How Monte Durham’s making the most of staying home in Alexandria

The debonair fashion director of TLC’s “Say Yes to the Dress: Atlanta” is taking on interior design, sipping local Champagne and preparing to open his Old Town-based boutique salon, all with a refreshing perspective in mind.

Monte Durham with his dog and a man in green
Monte frequently walks his 4-year-old Welsh Terrier Charlie Champ (left), and runs with Rev. Alyse Viggiano of St. Paul’s in Alexandria. (Photo courtesy of Monte Durham)

Since the coronavirus began to spread in early March, many people throughout the country have started to refer to our current state of affairs—days within our homes, masks adorned when we venture out, etc.—as the “new normal.” Yet fashion connoisseur and Alexandria resident Monte Durham disagrees. 

“There’s no normalcy about what we are doing right now,” Durham says with conviction. “I’ve been calling it the new new, it is certainly not a new normal.” 

In Durham’s version of the new new, his only consistency comes from making a point to be productive, whether that be going for a daily run or polishing every single piece of silver he owns. We chatted with the local style guru to find out exactly how he’s been keeping busy, staying positive and looking forward.   

On finding out the news:

“You know, oddly enough I was in New York March 7, 8 and 9 working on a Say Yes to the Prom when everything started to unfold. As you know, I am opening a hair salon, so I was up there to go to a hair show at the Javits Center. I finished my work at TLC, and Saturday they gave me a day pass to go in when the vendors were setting up and scout what I wanted first before the crowds started Sunday. There were thousands of thousands of hairdressers set to come, all setting up, staging, lighting, vendors, hair stations. Everything you could imagine. And then, I came back to the hotel Saturday afternoon and the concierge only elbow pumped me and I go, ‘What?’ I was a bit thrown. When I got back to my room I called the vendor I saw, and as I was telling him what I’d like to put in for orders, I was told the entire event was canceled. It was totally canceled. 

The reaction was quick. I left the hotel that morning saying hi to everyone and when I got back that night word was out, we were elbow bumping. I think that Friday was when reality started to settle in. That was my first experience and I thought, ‘Oh it must only be New York.’ I flew home the next day with no issues at the airport. Then a week later … wow.”  

Monte Durham's library
While in quarantine, Monte Durham repainted his previously black-and-white library to be bright blue, and also added new handmade curtains found in the attic. (Photo courtesy of Monte Durham)
On refreshing his surroundings:

“I’ll tell you what, I have taken this opportunity to go through every closet, every drawer and find things I no longer want or need. I’ve done pretty much the entire house—I have polished the silver and rearranged the basement, which was disorganized. I even repainted the entire library blue. I found drapes in the attic when I was cleaning that I had handmade, they were just sitting there! I bought fringe and had it sewn onto the edges. Then I put the entire room back together. Every drawer, every silver piece. The best thing about this [quarantine] is now I know what I have and where everything is. Oh, and I’ve been doing stay-at-home dressing, fashion and beauty tips on my website. That’s been really fun for me.”

On the hardest transition:

“I’ll tell you, it’s odd to not be on a plane for me. I usually fly two to three times a week and this is a big adjustment. I find myself waking up and thinking, ‘God where do I need to go?’ And I still have my luggage on the rack in my bedroom, ready to go for when I can.” 

On what gives him solace:

“I get up every morning and between 7 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. I’m on my run, it’s my new commute to work. I have been running 4 miles every day, whether it’s fast or slow. I start with 50 pushups, jumping jacks, etc. I am happy to say I have shed 10 pounds. Then I come back and always make sure I have an agenda with something I should do or need to do. My mother passed away a year ago, so my father and I are still acclimating, and I’ve been able to help him during this. 

I also always, always have an arsenal of face creams, eye creams, washes. I just pick them up and keep them. I have one kit at my home and one kit in my travel bag … one thing I have done more of is to do a facial mask once a month. I’ve taken the time to do that, I don’t have a particular brand. I like that Kiehl’s new eye cream a lot, that’s my new favorite.” 

brick and white building of monte durham's new salon
Durham plans to debut his soon-to-open boutique hair salon during Labor Day weekend. (Photo courtesy of Monte Durham)
On opening a boutique hair salon this summer:

“Behind every cloud there’s a silver lining. The build stopped but the good news is, the exterior is totally done and everything is intact. As of now, I am looking to do a light opening on Labor Day weekend, then we will have the grand opening after that. It all worked out because everything got put on pause. I was fortunate because when I came back from New York, I sat down and ordered all my millwork, the equipment, etc. The products are stateside already, they just marked it and held it and it’s in place for me to get it. We are having constant chats, a biweekly update with my team. The same thing with the TV show too, with Roberts Media. We are in constant conversation because they want to film but there’s nothing to film quite yet. I hired a concierge person, salon director, makeup artist, stylist … it’s coming together.”

On the ideal morning routine:

“My faith helps me a lot, and believing in the betterment of man and the day ahead. I get prayers from several cathedrals and churches sent to my email. It’s less than a paragraph, but I start my morning quietly with those and they help me. I also speak to my reverend; the church [St. Paul’s] has been great reaching out to everyone. I always say, I start off the morning on such a high note, I have this quiet awakening each time, and then by lunch it’s pretty much gone to hell and a hand basket.” 

book on red background
Photo courtesy of Monte Durham
On his latest read:

“I am a reader. I love to read. I don’t watch much TV, there are books everywhere in my home. I have taken the opportunity to reread and learn something new.  I am currently rereading a book about Wallis Simpson called That Woman because it’s a lot of history about her advocacy. They talk about her fashion, what she wore, luck and chance and people who believe in her. It’s such an interesting read if you like the royals. I’m such an anglophile.”  

On staying connected with Alexandria:

“I’ve been going to The Warehouse and wave at my picture once in a while. I have been getting the kobe beef burner and a bottle of prosecco; I used to sit out by the water and toast to the day. Of course, I have been going to Brut, all curbside. I go in and buy a bottle of Champagne and wrap it and leave it on people’s steps for birthdays and things. Also at the Indigo Hotel, they’ve been allowing us to have two-person meetings with masks, then I go to Hummingbird in the back and grab a bottle of something.” 

On the new verbiage: 

“What I have found interesting is how we converse with one another now. There’s a lot of ‘wait until,’ and, ‘I can’t wait to see you when things open,’ or ‘Looking forward to toasting.’ It comes from our thought process, there’s a lot more if, when and can. You have to stop and think for just a second, will there be a new norm or will we always be looking over our shoulders? I’m thankful for what’s ahead and in front of me. Like I always say, just look up to the skies and keep looking forward.”

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