Monday, January 31, 2011

The Photo That Cinched the Deal

As part of my email as to why we would make the perfect tenants for the home in Old Town, I attached the above photo. Who could resist this duo? Turns out, it wasn't the dogs that sold her but the carpet remnant under the iron plant stand that impressed her!! In any case, the house is ours, at least for a year.

I'm starting to get excited.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

You had me at the sidewalk

I know it has happened to you when you're house/condo/apartment shopping - you get that feeling when you walk in the front door, or maybe even before, when you're searching the Internet - that this is home. The house seems to call to you, "live here, be mine". I didn't expect that to happen yesterday while searching for our weekday home in Alexandria (VA). We were just hoping to find something decent, mostly commuter friendly that we could perch in Monday-Thursday.

We started in Parkfairfax as stated in my post yesterday. The first apartment is housing an adorable family of four that has been there for ten years. Not much has been done to it in that amount of time, except for amassing a large collection of house plants. I'm sure once they move out and a coat of paint is applied, it will be a cute place. But it wasn't speaking to me. There was a long walk from the parking lot to the front door, too, which makes schlepping groceries more of a chore than it already is. Okay, we'll keep it on the list but let's move on.

We popped into another model - this time a vacant one, thank goodness.
This condo had the same floor plan as the other and has had some updating over the years.
I love the patio and the Adirondack chairs. It would be easy to let the dogs out from this entrance.
The bath looks like it has the original tile and tub but the rest has been updated. I'm okay with that.
I like the wall of windows in the Living Room, the two colors of paint, not so much. I'd need a new paint job, for sure. There were nice wood blinds on the windows - bonus. These pictures were taken when things were still green - yesterday there was a good coating of snow on the ground. I guess I can see myself here, after some paint. Moving on....

We did a quick drive-by of the Fairlington condos. We weren't in love with the location of either so we headed into Old Town.
You had me at the sidewalk. The home pictured above is in a section of Old Town called Yates Gardens - town homes built in the 1930s. A closer look at the listing read "no pets". Yikes, how did this one slip through the filter? My old and dear friend, Liane, who is also my real estate agent, said she often can convince people to take pets - and was willing to go to bat for us. Meanwhile, I was trying not to fall in love. Too late.
The living room which takes up the entire second floor has windows on both sides of the room. You can see above the light streaming in. The fireplace is a bonus.
The kitchen and dining room are on the lower level along with a door out to the garden - yeah - letting dogs out at midnight won't be too hard.
Charm was oozing from every nook and cranny. Add to that the super location near the Safeway, the river, the bike trail, the restaurants, it is perfection.

This morning, back in Richmond, I wrote a lengthy email to my agent with all the reasons why they should pick us as their next tenants. I guess it depends on how much "no pets" means "NO PETS".

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A Bird in the Hand

So, Harry's company has asked him to come back to DC to become Chief Engineer at a huge project on the Potomac River. The contract here in Richmond only has about two years left in it, while the one in DC could go on forever, or at least until we want to retire. The bird in hand is the job in DC and the two in the bush are what we would do after the work in Richmond dries up. The non-practical side of me likes the two little birdies sitting in the bush but then the practical side takes over and says, "sure, I don't mind upheaval."

Off we go up I-95 today to look at condos in Alexandria, VA. The company is giving us a living allowance, for now, as we grapple with what to do with our lives in Richmond. The housing market has only gotten worse since we moved here, however, home prices in Alexandria seem to have held steady. Therefore, what we could afford there really pales in comparison to what we have here. Not too mention that we're not finished with the renovations here at Haven that would be necessary to put it on the market. So, we're not even going to entertain selling now as we love it here and are willing, for now, to hang around in DC during the week and trek back to Richmond on the weekend. That all may change as my patience for commuting is nil.

First stop today is a garden style condominium complex, Parkfairfax, near our old home in the City of Alexandria. In 1941, as the Federal Government grew rapidly in response to the Second World War, a housing shortage developed in the Washington area and President Roosevelt asked the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company of New York to develop housing near the Pentagon. The Company purchased 201.7 acres on the western edge of the City of Alexandria, for $282,150. Leonard Schultze and Associates of New York was the architect and Starrett Brothers and Eken, Inc. (builder of the Empire State Building) was the construction company. A total of 286 buildings were built containing 720 one bedroom, 863 two bedroom and 101 three bedroom apartments. The rental office was opened in May 1942 and the first tenants occupied units in October 1942. Metropolitan donated to the City of Alexandria approximately 5 acres and $50,000 for the building of Charles Barrett Elementary School. Among former residents of Parkfairfax are two Presidents of the United States, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Harry and my first home was in the same neighborhood as this condo complex so I know I can feel at home here.

Having two dogs really drives a lot of the decision making here. I don't want to live in a high rise and have to come down in an elevator at 6:00 a.m. to let them out. The neighborhood around here is great for walking and commuting to both of our jobs should (!) be fairly easy.

Parkfairfax also has several pools - I love to swim and have missed having easy access to an outdoor pool.

Next stop is Fairlington, a townhome complex in Arlington - in the same neck of the woods as Parkfairfax. Fairlington was also constructed as a garden apartment complex to house defense workers and their families during World War II. At the instigation of then President Franklin D. Roosevelt, it was designed by Kenneth Franzheim and associate architect Alan B. Mills. The project was intended to remain a permanent part of the community after the war's end. The first families began moving in during May 1943. By the end of that year, 2,415 apartments were available for occupancy. It remained a rental community until 1972 to 1977 when the units were renovated and sold as condominiums.With its tree-lined streets, proximity to Old Town and walkability, I think I can find a spot here, as well.

Finally, there is one apartment right in Old Town Alexandria that we'll see today. I like the idea of being in Old Town but I think parking and the lack of pool is going to drive me back to the other two options.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Take Back Your Bed

I was at the Washington Design Center yesterday in the Hines showroom and saw this photo which cracked me up. This mismatched pair reminded me of my two canine friends, a standard Poodle, Lion, and our welsh terrier, Harvey.

The ad is for Perennials Fabrics, a wonderful line of outdoor fabrics which we use for a lot of our client's who have pets and especially for places where fabrics can fade as they are resistant to UV damage. They have an amazing selection of colors and textures that one used to never be able to get in an outdoor fabric. Perennials also sells pet beds - you may want to invest in one if your pet will use it!!

I think it is too late to reclaim my bed. Actually, I like having them there. Harry would disagree. A recent Washington Post interview with a dog trainer stated that a dog in bed is "a sign the dog is completely in charge. Get the dog off your bed. It can make a bigger difference than anyone can imagine." Ahh, is that where I went wrong? I would love to have this wallpaper from Osborne and Little somewhere at Haven - again, Harry would probably have a problem with it.

This family not only reclaimed their bed, they stuck it outside. Poor Scotty - you can come live at my house.

You know these two are just posing for the camera - as soon as the photographer left they jumped up on that bed.

For your viewing pleasure on this cold and rainy day here are some shots of others in the same boat (bed).

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Next Door's Project - Part 2

Remember that photo from the previous posting on my neighbor's bath remodel showing the trim and the paint color? Did you notice that it was kind of dark? Well, that's because the painter decided that the bad track light had to come down so he could paint the ceiling. He said he was going to go get a work light but guess what, he never did. So, the painter and his assistant worked in the dark.

Today, the electrician showed up to hang the chandelier and guess what? The light shone on the shoddiest paint job in all of the years that I've known what a paint brush is. No one patched, sanded or skimmed. The contractor said "well, they were working in the dark, you know." How do you respond to that? So, today the painters are back. I would have fired their little arses but I'm not the contractor and for that I'm thankful. I feel awful for the homeowners who are being taken advantage of. I told them not to let them touch a brush to the wall paint until the walls and ceiling have been inspected. I have a feeling this isn't going to go well.

Update: the walls and trim look much better but now the homeowners don't like how the room has been laid out. The tub and toilet are practically kissing so, guess what? The plumbing is being redone so that the toilet and radiator swap homes. Up comes the tiled floor. It is difficult to know what to say. No drawings were done, the contractor just assumed that the original plumbing placements would be okay. I wanted to cry. So do the homeowners. Where were the plans? Where was the tape measure?

I think we could star in an episode of Holmes on Homes.

P.S. No building permits in site.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Winter Hiking

Late last week I heard on the news that in celebration of Martin Luther King Day all National Parks were going to be open and free to the public for the weekend That information, coupled with a weather prediction of sunny skies and a high temperature near 50 and I start dreaming of getting up to the Shenandoah National Park.

When the Haven on Hanover family lived in Northern Virginia we used to do a lot of hiking in the northern part of Shenandoah. Now that we're near the southern entrance we have a whole new set of hikes to explore.
Several years ago Harry found a Guide to the SNP on the internet. It is a very detailed and comprehensive guide to hiking in the park, divided into North, Central and Southern sections. We found a 5.3 mile circuit hike near the southern entrance. packed a lunch, camera and dog treats and the four of us (2 adults, 2 dogs) set off.

I love hiking in the winter - no crowds, no bugs, no snakes and the views of the mountains are so much more dramatic.

One of the first stops along the way was this grave site - I'm not sure we would have seen it had it been summer.
We wondered who William Howard was and why he wound up here all alone. I came home and googled his name - someone already did the research. Don't you just love the internet? Instant answers!

The hike then led steadily down hill (I couldn't stop thinking I was going to have to go uphill at some point, pay backs are hell) to a series of waterfalls all fighting to not freeze over.
This small waterfall was losing the battle.
Doyles waterfall, pictured above, looks like Old Man Winter to me. An angry Old Man Winter.

Years ago I read about a waterfall's affect on one's mood - Nature's Prozac. We sat down on the rocks and had our lunch here so that the negative ions could work their magic. I don't think I needed the boost as just being in the park was enough of a mood elevator. But why chance it? After a brief rest and lunch consumed we headed back up the mountain to where the trail intersects with the Appalachain Trail, otherwise known as the AT. If you don't know, the AT is the nation's longest marked footpath, at approximately 2,179 miles. Harry often dreams of making the entire trip. I say you'd better get started, time's a wasting. The section we were on was pretty easy - I thought about all the thru hikers who came before me. I could do it, yup, as long as there was a nice Bed and Breakfast at the end of each day.

As we were walking along, Lion, our poodle all of a sudden stopped dead in his tracks as if he'd seen, heard or smelled something. Having seen bears in the park before I started to think he was getting ready to protect us from a crazed bear coming out of hibernation. Harry laughed and said he thought the rock ahead of us was what was concerning him. Hah. Sure enough, our citified poodle got spooked by a rock. Poor thing, too many sidewalk hikes!! You can only imagine what seeing a bear would have done to this poor creature. Thankfully we didn't see any scary wildlife and only a few other humans.

I'm sure Martin Luther King would have approved of having the parks open in celebration of his life and work. It sure made me appreciate this little part of our great country and the efforts to preserve it.

Happy Hiking!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Here Comes The Decorator

My next door neighbors came over to Haven last Saturday in a panic as they had gotten started on bathroom renovations with a contractor and they felt like they had gotten in over their heads. I was only too happy to do a walk through and give them some advice and have now been hired to see the project through. These neighbors moved to the Fan about a year ahead of Harry and me, purchased a house that had been subdivided into two apartments, and have since brought it back to a single family home. The wife is a very talented watercolor artist, potter and gardener so therefore, has an eye for color and scale, but just has trouble verbalizing what she is seeking in the transformation of her space. Add to that a streak of sentimentality that has caused her to carry around her grandmother's claw foot tub for years looking for a permanent home.
Above is a magazine page (sorry, don't know from where) of inspiration for the Powder Room. The contractor was given this photograph to go off of and he got it mostly right but there were some issues. For one, the top piece of molding was supposed to be a shelf so that the wife could put some of her pottery around. So, they placed a 2 x 4 all around the room, notching out when they came to both sets of radiator pipes. That just had to go. They also had made the executive decision not to put in a vent fan and to put a down light right over the sink. Ugh. Not the right kind of lighting for a vanity. So, we made an appointment for me to meet the contractor on Monday morning so that we could go over the changes.

I got the feeling they weren't happy to see me. Their faces gave that away. I know they weren't happy to have to pull out work that they felt was finished. Sometimes I think contractors think that decorators don't know what they're doing - that we're just fluff.

So, forging ahead, I asked them to change the top piece of trim - or to rip it and rout it. I had convinced the wife to not clutter up the space with things on a shelf. Then I asked them to drywall over the ceiling can opening, make two openings for sconces over the sink and put in a vent fan. Then I asked them to drywall over the built in shelf that was on the opposite wall from the door. Silence. The husband told them that I was now the contact person. I thanked them all for being so flexible and understanding and asked them to call me when the first piece of trim had been changed. To make a long story short, they did what I asked, it looks great and when I went back over there late in the day the carpenter was singing. Phew.
Here is a shot I took with my iphone yesterday while the painters were taking their turn in the Powder Room. The tub is getting a new paint job and will get placed today. The walls are Benjamin Moore Silver Lake and the trim is Benjamin Moore Decorator White.

The ceiling is getting this little gem of a chandelier and the sconces, pictured below, are off being electrified and will be placed on either side of the Pottery Barn Mirror, in the brushed finish, shown (polished below the sconces.

It is fun having a project right next door - I can pop over several times a day to check progress or answer questions. This week a jacuzzi tub is being installed in the master bath - help is needed in deciding how to do the decking around the tub as well as the apron. More on that tomorrow.

Happy Martin Luther King Day.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The Lobby is Open

Harry got all excited last week when he was out in the Short Pump part of Richmond and saw a new store opening, Hobby Lobby. He thought it was going to be a model airplane kind of shop. One look in the window and he discovered he was wrong. He came home sounding very disappointed and it had the opposite effect on me. I made a mental note to get there as soon as I could. I had heard about Hobby Lobby from a neighborhood friend who has been eagerly awaiting the opening. She is from Texas and was very sad when she moved here and found out that there was no Hobby Lobby in Richmond. She even made pilgrimages to Fredericksburg on a regular basis to shop there and she was very excited about the shop opening here.

So today I ventured out to Pump land, as I call it, hoping that the crowds and traffic from the holidays had died down. Hobby Lobby shares a strip mall with Home Depot and Target so the crowds could be bad. I took my chances that the average Richmonder would be sleeping in and afraid to get on the roads as we had some snow last night. Lucky day - no traffic or crowds.

So, art friends, beading friends and decorating friends, a trip to the Lobby is well worth your time. The art supplies are varied and well organized. I didn't spend too much time in the beading aisle as the beading police are watching my every move. I was looking for pillow inserts and they had every size imaginable - even the large 18 x 36 that I'm looking to put on my Living Room sofa. I'll have to tell Harry that they do have a somewhat impressive model section. Michael's craft store has to be shaking in their boots. Hobby Lobby beats their selection hands down and also has home decor items that rival Home Goods. And it looks like they have regular coupons, too. Sorry, Michael's, my heart has been stolen away.

Happy Crafting!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

First Visit to The National

I'm embarrassed to admit that last night was my first ever visit to The National Theatre here in Richmond. Friends had purchased tickets to see Greg Allman and invited us along. I was never a huge Allman Brother's fan but Harry wanted to go so being game for just about anything these days I agreed to go. Gosh, we haven't gone out to a concert in the middle of the week in years - if ever. Back in the suburban days it was too hard to do it even on the weekends - the traffic, the crowds, the annoying fans, blah blah blah. But living in the Fan, you hop into your car at 7:00 for a 7:30 concert and you have time to park, grab a beer and find your seat. The concert was so much fun. We had seats about 10 rows back and could really see the musicians perform. No need for binoculars. There was a lot of talent on that stage last night.

The National is a music-lover’s fantasy land. They have a state-of-the-art V-DOSC sound system, only the sixth installed in the country and only the third installed on the East Coast There seemed to be a great view of the stage from anywhere in the venue. With wooden floors, brick walls, and seven full bars, the room’s clean design and sharp style I'd say it is one of the best concert halls I've been to. Another reason to love the River City.

I have to admit I don't know any of the other musicians coming to The National in the next month or so. I've been "out of it" musically for a while but plan to get up to speed this year. I don't want to turn into one of those people who can only listen to the music of their youth. Although, I have to admit I prefer it. It was strange to sit in a theater with lots of graying adults - I don't see us that way!!! Last month I stood in line for tickets to James Taylor (okay, yes, it is music from my youth) and was aghast to see all the old people in line.

That's enough blogging for one week. Off to D.C. for some real work and visiting old friends. Enjoy the rest of the week and weekend.

Happy Listening!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Governor of Salvage

The Richmond area has a plethora of salvage yards - a plus for those of us trying to renovate old homes. Last year we had some luck finding a door for an opening between two bedrooms in which the original door had been removed - at Caravati's. There were several doors to choose from and they made it so easy for us by taking the door to the paint stripper. After it had been stripped, and without too much trouble, Harry was able to hang the door so that the kids and the house guests at Thanksgiving had some privacy. Caravati's was also the source of a load of heart pine that the floor people needed when patching some bad spots during the first stage of the renovation.

Fast forward to the next project needing an old door. The laundry room, which in its previous life was a bunk room and before that a trunk room, had a very ugly hollow door, installed, I imagine when some previous owner removed the door with the transom (gasp) and installed the bunks.

Above is the bunk room as it looked when we purchased Haven.
In this shot you can see the hollow door still hanging after the room became our laundry room.

So, off we went, back to Caravati's, in search of a nicer door. The dimensions were funky so we weren't too hopeful. And, sure enough, no luck was had in finding the door.

I had read on another local blog,, about Governor's Salvage.

Words nor photos can accurately describe this place. Have you seen the t.v. show Hoarders? I can't really watch it as I'm fearful that I'm one tube of paint or roll of fabric from starring in an episode. Anyway, hoarding is a compulsive issue in which a person continues to obtain belongings and is unable to get rid of useless items. Even the most useless items that most people would describe as junk, is unable to be thrown away for the fear that it would be needed in the future. Well, in this case, it was moved out to a yard and has become a business. Very smart.

Wouldn't you try to sell one rusty bathtub before acquiring another? Maybe they all have different charms, I'm not sure as I didn't climb up to inspect further.
This old iron scrap is pretty.
Lots of statues scattered hither and yon.
Love all the old stained glass windows. I wondered about their previous lives.
Does anyone need an old wagon wheel? Might make a cool coffee table. Harry needs a metal shop. I'm a sucker for anything with a bird on it. But I was trying to stay focused.

Ah, finally, the doors. Eureka, we found several that would work and wound up with a 15 light door that didn't need more than a good sanding and a couple of coats of Benjamin Moore White Dove. We decided to go with a 15 light door so that the noise from the machines would stay inside the room but the light from the window could come through to the very dark back hallway. Harry is working on the base trim and I'm trying to decide what sort of storage to put above the counter and machines.

I like this look from Crown Point cabinetry. I wish I had a sink in there.

In my dreams I'm doing laundry and sewing at the same time with that gorgeous thread. Hah.

I need a trip to Ikea to check out their kitchen cabinets. Anyone have any suggestions?

Happy Laundering!!