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Tudor with an Artful Touch
Designer Barry Dixon brings painterly flair to a family’s fairy-tale Tudor in Washington, D.C.
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With toffee-hue nuggets of stone wrapping a whimsical turret and sprinkles of slate cascading along its gabled roof, David and Mary Ritchey’s Tudor-style home looks like it was plucked from a storybook. Open the door, and this fairy tale enchants even more—with painterly interiors more akin to Monet than the Brothers Grimm.
The artist here is interior designer Barry Dixon, who worked with Mary, a professional art curator, to shape a home that celebrates her collected pieces and the house itself. Mary and architect Anne Decker renovated the 1939 structure for modern family life.
“I wanted some formal rooms to keep the interiors authentic to the architecture,” Mary says. “But our spaces have to be more than just pretty. They have to be livable.” The story line here includes three active boys and one playful pup. And, yes, they are going to sit on the sofa.
For beauty that can handle the cutest furry beast, Dixon called on a versatile and sophisticated mix of furniture and fabrics.
“I wanted to play off the home’s Tudor overtones and give them a modern twist and a bit of color,” he says. “Mary’s artwork and her love of art also were an inspiration, particularly for our choices of painterly fabrics.”
Stepping through an elegant paneled archway from the foyer into the formal living room, Dixon looked to a 1920s portrait hanging above the limestone fireplace as his cue for a palette of taupe, salmon, and stony hues accented with pale blue-greens.
The colors commingle like family and friends in an inviting gathering area that puts a twist on the old formula of two sofas plus two armchairs plus one large coffee table. Instead of calling on a coffee table, a piece he believes can become an albatross in a room, Dixon pulled up a side chair to a tea table near one sofa and slipped in a large ottoman near the other. The arrangement delightfully dashes symmetry as it achieves balance and creates spots for intimate tête-à-têtes.
The room opens to another living area, the music room, where French doors usher in natural light and garden views. A nubby woven rug immediately decelerates the formality, setting the stage for a space where Mary can unwind with a book while son Walker polishes his guitar riffs.
A round center table coquettishly interrupts the rhythm of a coffered ceiling. Clad in flowing cloth, it repeats Dixon’s taupe-and-salmon refrain and serves as a lovely catchall for a smattering of treasures—and a lush arrangement of current garden offerings. A modern sectional’s clean lines juxtapose a gilded antique chair; the sectional’s tailored white upholstery serves as canvas for a pillow dappled with Impressionist style.
The multiple seating options that cater to family time play just as well when the Ritcheys welcome a crowd. “I love to throw open the doors and entertain,” Mary says.
When the occasion is more formal, guests take a seat in the dining room, where an antique table and chairs offset a contemporary ceiling fixture. “It’s a mix of inherited pieces and fresh pieces that suit a young family,” Dixon says.
A dreamy abstract by D.C. artist Robert Rea serves as lively dinner companion to a 19th-century bamboo sideboard. Salmon hues join cocoa browns as warm as the Ritcheys’ hospitality on fresh cut-velvet upholstery.
French doors are left undressed for simplicity, crispness, and contrast to the luxurious draperies in adjoining rooms. “I like the dynamic tension of formal and less formal, old and new,” Dixon says.
The dark taupe dining room opens to a sparkling white kitchen.
The kitchen, in turn, connects to a warm and cozy family room with a timeworn limestone fireplace, rustic pecky cypress beams, and a soaring 16-foot ceiling. Celadon hues lifted from the dining room abstract seem almost luminescent against the earthy taupe cocooning both walls and ceiling.
Upstairs, the Ritcheys can wind down for the night in a serene master bedroom—a celadon and ivory world—that melts away the din of the day. Walls and ceiling wear the same pale celadon hue, soothing the sharp lines created by the gabled roof. A punch of warm color comes courtesy of another of Mary’s abstracts.
“Art was really the catalyst of the color story from room to room,” Dixon says. “The mix of art is reflected in the mix of furnishings. It creates a home with the same charm and warmth as the Ritcheys. It’s a home with one foot in the modern world and one foot planted in tradition—the best of everything that’s come before.”