A 45 minute trip up I-66 (West) brings me within sight of the gentle, rolling hills preceding the Blue Ridge mountain range and the Shenandoah Valley. It is amazing how quickly the delays at Tysons Corner, and the traffic congestion near the exits for Centreville and Manassas, fades when faced with the splendor of sun-kissed fields stretching endlessly in all directions, blue skies, and a brisk morning breeze that suggests another gorgeous day in the country. Little hamlets such as Orlean, Round Hill, and Paris are pleasant spots for grabbing chicken-salad sandwiches and thick slices of home-made apple pie; Starbuck's coffee-shops are non-existent out here, and with the exception of a few modest homes that seem to sit right out on the road (or at least their front porches appear to be six inches shy of a traffic obstruction), everything seems so idyllic and unspoiled by development. I am told that many Washingtonians have weekend retreats out in these parts; single-family homes are cleverly tucked onto 10+ acre lots and adjoin woodland and federally protected forests. Some of the larger estates are comprised of hundreds of acres where 'gentleman-farmers' have created beautiful tributes to a romanticized vision of earlier times. Here, country homes overfill with good cheer, loyal servants, cute children, packs of friendly dogs, worn antiques, and drawing-rooms filled with antique English prints and lovingly preserved portraits. Colors can be unexpectedly bold, multiple patterns converse, and comfort is assured by the use of numerous easy chairs, side-tables and reading lamps. Modernity is incorporated and minimalism is avoided in favor of the easy, relaxed clutter of books and collections of beautiful objects.
Truth be told, I appreciate this style very much, and Warrenton-based designer Barry Dixon has become masterful at conjuring this particular vision of familial bliss. On his design philosophy, Dixon states that, 'the integrity of good design is determined simply by what is "appropriate." Of course the subjectivity of that word requires that clients align themselves with a designer who shares their vision. To me, "appropriate" involves several level of consideration. Architecture - what works well with the bones of a space is paramount. Also important is transition, the thread that weaves its way through a home, simultaneously providing unity and flow and allowing diversion and interest. Comfort, even in the most formal areas, is mandatory, as is timelessness, a blessed attribute that straddles fad and period. Quality involves both experience and knowledge. A good reproduction can only be selected with an understanding of the original. Balance and contrast involves many elements: color and texture, heavy and ethereal, old and new. One is as important as the other. Successful design emanates a feeling, not just a look. Nuance is employed to fine-tune the whole to the personality of the individual. In the best instances, the effect is a magical aesthetic harmony that is not initially surprising, at least not jolting. Upon inspection or reflection, however, the effect is cleverly unexpected, bridging past with present by bringing the best of history with us into the future.'
Hope that you enjoy today's visual treat courtesy of Barry Dixon, whose new book entitled Barry Dixon Interiors can be purchased from your local book-seller. Photographs of other projects may be viewed online at his website.