Inspired by Whistler: After Peacock Room

Walking into After Peacock Room is like opening an elegant coffee table book and spending an afternoon in its glossy pages. The location, a former consignment shop, has metamorphosed into a delightful teahouse and fine-dining café. With its gilded industrial hardware, crystal chandeliers, plush blue benches and peacock-colored walls, it is both cozy and hip.

The aesthetic of After Peacock Room is inspired by James McNeill Whistler’s “Harmony in Blue and Gold: The Peacock Room,” created in 1877 for wealthy English shipowner Frederick Richards Leyland. Whistler’s work was purchased by Charles Lang Freer and later installed in the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery on the Mall, where it remains today.

Heewon Ra is the lady behind After Peacock Room. The Korean beauty, who has lived in D.C. since 2001, remembers the first time she saw the Peacock Room at the Freer Gallery more than ten years ago. That moment would spark a sense of wonderment that would flower years later in her first venture into the restaurant business.

Prior to opening, Ra’s love of art and interior design drew her to a curatorial internship at the Hirshhorn Museum and to studies at the Corcoran College of Art and Design. After graduating, she spent time in Paris, where she fell in love with Mariage Frères, the famed teahouse in her Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood.

Upon returning to D.C., she dreamed about creating something similar to Mariage Frères, and Georgetown, with its pretty homes and European feel, seemed like just the place. “My goal was to provide excellent food and service in a nice ambiance,” she said. Inspired by the beautiful Prussian blues, deep greens and gold that come alive in Whistler’s work, After Peacock Room serves as a contemporary interpretation of the classic.

The quaint size of the teahouse is part of its appeal. In 2011, Ra snatched up the building on 27th and P. She began construction in 2013, and by 2014 After Peacock Room was in business. Along with being her first restaurant, the space was also her first interior-design project, and the outcome is a tribute to her talent. The interior walls, which are canvas, are layered in oil paint in hues of sea green and midnight blue that come alive at night.

The dining room in the back, called the Hawthorn Flower Room, is inspired by Leyland’s collection of blue and white porcelain; the walls are painted with gold flowers. Rockville-based woodworker Jed Dinger made the communal dining tables, and the black bistro chairs that accent them were freshened with brushstrokes of gold paint, which Ra added herself.

After Peacock Room was closed from June to November while the kitchen was updated and the wine-and-beer license was pending. During that period, the decision was made to transition from a full teahouse to a daytime tea-and-coffee destination with a fine-dining dinner component. Chef Nick Sharpe, who worked under the acclaimed Michael Mina in San Francisco, now helms the kitchen. The menu features the best of seasonal tastes.

On Sundays, After Peacock Room offers takeout coffee service from 9 to noon, with the proceeds donated to local charities.
Ra looks forward to growing the restaurant’s dinner business and being able to host small private parties. For now, though, she is focused on sustaining a unique teahouse and an elegant dining experience in the neighborhood.

After Peacock Room is located at 2622 P. St. NW.

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