Nestled on nearly 300 verdant acres in the rolling hills of the Virginia countryside, where the expansive views shift with the movements of the sun and clouds, Barry Dixon and Will Thomas’s estate, Elway Hall, is more than just a home to the couple; it is the backdrop to their lives.
The land is a working farm, where they grow vegetables and flowers and pick their eggs fresh from the chicken coops. It’s a restful retreat, where they sit on the loggia to read as fawns cavort in the lea below and eagles circle above. It’s a muse for acclaimed interior designer Dixon’s work; his furniture lines and paint colors are all inspired by elements of the property, from the bend of the trees to the pink hue on the nose of his favorite goat.
The grand, 20,000 square foot house is part castle, part storybook cottage. Inside are pieces designed by Dixon, a sofa that didn’t fit through a client’s door, unique items found by the couple on trips abroad, old books and family heirlooms.
“I think some of the most inviting interiors have a sense of being pulled together over the course of a lifetime,” says Dixon. “It’s almost a little overcrowded, but in a good way.”
Dixon has lived and worked at Elway Hall for two decades. Thomas, then an award-winning television journalist, took up residence six years ago.
“When you’re in a relationship and decide it’s time to move in together, you figure out who has the better place,” says Thomas. “Barry won.”
“Coming into a house that as so spectacularly done by a renowned designer, I wondered: ‘how do I make this feel like home to me?'”
The answer proved easier than anticipated. The couple immediately folded Thomas’ art collection into the mix and began redecorating rooms together, including a dramatic guest room with a canopied bed and deep, luxurious seating, done entirely in Hermès orange, Thomas’ favorite color.
But Thomas, who left Washington’s Fox affiliate station in 2016 to help care for ailing parents and reassess his career path, is no stranger to the design world. While living in the District, he purchased, redesigned and decorated five homes, selling each but one for a record price per square foot. Those experiences were, in part, what inspired his next journey: in September he announced he was joining the luxury real estate team at TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
In creating a new life in Warrenton with Dixon, where the two say they feel as if they’re stewards of the property (commissioned by a railroad tycoon for his daughter around the turn of the century), Thomas also discovered a talent for cooking. He appropriated the catering kitchen in the stone cellar as his workshop and invites friends to the house to enjoy the spoils.
“Will is a natural entertainer and loves to have people over,” says Dixon. “I love that too, but since I don’t cook, I didn’t entertain as much before he moved in.”
Today, the duo work in tandem, whether hosting another couple for the weekend or a dinner party for two dozen guests. They choose a menu, pick flowers from the garden, select the silver and china (Dixon has an expansive collection of Wedgwood) and decide which of the many rooms they’ll eat in for the occasion: the dining room, the library or the inviting Great Hall, wherein the winter, there is always a roaring fire awaiting guests.
“We never do the same thing twice,” Dixon explains. “In the winter we spend more time in the library. In the summer, we set up long tables on the loggia. We don’t fall into a rut of doing the same thing over and over again.”
“And there’s nowhere you can’t put up your feet and have a glass of wine,” add Thomas. “It’s not a fussy house like that.
This article appeared in the October 2018 issue of Washington Life Magazine.