"Every aspect of life in this house and on this farm inspires me," Dixon says. "I think the views of the surrounding landscapes, framed by the heavy casings of soaring windows, remind me every day to connect interiors to their place on Earth."
Dixon knows something about the places on Earth. From an early age, he's lived in more than a few. A peripatetic childhood planted him in a succession of far-flung locales that his father's work as a metallurgist required the family to move. He grew up with a heady exposure to the vibrant colors and spices of India and Pakistan; to Korean cuisine (he was ahead of his time savoring the Korean steamed pork buns now trending); to South Africa's tribal culture and art as well as its infamous apartheid; and to New Caledonia's juxtaposition of French and indigenous thatched-roof Polynesian aesthetics.
So out of all the places in the world for such an informed eye to choose to live and work, why Virginia? "I'm a Southern boy at heart," says Dixon, a Memphis native and Ole Miss alum, whose parents also were Southerners. Elway Hall, in the lush farmland and foxhunting country of Farquier County, fed his vision: "I wanted to combine not only my home and business, but my way of living and creating, making it into a cohesive whole and a singular experience like that of William Morris, Fortuny, and other of my personal 'designing heroes.'"
Given its size, the estate makes the job easy. Dixon repurposed the nine-room servants' annex as his studio. That physical separation means work doesn't impede on leisure. "I don't go there unless I'm working. Out of sight, out of mind," he laughs.
Widely admired as the quintessential Southern gentleman, Dixon finds sustenance at Elway Hall, which colors his mood gently sunny. "My outlook comes from just that — the "look out" of the massive windows, every day and night, and to be constantly and gloriously reminded of the beauty of the natural world around me."
But Elway is more than a portal to natural beauty. Like Dixon's own layered design style, which draws upon the historical as well as the moment, home, for him, is a collection of impressions.
"It is the imprint of all that has happened, from 1907 until now," he explains. "It's the laughter of a thousand loved ones, here and gone. It's the glow of seventeen fireplaces, lit thousands of times for as many people. It's every dog that's ever curled up on a sofa or chair, every gift opened on a birthday or holiday, every story quietly shared at the dinner table. It's every newborn in the field or barn or house and every armful of flowers brought from the gardens outside to brighten a dark corner. It's coffee brewing and fresh eggs and soaking in footed tubs in front of the fire. It's corks popping and dogs barking and neighbors knocking at the door. It's every couple that ever fell asleep spooning in a bed upstairs. Everyone that has lived, is living, or will live and love here! It is home. It is my place."
It's also his lab and his muse. "We create things here and use them here, too. My 'laboratory' allows me to explore the myriad complexities of thoughtful and intuitive layering which, in the end, defines a home," he explains. From his latest flavor of paint colors for C2 Paint to furnishings for Tomlinson/Erwin-Lambeth, Arteriors, and Avrett, and his fabrics and trims for Vervain, each new design is in some way inspired by Elway Hall. It's only fitting that a recent redecorating of one of Elway's guest rooms was executed entirely in product Dixon designed.
Which spaces inspire, and gratify, shift with the seasons? "In the winter, it's the library, with its cocoon of towering cases filled with books, massive fireplace, and melange of nap-worthy chairs and sofas. In the spring, it's the yellow music room, a corner room with multiple twelve-foot windows looking out over hill and vale and the budding landscape. Summer finds us lounging and dining on the long, deep, draped and shaded loggia that girds the rear of Elway Hall, allowing everyday living in an inside/outside netherworld. And fall brings us back inside, nesting in our autumnally toned family room as the days grow shorter."
Design jobs all over the U.S. as well as in Europe, Asia, and the Caribbean require weekly travel, with Dixon spending about a quarter of the year at work locations. But it's Elway Hall that remains his touchstone. "On every return, whether I've been away an hour or a week, when I hear the crunch of the pea gravel under my tires, I feel a giddy exhilaration followed by an immediate drop in blood pressure. I'm home."
For Dixon, home is a name: Elway Hall. It's also a soul: his. "Elway Hall and I share a single soul," muses the designer. In the end, he believes, that completion of self is the greatest gift a home can impart. "We are all of us, every man, woman, and child, every dog and cat, every bird that flies searching over land and sea, looking for our place — that spot where we truly belong. Our homes gift us with an end to that search. They give us our place."