“My life is a journey of blessings. I am always growing through open-minded, whole-hearted living and am grateful to have the freedom to express love without fear.”
—Elyse Tapper Cardon
Elyse and David Cardon’s home life is a visual reflection of their love of each other and their love of artistic freedom. They’ve created spaces in their home for both intimate and large gatherings, as well as for flow of creative expression.
“I need lots of light and sacred spaces to allow, not only myself, but my entire family to surrender to the moment—to experience whatever form of expression one needs that day—be it music or song, visual art, writing, or meditation and prayer. It could be a corner of a room with twinkle lights or a special spot under a tree. If it sounds a bit whimsical, then I’ve achieved my design goal,” Elyse says.
The Cardon’s unique home, affectionately nicknamed ‘Chez Cardon,’ by friends, is one of the few remaining historic houses in Virginia Beach (circa 1885), and the Cardons are only the fourth owners. When they bought this gem 12 years ago, the cozy 50’s-style kitchen had a faded black and white checkered linoleum floor, a tiny, single oven (it could not even fit a regular sized cookie sheet), and red-painted cabinetry with stainless steel counters. It was only a matter of time before the Cardons would transform the space into their dream kitchen. Taking notice time and time again, that no matter the size and space of the house, people tended to gravitate to the kitchen, making an expansion was in order. Three years later, the kitchen was gutted and nearly doubled in size.
“The U-shaped banquette, surrounded by windows, with two separate tables rather than one, allows us to have flexible seating options. We’ve had up to 14 people comfortably gather at one time,” says David. The Cardons recycled the kitchen cabinets in another room and feel strongly about preserving the original elements. “Our home is a synthesis between old and new,” says David.
“My desire is to bring this house into the next century of her life, adorning her with modern art and modern efficiencies, all while being true to her classic, timeless charm,” adds Elyse.
Elyse’s signature eclectic style aligns with the diverse roles she’s played so far in life. She is a wife of 20 years, a mother of four (Bella, Sylvie, Avi and Flora), a professional dancer, teacher, Pilates instructor, professional photographer, writer, entrepreneur and community activist—and who knows what’s next…. “So I guess that makes me an artist…. I love the freedom of mixing it up, creating a vibe of modern life infused with history and tradition. It shows up in my fashion choices, my home and even my mix of friends.”
“I truly wake up every day and am awed at what I see in nature,” says Elyse. “Some days feel bold like neon, some serene pastel and some black, white and gray. One is not better than the other to me. My wish is for everyone to see what I see, but of course, in their own way. I feel so much gratitude when I open my eyes every morning, and I’ve learned to embrace my free-spirit to meet each new day with curiosity.”
David, an attorney of 23 years, has always considered himself an artist and musician. He was a fine-arts minor in college and much of his pottery is on display at his office.
“We both applaud our kids’ creativity,” says David.
“Just last week, Sylvie (13) wanted to decorate some plastic storage boxes and after discussing what type of marker to use, we encouraged her to do it. We know that might not be the norm,” says Elyse.
Elyse feels being Jewish and an artist just go together. “The Jewish people as a whole seem to appreciate and lean into the fact that freedom of expression and creativity is a necessity—a part of life corresponding to Jewish values.”
She often journals about our divine creativity. “I believe everyone is a creative soul. One does not need an easel to be creative. I hear so many say they don’t have a creative bone in their body. Many people have a stigma around that word. Every time I hear this, I know that they are likely uncomfortable connecting to their higher self. I try to point out all the ways they are creative already.”
Love struck Elyse and David more than 20 years ago when Elyse was in Virginia Beach for a temporary visit. It was a time when her father F. Bruce Tapper’s (of blessed memory) sudden death was still very raw.
David, a then young attorney, stopped to say hello to Elyse’s mother Susan Tapper, the long-time librarian at Hebrew Academy of Tidewater on Thompkins Lane. He was attending a meeting at HAT as co-chair of UJFT’s Super Sunday Campaign. David and Elyse are both HAT alum, one year apart.
Wanting to reconnect with his old schoolmate Elyse, David asked Susan for Elyse’s number. Initially, Susan deflected his request, following strict orders from her single daughter NOT to give her phone number to anyone, ‘because of all the yentas in town trying to hook up a single female in her 20s with any single Jewish male that stepped foot in Hampton Roads.’
David persisted. Motion granted.
“I heard his voice on the phone saying who he was and inquiring how I was doing,” says Elyse. “I can honestly say, he had me at a “hello!”” It wasn’t long before they went on their first date, and the rest is history.
In addition to current creative pursuits in the dance community, Elyse volunteers on the Holocaust Commission, serves on the board of the Benjamin Goldberg Foundation and is chair of the Hampton Roads Advisory Council for the Richmond Ballet/State Ballet of Virginia. David has his own law practice, Cardon Law, and serves on the board of Strelitz International Academy as president-elect. He also sings in the Beth El Congregation choir and plays guitar at Beth El’s Shabbat unplugged. The Cardons were among the four founding members of Tidewater Couples Project.
Nathan Segal, now married to Elyse’s mother Susan Tapper Segal, says, “Elyse embraces the best of new trends and incorporates them effortlessly with traditional items passed through the family.”
Take the monogramed glassware passed down from her grandmother. “They are from my father’s mother, Nana Jane.” Elyse explains. “I absolutely love using them for wine, water—every day and fancy. I was in fourth grade when she passed.”
Elyse commissioned local artist and designer Cindy Pennybacker to co-create Elyse’s blessing for their home. “I love Cindy’s ‘let’s see what today brings’ attitude when she approaches a project. That’s why I knew we could collaborate on this piece of meaningful art.”
Down the road, Elyse has a vision for a separate studio, but as of now, it is just a dream. What does her dream look like?
“We will have a place to try anything,” Elyse says. “Nothing will be too messy, or too loud or off limits. David can play guitar whenever he wants. I can garden, paint or write…maybe we will even build a kiln and get back into pottery.”