This year, Trinity Episcopal Church will do what it has been doing for 57 previous years — host the House Tour and Dried Flower Sale (Oct. 18-19) to raise monies for its local, state and national charities.
This year’s tour features three wonderful houses, each showcasing Rappahannock history, a love of art and nature, and the talent of our architects, builders and craftsmen, as well as beautiful and dramatic flower arrangements featuring exotic containers and a myriad of flowers dried and arranged by the men and women of Rappahannock County.
But while the basic structure remains the same, this year’s tour and sale are a little different. Instead of the usual tea — fewer and fewer people eat sweets these days — there will be an Evensong service with guest organist and soloists, and a champagne reception afterwards. (The entire community, as well as tour guests, are invited to both.)
This will allow the tour and sale workers to join with guests in a new ending to a tried and true event. Of course, the flower arrangements will still be beautiful and dramatic, homey and sweet, all sizes and shapes — business as usual.
The oldest house on this year’s tour is Greenfield, a grand and gracious old home now owned by Alfred and Audrey Regnery, which has been a landmark in the county for 200 years. Sitting on land granted to the Kennerly family by King George II in 1735, and rebuilt after a fire in 1820 by Willis Browning, it was once owned by a great grandson of William Chapman, who rode with Col. John S. Mosby and his Rangers during the Civil War.
A new wing was built on the north end of the house in the 1850s, adding a hall and two rooms; a large porch was enclosed in the 1920s. Its facade on U.S. 211, just west of Washington, has been a familiar sight for a very long time.
While Greenfield was on the tour 10 years ago, much has changed, both inside and out. A master bath, sleeping porch, deck and a screened porch off the kitchen have been added, with the kitchen moved to the center of the house.
Since its present owners plan to use it as a B&B in the future, the three upstairs bedrooms and baths all stand ready to accommodate guests, with soothing colors, such as lavender, espalier peach and lemon syrup on the walls, and colorful curtains, drapes and bed coverings to match.
Downstairs, the original parts of the house are all painted in Williamsburg colors, and are decorated for that period. The six working fireplaces have been redone; brass radiators, a classic wood dining table and chairs, a 1740 Philadelphia highboy (in Al’s family since it was made), and two corner cupboards filled with china and crystal paint the picture of gracious living, then and now.
Almost all the windows still have the original glass, made by the oldest glass-making method. Dan Lewis, a local painter, has painted a scene on one of the old windows, whose view was lost when the 1850 addition was built.
The new kitchen, “the heart of the home” for Audrey, is now a wonderful combination of the past and present. All the cabinets are made from the hard pine that was previously the attic flooring. A dining nook, of cherry from their former property in Madison County, is modeled on those in German homes, and made by Steven Field, Audrey’s son.
A tin ceiling and an old English table work perfectly with a new copper sink from Mexico and black granite counter tops. The brick veneer floor is radiantly heated, as is the bathroom. The new master bedroom, with its pencil post bed and nightstands (made by Al) and English dressers, is bright and welcoming, with quilts made by Audrey and her mother.
Another house on the tour is Twinbrooks, on Lizzie Mills Road in Castleton. This is a newish house, designed and built by Rappahannock architect Dick Manuel as his family home. It is now owned by Kent Hickman and Jim Shamberger.
The home, set in 25 acres down a long winding driveway, is open to light and air on all four levels, and boasts unique interior views and angles of sight, as well as spectacular views of the pond, gardens and surrounding woods.
An atrium filled with plants and flowers on the first level, a comfortable living room and kitchen on the second, bedrooms on the third, and former playrooms and lofts on the fourth level are enlivened with artifacts from all over the world.
Brass cooking oil drums, Thai snake baskets, fish traps and Russian samovars delight the eye; a striking red Tibetan rug on the first level dazzles; and family antiques, chairs and dressers combine to make a fascinating and delightful home.
On the other side of the deck is the guest house, formerly the architect’s office. Now it is decorated like Paris pied-a-terre, with a French day bed, 19th century mirror and a 14-piece armoire, meant to be taken apart and on trips or vacations. Golden hued rugs, formal tables, a tiny kitchen and a bedroom upstairs provide a perfect spot for guests.
The newest house on this year’s tour is Ramstead, down Tiger Valley Road in Washington, designed by architect Mark McInturff, and winner of the 2011 Potomac Valley House Award. This starkly modern home is really two houses — one for owners Bob Berry and Alejandro Cedeno, and the other for their frequent lucky guests, with an entry level open passage between the two. McInturff has described it as “a modern interpretation of the southern dogtrot house type.”
The guest rooms are stacked in a tower with bedrooms on the first, third and fourth levels, each uniquely decorated with art and artifacts from around the world: American art on the first level, works from Central America and Haiti on the third, and art from Southeast Asia on the fourth.
The second level is an entertainment room, a place where guests can gather and relax. On the roof is an open air retreat with comfortable seating, piped-in music, and a stunning view of the gardens and plantings.
The second level is the connector to the owner’s home, a single level of mostly open space with neutral colors enhanced by black and gray accents, modern European furniture, mahogany interior walls, maple kitchen cabinets and bedroom desks. A two-sided fireplace, serving the living and dining rooms, and a variety of artwork — whose provenance stretches from Rappahannock County to the far corners of the earth — enriches the views in all directions.
A serene water garden stands in front of both houses; stone walls and naturalistic plantings provide a wonderful entrance to this superbly designed and built home.
With house designs from 1820 up to 2011, décor from Williamsburg to modern European, colors both bold and muted, and gardens formal and naturalistic, this year’s houses showcase Rappahannock living, elevate our senses, honor art in all its forms and provide wonderful places to enjoy life.