There's nothing new in Lucy Birchby's house in Kensington. There are no pink and black tiles, hot red walls or skylights or computer rooms. Lucy Birchby's place is, instead, a home for history. Inherited pieces live comfortably alongside found objects. Most are antiques. Together with her late husband, Douglas (who Lucy Birchby insists had all of the >"flair"), collecting, once just a family affair, became an avocation.
Kensington neighbors joked that If you were up late at night, you could always watch the Birchbys moving things from one house to another. Pieces often switched place among various relatives and friends. The rosewood Victorian card table in the hallway off the drawing room belonged to Douglas' mother; a Turneresque landscape, which hangs in the drawing room, was painted by Lucy Birchby's grandmother in the late 1800s; a silver snuffbox in the drawing room was given to Edward Brown, an ancestor of Douglas Birchby's, who represented the English Crown in Newfoundland. Brown looks out from a painting of him that is on the wall in the drawing room. The formal oil portrait of a gentleman that hangs above the library fireplace is of Col. Williams, who was Gen. Burgoyne's chief of staff during the American Revolutionary War. Williams, too, was a Birchby ancestor. Some of the rugs -- there are five in the drawing room, two in the library -- are antiques, some inherited, some bought. In the drawing room, two Caucasian Kazakhs lie alongside a Baluchi and a Bokhara. The recamier couch in the drawing room belonged to Thomas Johnson, who was elected Maryland's first governor in 1777. One of Johnson's heirs was a Birchby family friend.
The love seat in the drawing room was found in an antiqes shop in Silver Spring. The shop owner said it was sold, so the Birchbys bought another. But the "sold" loveseat didn't fit in the prospective buyer's house, and so, when it was found still for sale on a later visit, the Birchbys bought it.
Lucy Birchby has never been to Bloomingdale's. But who knows? She needs a pullout couch for guests in an upstairs bedroom. She may have to buy one -- new.