while a toffee accent wall and warm metals help regulate visual temperatures throughout.

A repurposed Facebook Marketplace table, the massive nine-foot live edge kitchen island—with black metal legs at one end and a two-tiered open cabinet at the other—serves as both a prep and dining area. Not only is it a cozy tone, but its organic profile, paired with the rattan seats of the black wishbone-style chairs, counteracts the unit’s angular bones and hard surfaces.  

Working with Kyle Deinstadt of Deinstadt Fabrication and Design on the transformation, Hashagen painted the sides of the perforated metal cabinet a vibrant navy to repeat the color of the kitchen’s interior accent wall and rolling bar, a retrofitted airplane cart. Above the island, a pair of industrial cousins of mid-century sputnik fixtures serves up dramatic illumination. 

This fan of mid-century modern design (MCM) chose a gray and white hexagonal tile backsplash in luxe marble for the kitchen. She echoed the pattern in an aluminum screen custom-crafted in Canada and powder coated in navy with black industrial barndoor hardware. The openwork screen provides stylish separation between the kitchen and sleeping space without blocking sunlight.  

In the bathroom, a white shower curtain with a playful MCM-leaning pattern of both curved and angular shapes in cool and warm tones—as well as a circular mirror and rectangular artwork, all framed in black—unites opposite forces in this intimate space.   

The MCM aesthetic continues in the living area with a navy-blue leather sofa and chair, pedestal side table, and low coffee table with a geometric metal base and geode-like top. Overhead, a trio of bold industrial waterfall pendants mimic the city lights at night. Similarly dramatic three-part pendants are suspended over the sleek nightstands that double as dressers.  A blue velvet bed cover with matching shams repeats Hashagen’s signature accent color and reflects the color of the night sky.    

Repeating the kitchen’s live edge motif is a console resting in front of the wall with two navy ceramic garden stools tucked underneath. Above, in sexy script, a white neon sign spells out, “Life is Tricky Baby, Stay in your Magic.” Further illuminating the space is a spiral pendant fixture suspended in the center with a circular rug underneath. On the adjacent wall is a 50 by 60-inch Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas painted collage by Andy Harris. And into a nearby niche is tucked a stool with an African vibe and two circular mirrors above.  

The foyer is a workhorse of unexpected design choices. Not only does it create a sense of anticipation for what lies beyond, but it houses much-needed storage space in a pair of closets. To infuse the previously cold space with much-needed warmth and texture, Hashagen worked with handyman Chaba Siska to craft a wooden slat accent wall. The supporting wall is painted black for depth, and each slat was individually scored to fit the curve.  

Decorative objects, especially Hashagen’s stylishly grouped black and white global photographs, betray this designer’s love of travel, an influence also seen in textures and trim, often with a little shimmer. Liz Guido, Hashagen’s mother and a seamstress for five decades, sewed the subtly eye-popping floor-length window coverings. Pairs of panels—light gray at the bottom and a white and gray pattern of intertwined snakes at the top—are connected by metallic zippers. 

Neutral rugs, a tray with candles, and a basket with blankets offer warmth and an organic feel, while white porcelain accents, like a dog figurine from the 1950s, lend a collected and eclectic vibe.

Not typical travelers, the Hashagens recently acquired a condo in Saint Kitts where the couple is pursuing the development of dwellings, a craft brewery and an art gallery.  These rich opportunities for Hashagen to pursue design on a larger scale also allow her to address what she sees as the island’s under-celebrated local artists.

Acknowledging that she has always been a risk taker, Hashagen credits her mother with being a “huge” and nonjudgmental inspiration in her life. Liz assured her aspirational daughter—an inspiration in her own right—“I will never slow you down.” And she probably couldn’t if she tried.

Space Definition
Open floor plans, especially in small studio apartments, are often in need of space definition that maintains the open feel and furniture that does double duty.  Hashagen used rugs to define functions like sleeping, dining and relaxing, while softening the concrete floors with the organic textures that she craves.  Her design for the expansive live-edge kitchen island accommodates food preparation, dining and storage while lending even more natural-meets-industrial drama to this central space.

Betsy DiJulio
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Betsy DiJulio is a full-time art teacher, artist and curator with side hustles as a freelance writer, including for Coastal Virginia Magazine, and a vegan recipe developer, food stylist and photographer. Learn more on her website

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