Of course, Valentine's practiced eye makes her compositions cohesive and flexible. She's drawn to the patina of age and texture, large-scale furnishings, and unusual light fixtures. Painted tables, chests and chairs are rustically charming alongside luxe upholstered seating pieces adorned with silk pillows. "I'm not a pedigree person," she explains of the mix. "I don't care if it's good, bad or indifferent. I have junk that I love and good things that I love." Of a rug that's well-worn in the family room, she says, "It's not in perfect condition, which suits me fine." This insouciance allows the family of five to relax and appreciate the colorful, lively groupings of furnishings, objects and art that fill each space.
Evocative oil paintings by Valentine's sister and mother highlight several rooms. A large abstract nude by Sally Lapeyre in the entry and a landscape by Eugenie Huger in the family room are notable for their sense of mystery and intriguing form. A portrait of Deborah Valentine by New Orleans artist Tim Trapolin is luminous within a sunroom that's layered in terra cotta, from floor tiles to wall paint.
Colors throughout the house complement the art and garden views while warming the interiors: grays, dusty greens, watery turquoises and soft yellows. Every hue seems to grow organically in the spaces; there's not a contrived "color scheme" anywhere, which adds to the spontaneously evolving look that Valentine achieves.
Visitors during Garden Week will see a luscious landscape that, like the house, has improved over the years. Most recently, Janet Baruch of Greenway Gardens developed the design and managed the installation of a pool, bluestone terraces, fieldstone walls and several garden spaces. "Working in their garden is like putting a ribbon on a beautiful gift," Baruch says, "because it had great bones, and Thomas and Deborah both have great ideas." She helped create a strong axial view of the gardens and a glimpse of the pool and the fieldstone wall that curves around it.
"Around the pool I designed a perennial garden that's got herbs and blue flowers that are cool and refreshing," Baruch says. They include iris, artemisia, rosemary, chives and other plants backed by green foliage specimens. Closer to the house, a white garden holds fragrant plants that have a glowing effect at night. In another area, a shade garden groups ferns, hostas, Japanese maples, rhododendrons, Japanese boxwood and bulbs around a terrace that's centered with a large olive jar that Deborah Valentine found in New Orleans. Meandering pathways connect the spaces and invite discoveries of trees, shrubs and flowers.
To create the plan, Baruch considered how the family entertains and how much involvement they wanted to have with the landscape's maintenance. "It doesn't take care of itself," she says, as there is always fertilizing, knowing when and how much to cut back, weeding, clean up, and turf, pool and pond maintenance to keep the space in its pristine form.
In the days before Garden Week, Baruch will add colorful annuals and final touches to the project, which she rates as one of her favorites. "I cannot take full credit for that garden," she says, "because it was already a beautiful place."
And a gracious surrounding for a house that's equally so. HS
The Valentine home will open for Historic Garden Week in Virginia on Thursday, April 24.