Artful Innovation In The Village

A Visit to Duvall Designs Gallery

by Jennifer Lee

Contemporary art and modern furniture displayed in a cabin over two centuries old creates a distinctive congruence of form and function at the Duvall Designs Gallery in Millwood. Husband and wife Jay and Peggy Duvall opened the gallery in September 2012, and in just a year it has become a destination for local artists, tourists from the city, and people who love fine art in a relaxed, historic setting.

Sitting next to Locke Store, the building has been dated to 1805 according to dendrochronology (or tree ring) studies conducted in 2005 by owners Matthew and Juliet Mackay-Smith when they restored the building. The application submitted by architectural historian Maral Kalbian for the Millwood Commercial Historic District’s inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places states that, based on historical and architectural evidence, the small log building was a “buttery” or storage space for liquors. It was certainly part of Millwood’s 19th-century “industrial complex,” which included the Burwell-Morgan Mill, a tannery, and, by the 1830s, the store.

Clarke County resident, master woodworker, and homebuilder Jay Duvall says he had many conversations with the Mackay-Smiths about the building over the years. they all wanted to see it fixed up and a porch added to the front. Meanwhile, Duvall was making more and more of his handcrafted furniture from reclaimed wood, and needed a place to display and sell it. So, last summer he began applying his building and restoration skills to the old cabin, where he did everything at cost in exchange for rent. A beautifully restored cabin with exposed interior logs and a wide front porch welcomed its first customers in many decades last September.

One will find tables, chairs, benches, serving boards, and coffee tables made by Duvall in the cozy gallery. He crafts these from wood that has been salvaged from storm-damaged trees: “Odd bits that aren’t useful for production furniture,” explained Duvall. Walnut, cherry, and oak are the predominant woods utilized. “Walnut is my favorite,” he said. “I like the texture, the color, the high contrast grain between the sapwood (light) and the heartwood (dark).”

Interestingly, the imperfections in the wood are what inspire the piece it will become. A certain arrangement of knots or burls or rotted portions determine both form and function, and lend a degree of personality not seen in most furnishings. Adding even more zing, Duvall often incorporates stone and metal into his pieces, giving them a modern art feel that encapsulates the theme of the gallery: old charm and sophistication meets contemporary artistry.

Peggy Duvall brings the feminine, bright touch to the space, in both ambiance and presentation. Owner and operator of Twisted Oak Flower Farm, her artistry extends to design and a keen appreciation of art.

Both she and Jay wanted to create a space that not only showcased his furniture, but gave artists exposure and customers more diversity. Though the furniture commands most of the space, about 75 percent of the gallery’s offerings are paintings, sculpture, ceramics, photography, and fine woodworking made by local artists. Pieces from between two and four artists are available at any one time, with the inventory rotating on an almost monthly basis.

During August and September, abstract dimensional art by Mercedes Kerr Stainken, wood sculptures by Gary Smith, ceramics by Barbara Allen, and abstract landscape paintings by Donna Clark will be on view, in addition to several grand and petite furniture pieces of Duvall’s. Jill Garity, Todd Phillips, Katya Kirilloff, and Peter Wood will be showing works this fall.

Peggy and Jay agree that the most satisfying part of the business is meeting the people—artists and customers—that have participated in or visited the gallery. “I also love seeing the ‘WOW!’ reaction people have to Jay’s furniture,” Peggy said. “It’s like people’s reaction to the food at Locke Store. It’s all very personal. There is a strong connection between the art, the artist, and the region. My kids’ generation is starting to recognize the value of locally produced goods, too.”

The Duvalls say that nearly half of their customers are from inside the Beltway, folks from Washington, D.C., who are looking for a respite from the city while seeking quality, one-of-a-kind products that can’t be found at Pottery Barn or Restoration Hardware. The Duvalls would like to create a community rack card that promotes other businesses in the village—Locke Store, the Mill, neighboring antique shops. They want to encourage more people to venture out and make Millwood a tourist destination, helping locals make a living.

The history, bucolic beauty, and quaint charm of this Clarke County crossroad are enhanced by the good food and wine, eclectic antiques, and personal and community endeavors found here. And where else can you find fine furniture and art in a sunny old cabin with a Jack Russell greeter and Cat Stevens playing softly on the stereo?

Duvall Designs Gallery is located at 2053 Millwood Road in Millwood, and is open Friday through Sunday from noon till 5pm. For information on the gallery and upcoming exhibitions, visit or call 540-336-9632.