A handful of homes in the Clifton area were opened to the public on Thursday, May 18, as the Clifton Community Women's Club presented its annual Homes Tour.
"This is our big fund-raiser for the year," said Fran McWhorter, head hostess at the home of Elsa and Arthur Blades in Fairfax Station. "We raise money to help support our community charities, like the Agency for the Aging and Bethany House."
Visitors purchased the tickets, which allowed them entrance into homes in Clifton, Fairfax Station and Fairfax, along with the Primitive Baptist Church in Clifton.
The Homes Tour is "a lot of work to coordinate, but it's a way to involve the whole community in one day for the purpose of helping others," McWhorter said.
Hostess coordinator Jan Wood said the Blades' home was "especially pretty," featuring lots of "imported marble and decor."
Inside the home, a tall curved marble staircase was located beyond the entryway, with a hand-made wrought iron banister featuring curved vines and leaves tipped in gold. The walls were hand-painted to look like textured wallpaper, said Mary Mitchell, the decorator who worked with the Blades to design their home.
"Arthur was in the Army and traveled all over the world," she said. "He brought home lots of things from the Orient."
THROUGHOUT THE HOUSE, silk kimono ties called obes, all of which are over 150 years old, hang on walls. Giant circular wooden sifting tools line the finished basement and antique, dark, hand-carved statues sit perched on desks and tables.
"I really enjoyed working on this house," Mitchell said, adding that Elsa Blades has become a good friend and client of hers during the year and half she spent decorating the home. "It's great working with a client who has good taste and is open to new ideas."
Just off Popes Head Road, down a long, tree-lined driveway, the Mathey House is easy to find — just follow the George Mason University-colored signs to the massive brick structure.
Built in 1964 by the Mathey family, the home was bequeathed to the university in the 1980s, said hostess Vicki Luchini.
"Mr. Mathey designed all the lattice work and mirrors on the back patio so that people who were having dinner and looking toward the house could still see the grounds in the back yard," she said.
The home is often referred to as a Williamsburg Colonial style structure, a plain brick house with massive English Boxwood shrubs along the front.
Much of the furnishing and items inside the home, including china and crystal collections, antique woven rugs and tapestries, were donated to the university along with the home, Luchini said.
"This bronze statue of George Mason is an exact replica of the one at the school," she said, pointing out a small statue in the foyer of the house.
Inside the living room and some of the upstairs rooms, personal items from the current residents, Dr. Alan and Sally Merten, sit on end tables, while family photos look down from high bookshelves.
"The Mertens brought some of their own paintings and pictures, but in the more formal areas, the items were donated by the Mathey family," she said.
Mary Preston of Clifton said that while her home was included on the tour, she wanted to get out and "look at what everyone else has."
"I just love homes and decorating," Preston said, admiring the grounds at the Mathey house.
"It's so fortunate people allow us to do this," said her friend Cindy Patrick. "This house is just so beautiful."
Barbara Kiker of Springfield said the Homes Tour gave her a chance to "see how the other half lives. I've always wanted to come here. I love seeing all these homes that I've passed and have wanted to look into," she said.