REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- In the clover: Uninspiring exterior hides surprises


ADDRESS: 575 Eyre Road, Clover Hills

NEIGHBORHOOD: Earlysville in Albemarle County

ASKING: $399,000

ASSESSMENT: $194,500


SIZE:  2,008 fin. sq. ft., 640 unfin.

LAND: 1.89 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10

LISTED BY: Andrea Gruber, Real Estate III 823-8100

Alexander Pope noticed that a little learning is a dangerous thing, but as far as we know he wasn't talking about developers. However, his observation certainly could apply to these parts, where large numbers of  ambitious remodelers– of little learning or much– are buying up properties, putting their "skills" to work upgrading them, and then moving on to greener pastures, perhaps to start the process all over again.

When the learning or skills are limited, the results can be less than felicitous. Recently, we reviewed a house downtown that had been given the treatment, and the outcome, starting with all new plastic windows, left much to be desired.

By contrast, this relatively nondescript place a little way beyond the reservoir off Earlysville Road has been subjected to a massive makeover, but by a young contractor who seems to know his stuff– and who has good taste– and the result is quite different.

The owner, who did all the work himself, says that– except for the master bedroom (which has the original paneled walls, now painted blue)– he gutted the interior to the studs and built everything back with high quality materials: ash hardwood floors in the living and dining rooms, slate foyer and entrance hall, stone fireplace, new tile kitchen counters and bar, and new bathrooms. One inspired touch is high, bright-white wainscoting lining the entryway and central hall, topped with pigeon-blood red paint– a striking element inside an unexceptional country house of no identifiable design.

The basic plan of the house is a modified "T" shape: a big open living/kitchen area with bedrooms tucked off a long hall. The paneled master bedroom has a private bath, and the other two smallish bedrooms share the full bath off the central hall. All those rooms are carpeted and have reasonable-sized closets with sliding doors.

In the living area, sliding doors on either side of the fireplace open to the deck, and at the other end of the big room, in the dining area beside the kitchen, a neat little roll-out pantry and built-in wine storage racks complement lots of open shelving. The effect is classier than one would expect driving up.

The kitchen is big enough to be practical– and the fact that it's completely open to the living space makes it seem even larger. A new black sink under a casement window with views to the lawn is another classy surprise. A utility room off the kitchen houses the washer/dryer, the back door, and stairs to the full utility basement. 

Other design decisions also do their part to compensate for the basic vanilla of the original place. A huge (400 sq. ft.) screened porch (with one wall of jalousie windows) looks like an inviting place to spend summer evenings– a pleasant way to enjoy the spacious tree-dappled lawn without being eaten alive by mosquitoes. Decking off the living room also provides access to the yard, and there's even a little stoop-like thing outside a door to the master bedroom. While its use is a bit murky, who will complain about an extra entrance door?

Everything is new: Pella windows throughout, Jennair stove, Hardiplank exterior, 30-year roof, electrical system, plumbing, and heat pump/AC.  So potential buyers can overlook the fact that the place was built in 1974– it seems the basement and the framing are the only remnants of the original structure.

A new utility building behind the house is big enough to double as a one-car garage, and the front has been landscaped with a little patio and some plantings. Most of the property is lawn, however, so buyers better resign themselves to long summer afternoons on (or behind) a mower– or get the name of a lawn service when they sign the contract.

If the asking price seems a bit steep for a pretty nondescript house, one must remember the almost two level (cleared) acres in a highly desirable part of the county– only eight minutes from town by our count– and the fact that everything in the house is new.

So a house shopper might consider it a happy compromise: all the benefits of a new house, but on a private lot instead of in a predictable subdivision, and with some of the charm of (a few) days gone by. 

After all, a little rationalization isn't such a dangerous thing.