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Neoclassical Affair

Don't assume that a formal house can't have fun.

It is an ordered house, to be sure. Things are arranged with a curator's eye and an architect's precision. Framed neoclassical engravings find their way onto most walls, Persian rugs onto polished hardwood floors. Colors are strong — black walls in the bedroom, red in the living room, taupe in the dining room. Most objects appear in pairs: topiary boxwoods on the table, candlesticks on the sideboard, small obelisks on the mantel. Furnishings emphasize quality and classicism, such as a mahogany linen press in a modified temple design, circa 1815, that gleams in the dining room. ("It was that piece or a trip to Rome," the couple says ruefully.)

Because their tastes are compatible, the house flows with a unified sensibility, solid and tasteful but not without Def Comedy Jam on the tube or music in the background.

Brown chose the light fixtures, visiting scores of antiques shops for the correct pieces. An patinated gilt bronze with a bowl shape, was found in Washington, DC. "We walked in and knew it was the one," Peeples recalls of the discovery.

The hunt for the perfect piece is as pleasurable as its installation. "Rodes has such a good eye," Peeples says. "He believes that every object matters, that you should buy the best you can and have less of it." The house, though, has managed to fill up with treasures: a perfect Biedermeyer chest in the foyer, flame mahogany chairs in the dining room, Colen Campbell engravings en masse in the dining room.

Brown conceived the classical window treatments and drew them to scale. Jane Duke sewed white silk Austrian shades for the living room and crimson silk damask valances for the dining room. Both designs pop against the dark planes of color that outline white millwork at the windows.

It was a glimpse through a window that brought the pair to this house, a 1909 Edwardian three-story, after a lengthy search. "We looked at probably 50 houses in the Fan and kept going and going," Peeples says. "I grew up in the Fan and love it, challenges and all. We looked in the frontdoor window here and that was enough to tell us we wanted it." Five years later, they've completed cosmetic changes to most of the house and are planning a renovation in the master bathroom.

In the kitchen, they added Giallo granite and stainless steel appliances in a Custom Kitchens design that reduced the length of an island to create a breakfast area. White cupboards, white tiles and wood floors offer a neutral backdrop for a Heriz rug, dark wood furnishings and a large painting by Peeples' mother, Virginia Tyack. Overhead can lighting simplifies the look and highlights serving pieces and decorative objects.

Though cooking wasn't always a passion, Brown says a visit to the Inn at Little Washington opened doors to a culinary adventure that's now their favorite avocation. Recent dinner-party menus read like those from a fine bistro with a discriminating clientele. No wonder people love coming here.

And living here amid treasures from another age. HS


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