One thing that's kind of cool about living in Old Town Alexandria for as long as we have, and the fact that we've made a habit of visiting open houses for the whole time we've lived here, is that we're starting to see a lot of houses that we've previously toured come back on the market for the second or third time. This means we have the unique opportunity to see how people decorate, arrange, and even renovate their spaces. It's amazing how different the same place can look, even without major renovations, and it's completely dependent on the personality of the home's owners (or in some cases, the style of the home's stagers).
Last weekend we toured a beautiful home in the very old section of Old Town, and it's actually the second time we've been able to see the inside of this home. We weren't only paying attention to the home, but we were also paying attention to how the home had changed since we had last gone through.
The house is a large white brick federal home built in 1845 with three stories and lots of large windows. The photo of the front just doesn't do it justice because the trees hide a lot of the windows -- 28 to be exact.
When you walk into the entry hall your first view is not of the typical stairs, but rather a long hallway with a formal room with fireplace off to the right.
This configuration is one of the few of this kind that we've seen around Old Town, and it's somewhat unexpected. The living room has windows in the the front and rear of the room, so it has very good light. But since the entrance is only through the single doorway, the room is sort of cut off from the rest of the house. it definitely makes the configuration feel like an old home, but it's not the most functional setup.
Down the hall and a slight jog to the right you find yourself at the main central and winding stairs of the house. The newel post and handrail are quite simple and really show the charm and age of the home. The current owners installed a solid blue stair runner over the original treads. This is the first change we really noticed from our previous tour.
The rear portion of the first floor consists of a nicely sized dining room with salvaged wide plank flooring...
...followed by a powder room, washer and dryer, and a room that is split in half with one side as a narrow galley kitchen and the other side a small family room.
Wendy and I talked through several "what would we do?" scenarios with this area. It seems like a space that can be used in a more efficient manner, but the question is "how?"
We carried on our conversation there in the middle of the open house. "What if you take out this wall, open up the space, create an island with stools, put a couch over on the back wall, move the fridge, close in that door by the fridge and install the cooktop over there, then put the fridge back where he back door is?" We don't own the place, not do we have any plans on making an offer, but we just like to play the game and see what we can come up with. We're such nerds.
It's a difficult space that I know can be done in a very cool and useful way, but how? Any ideas?
Heading up the windy stairs to the second floor you fine two very nicely sized bedrooms.
Towards the front of the house is the master suite with a fireplace and three large windows. The room is bright and comfortable and looks out on neighbor's homes and the tree lined street.
The floors throughout the house range from original heart pine to wide plank period wood floors. It's all very nicely done and very interesting. Many of the rooms also have original or period door knobs and locks. In the case of this one, a felt pad was applied to the back as a door stopper. This is an easily corrected detail.
The rear of the second floor has a second bedroom, also with a fireplace, as well as a full bath and pass-through room. This is perfect for a guest area that you can close off when people are visiting, but can remain a very usable space when vacant.
To us, a guest area that can be truly separate is an amenity that guests absolutely enjoy. We don't have that and I doubt we ever will in our house.
From our prior tour we remembered this back room decorated for two little girls in lots of bright pinks and greens. The ceiling had evidence of water damage, but otherwise it seemed to be a great space for sisters. Now the room is far more neutral, water damage repaired, and is set up as an office.
Back to the stairs and up to the third floor, you get my absolute favorite view of the house. The configuration of the stairs leave a gap in the middle with a great view down all three floors.
Just look at the floors, patina on the railing, and wonderful natural light in that shot. It really captures the best of this house.
The third floor has a very nice bedroom up front that also has a small full bath.
Again, plenty of windows and light in this room make it feel open and airy. The room also has some built-in cabinets on the side that are giving us a bit of a very rough idea of how our master bathroom's built-ins might look.
And the original floors give a feeling of warmth and charm.
The backyard of the home is surprisingly secluded and spacious. The home backs up to a church parking lot, but a large magnolia and brick walls make the house's yard feel far more secluded than it actually is. It's a nice space with plenty of room for entertaining and relaxing.
The basement is only partial and accessible from the outside, sadly we didn't have a chance to venture down there.
Overall, this home is in an absolute ideal location, has plenty of room with great light throughout, and has a tremendous amount of history and original detail to make it a one of a kind. Though the floor plan is a bit chopped up, you still have a define space for living, dining, kitchen, and family.
And now for our game...
Would you trade?
Alex: I'm completely conflicted. It's location is ideal, age is great, features are plenty, and I should want to trade, but I don't think I would. No basement and a backyard that's not large enough for a building of some sort means no wood shop area. Situated near a parking lot may mean lots of hassle when the church is busy, but it may mean lots of extra parking at other times. And the difficulty of the kitchen and family layout is both a cause for concern, but a potentially fun and welcome challenge. So I'm going to have to go with a "No" on the would you trade, but I'm still not totally convinced that I actually wouldn't trade. How odd is that response?
Wendy: Dunno. I suppose if we had (human) children, the answer would be a resounding yes, as the number and size of the bedrooms far surpasses what we have. I also really love the outdoor space, the gorgeous Christmas staircase, the curb appeal, and the location. But like Alex, I'm a bit hung up on the odd flow of the first floor, the cramped kitchen, and the lack of attached basement. If I had to make the decision today, thinking about how we like to entertain and how important cohesive flow of rooms and a spacious kitchen are, I'd have to say no.
If you'd like to see additional details, they are available on the home's official listing page.
Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade"? Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.
Photo Credits: Washington Fine Properties LLC and listing agent, Mark McFadden, where MRIS is noted.