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May 21, 2018

Faces of Fauquier: Nature inspires interior designer

Photo/Cassandra Brown
“Fauquier County reminds me of rural England . . . with the stone walls and older architecture,” Barry Dixon says.
I think the only way you can hit a certain level of timelessness is to mix things that you love from different periods in a fresh and modern way. I like the soul of antiques, but the freshness of modernity.
By .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Staff Journalist
The well-known interior designer draws inspiration for fabric, paint, lighting and furniture from Fauquier’s beauty.

For the past 19 years, the owner of Barry Dixon Inc. has worked from Elway Hall, his home just west of Warrenton.

A laidback Southerner, Barry Dixon often takes ideas from his hens’ eggs, flowers, trees, cattle and other features of his farm.

“My number one selling fabric is called ‘Crop Art Circles.’ It’s a play on the ends of the bales of hay (on the farm),” Mr. Dixon said. “I took those concentric rings and developed a pattern on a cotton and linen background.”

For many years Mr. Dixon lived in Washington, D.C., and while working on design projects at The Inn at Little Washington in Rappahannock County, he would drive through Warrenton.

“It reminded me so much of Covington, Tennessee, which is a small town north of Memphis that my grandmother lived in — rolling hills, the equestrian community,” he said. “It reminded me of that village from my childhood.”

He saw the 1907 Edwardian house on more than 300 acres off Springs Road for sale and decided to buy it and move to the country for inspiration.

On a May afternoon, sunlight bathes the spacious home’s interior, filled with plush furniture, vases of dogwood branches and large fireplaces.

The owner has decorated Elway Hall with a palette of yellow, orange and red color.

“I use a lot of those warm colors, because it seems summery in the summer. Yet, these colors still cheer and warm you in the winter, too. I love those citrus, sunlight pallets.”

His unique projects incorporate nature, history and items from different continents. International travel inspires Mr. Dixon.

“I think the only way you can hit a certain level of timelessness is to mix things that you love from different periods in a fresh and modern way. I like the soul of antiques, but the freshness of modernity.”

Born in Memphis, Mr. Dixon spent most of his childhood abroad, including South Africa and Southeast Asia because of his father’s job as a metals specialist for the Rothschild family.

“We moved so much — almost every year. There were designers that worked for the Rothschilds that would have our homes ready.

“Growing up as a global nomad, I think inspired me and not only exposed me to a lot, but it showed me how you can set up a home in so many different ways within so many different places with geographical disparity,” Mr. Dixon said.

While he studied to become a lawyer at the University of Mississippi, his father encouraged him to pursue his passions, ultimately leading to a career in interior design.

“I’ve always, even as a young child, been interested in architecture, furnishings and art.”

Mr. Dixon and his interior design firm have worked on mostly residential and some commercial projects around the world. He has active residential projects in Maryland, Tennessee, Wyoming, Washington, D.C., Virginia and Switzerland.

“A room should start a conversation before we utter a word. I think the best rooms do that. They put people at ease,” Mr. Dixon said. “They are saying something before we say something ourselves. They are warm, inviting, if a room is not warm and hospitable, it’s a failure to me.”

Over the years, Mr. Dixon has been featured on Good Morning America with his client Diane Sawyer, and in Veranda magazine, The Washington Post Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, among other publications.

“It’s always our favorite thing to be able to work right here locally,” Mr. Dixon said. “Old Town Woodworking in Warrenton built a lot of our custom pieces that went to Venice and Beijing. Custom bookcases, pieces of furniture, cabinetry, kitchens, things like that.

“Maybe one of the reasons I live in Fauquier County is it reminds me of rural England, and I know that area pretty well. The Cotswolds . . . with the stone walls and older architecture,” Mr. Dixon said.

“I feel a camaraderie with my neighbors and fellow residents in Fauquier County. I can honestly say I haven’t met anyone I don’t like. We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful place and a warm community. It’s a perfect place to live.”

• Age

• Home
West of Warrenton.

• Work
Owner, designer at Barry Dixon Inc., 1995 to present; Interior Concepts, 1993-95; Bob Waldron interior design firm, 1989-93; Lascaris Design Group, Washington, D.C., 1985-88; Warren Wright interior design company in Mississippi, 1982-84.

• Why do you do the job?
My father suggesting I follow my passion. As a designer, I never do the same project twice. No two days are alike. I’m able to work for myself and employ other talented people that become my designing family. I wake up every day excited to do what I do and, for me, I can’t imagine any other career would make me that happy.

• Family
Partner, Will Thomas, and Wire Fox Terrier, Dinah.

• Education
Bachelor’s degree, political science, with minors in English, art history and design, University of Mississippi, 1982; high school in South Africa, 1977.

• Civic and/or church involvement
I’m Episcopal by faith, host several charity and social events at Elway Hall each year, a Piedmont Environmental Council supporter and chair civic functions in Washington, D.C.

• How long have you lived in Fauquier?
19 years.

• Why do you live here?
It inspires me. I’m inspired by the countryside, the lifestyle, the agrarian and equestrian elements of living in Fauquier and the colors of the natural world. You can’t help but be inspired by the country out here. That’s why I left the city originally. I thought there was more inspiration out here.

• How do you describe this county?
Welcoming and hospitable, like my favorite room might be. It has a sense of history and propriety, but it’s also laid back and casual. The people, businesses are friendly. We bank with our local Fauquier Bank. We eat at Claire’s at least three nights a week. We love to go to Red Truck Bakery.

• What would you change about Fauquier?
Sometimes there’s a little more traffic now than I used to see. To get here wasn’t quite as congested. Interstate 66 has gotten much worse. I remember when I moved out here 20 years ago, I’d be the only car on Route 29.

I hope what I love about Fauquier — the old ways, the rolling hills, the working farms, the family businesses — doesn’t change. I do all my Christmas shopping here. I love the individuality of the businesses and the people.

• What do you do for fun?
Travel. I spend a lot of my time abroad, which inspires me, too. I’ll also just walk to the barn, spend time out in the woods or in the meadow. I’ll always come back with things in my hands. I pick a thistle and sketch it and then it becomes a fabric pattern. Photography. Drive to the mountains. Swim. Practice archery.

• What’s your favorite place in Fauquier?
I love to go to Claire’s at The Depot. We take our family there, all of our guests that come here.

My single favorite place in Fauquier is at the barn and the garden (at Elway Hall). We have angora goats, lamas, sheep, six rescued cats, hens, turkeys, guinea fowl, black Angus and Herford cattle on the farm.

• What will Fauquier be like in 10 years?
I hope it’s just like it is now. I am thinking it will be a little bit bigger. I’m not antigrowth, but I love the preservation of lifestyle. I hope even if it is bigger, it feels the same.

• Favorite TV show?
“The Great British Bake Off” and “Jeopardy.”

• Favorite movie?
I love “The Wizard of Oz,” but my favorite movie would be “To Kill a Mockingbird.” That would probably be my favorite book and movie in one. The lessons in that book and film and the role that Gregory Peck played. Atticus Finch is a real hero of mine in literature.

• Favorite book?
“Swiss Family Robinson.” I love the adventure of them carving out a life in the wilderness for themselves.

• Favorite vacation spot?
The countryside in France, the Amalfi Coast in Italy and the Okavango Delta in Botswana.

• Favorite food?
Fried chicken and Southern biscuits. I love the bourbon pecan pie from Red Truck Bakery.

• What is the best advice you have ever received? From whom?
From my dad, Mervin “M.E.” Dixon, to change my major in college and choose a career I was passionate about, regardless of whether it would be the moneymaker or not. If you follow your passion, I think that you’re more likely to achieve success because you enjoy what you do.

• Who’s your hero and why?
In fiction and for what he stands for and what the character promoted, I love Atticus Finch.

My hero that I have in my career is William Morris, an arts and crafts designer, architect, designer, fabric maker and printer. He was a Renaissance man, who lived in England in the 19th century. He’s sort of my design hero. A lot of what he did is what I imagined myself doing when I went into this industry. He had a home outside London. He was inspired by what he would see in his garden. He inspired what I do.

• What would you do if you won $5 million in the lottery?
I would probably increase the value of my art collection. I don’t know if I could get a Rothko for $5 million, but if there was a $5 million Rothko, I would take it.

> Click below to watch Barry Dixon discuss life in Fauquier:

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