To visit Tudor Grove is to step into a river of time. This venerable estate, just south of town off Old Lynchburg Road, has been standing here since 1800—long before I-64, Fifth Street Extended or apartments and subdivisions came to define the surroundings. As the gracious winding drive reveals the first glimpse of the house’s formal brick façade, one feels the presence of generations—including the house’s most famous resident, Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the “Gray Ghost” of the Confederacy.
Yet Tudor Grove, as it stands today, is much more —and more interesting—than a museum piece. Its current owner, Camille Price, is both a steward of the historical property and its wholehearted resident, who brings her own strong aesthetic sensibilities to bear on structure and land. Though a decade-old subdivision now peers through the trees at Tudor Grove, Price’s devotion to timeworn things helps to preserve it even as she has made it utterly her own.
“The trees attracted me more than the house,” said Price, who bought the estate and moved here from north downtown in 2000. She loved, though, the house’s patina: peeling plaster and noisy floors. With its solid and symmetrical form, it would make the perfect backdrop for her extraordinary collections of antique objects.
There was no big renovation to be done. “I mostly did restoring of the walls and gardens, did some interior painting and left things alone,” said Price. Her major changes were to add, with the guidance of architect Bethany Puopolo, a screened porch on one side and an elevator on the other—both meticulously detailed to match the existing home. And, because the kitchen was located in the English basement, she added a small cooking space to the house’s main floor. “It’s not a slick kitchen,” said Price, “but it works for me.”
The house isn’t large. Its grandiosity comes from the traditions in which it stands. And the gardens which Price has nurtured, formal arrangements replete with fountains and boxwoods, lend an air of old Virginia. The interior is intimate, not meant for entertaining big groups.
The big surprise of Tudor Grove is that, although Price has filled it entirely with old things (“I don’t feel at home in anything new,” she said), it feels quite modern. Price’s design sense is so personal that the rooms are clearly the result of an individual in the present, not reiterations of a generic “antique” approach.
“It certainly is not a look for everybody,” said Price, who’s a bit self-deprecating about her style. She habitually shops for antiques and looks for certain categories of objects, some of which she’s been collecting for decades. “I love antlers; I have those everywhere,” she said. “I started collecting mirrors in my 20s—the cloudier the better. I love old tapestries, turtle shells, silver trophies.”
The look is an exuberant mix of eras and traditions that belies the careful composition underlying each space, surface and grouping. In the master bedroom, for example, the black four-poster bed sits against a salon-style arrangement of prints—ranging from old European postcards to a Madonna and child to Audubon-style bird images, another of Price’s major calling cards. When she had the plaster walls repaired, she left the new white sections unpainted, creating an appealing mottled look that makes perfect sense with tarnished mirrors and well-worn Oriental rugs.
White marble lamps, a freestanding white column and silver hairbrushes bring dimension and depth to the space, but there is certainly whimsy too: on the mantel, two plastic toy cows keep company with a miniature brass mermaid lamp.
The color of style
“I don’t care about things that match,” said Price. Yet for all the eclecticism at work here, there is a strong coherence to the house; repeating elements tie one room to the next. Price likes Chinese furniture, echoed by the strong presence of the color red throughout the house, notably in the form of antique red books. And she loves artifacts from nature—bones, shells, coral—which speak to the animal images, wood and wicker that show up nearly everywhere.
In one downstairs parlor, a stuffed owl looms over a tabletop like a tiny natural history museum. There are butterfly collections, neatly labeled deer bones and a glass box Price opened to show a visitor a couple of other treasures from the Tudor Grove woods: a mouse skull and a desiccated frog.
Color masterfully draws the most disparate elements together—in the parlor, a red Chinese umbrella and a collage of antique American flags. Bursts of primary color like these are anchored by neutrals, naturals and the generally thick patina on both house and furnishings. Price also had all the doors in the house painted black, a favorite accent. “I like a touch of black in a room,” she said, acknowledging that historical purists would not approve.
The kitchen is, in a way, her most rebellious creation, given how different it is from the showy gourmet-style spaces currently seen as de rigueur. Price’s little galley is cobbled together from various antique cupboards and sideboards, with a red Chinese cabinet serving as an island. While it’s functional, it insists on being lovely. Silverware lives in various glass jars on a marble-topped bar. The soap dish is a clamshell.
Though its owner is certainly warm and hospitable, the kitchen’s scale is just right for a single occupant, not hoards of guests. Said Price, “I don’t care what other people think about the house. It’s for me.”
For all its mismatched furnishings, Tudor Grove remains cohesive as repeating elements tie one space to the next. Red antique books scatter from room to room (and a large collection lives on a black bookshelf in the parlor). And Price loves artifacts from nature—bones, shells, coral—which speak to the animal images, wood and wicker that show up nearly everywhere. She habitually shops for antiques and looks for certain categories of objects, some of which she’s been collecting for decades. “I love old tapestries, turtle shells, silver trophies.”