My Ship in the Night

10 Aug 2015
In my last post, I mentioned that we were interested in a couple of different types of homes/ways of life- the dream home rehab- saving a tear down!!- on acreage in a not-so-convenient location vs. some sort of more "normal" house that wouldn't necessarily really be my style, but in a more convenient location with much less land...  

And I wrote about finding a listing that I was completely OBSESSED with.  It's listed as a tear-down, though the description mentioned renovating and is for sale as "lot/ land."  It literally stopped me in my tracks.  After seeing it in person, I can say that there is something so incredible about this house and that it speaks to my soul.  It has a palpable mood and you can see that it was once so beautiful and full of life...  (It still is beautiful, but it's more of that "beautiful ruin" type thing... More of a Grey Gardens allure.)  It's got such presence,  It's like those great books or movies in which the sense of place is so strong it's almost like it's another character in the story.... I can't quite put it into words. The listing said the property was bought in 1968 and that the house was built in 1974.   The owners and their architect had some serious vision and creativity.  It looks like it was once a great party house and I imagined hosting holidays and events and dinner parties there...  with lights and tents and flowers and music... (Not really my life at all- but I was somehow going to do it & love it!!) 

Anyway, we drove home from the beach and immediately went to check out a few places and, of course, had to stop there first.  

{The exterior design is perfect to me.  I love the proportions and the modern-yet-ancient vibe.}

Vines grow over the stucco and it's got this sort of crumbling, decaying beauty about it.  The stucco has been badly damaged by water and vines, the roof is rotted, and there's a lot of mold.  I love the Juliette balconies which are on every sliding door throughout the house.



{The view from a side deck, which also has a greenhouse/sunroom on it.}


  From the photos, we could tell that it would take a LOT- time, work, and money- to bring the house up to date in terms of what we as a family would need and also in terms of what would be expected of a house nowadays- more bedrooms & a garage for the price point, new kitchen & baths, floors, and of course, would need to be structurally sound.  We calculated what we thought it might cost to get it livable for us if everything was worst-case scenario-  meaning, basically using the structure as a shell and redoing every single thing/ basically building new- and it wasn't an option for us but decided we needed to check it out in person to see what the real deal was, because just MAYBE we could make it work if the owners were willing to majorly negotiate on the asking price and the damage to the house wasn't as far progressed as it seemed.   So, when we visited, my heart did go pitter patter.   

A rooftop terrace spans the entire width of the house and overlooks gorgeous Virginia forest land:




{I imagined outdoors sofas and a massive rooftop vegetable garden.  How fun would hanging here be?!!!  A spiral staircase leads up to the roof from inside.}


The back of the house overlooks a filled in pool, which now makes the perfect patio/ dance floor during parties.  


{The view of the back yard from the rooftop}

This photo was taken from standing on the patio looking back up at the house:


{We could have kids' weddings here!!}

Here is the view from the back of the house looking out/down:


{I imagined how breathtaking this must have been when it was manicured and the urns were filled and the fountain was going}

The gardens have gone wild and I love them.  Someone once had great vision for this place.  (and a green thumb I suspect ;)  I could picture us living here and it just had this mysterious beauty about it.  It feels like the house has seen a lot.  I felt like maybe I was meant to find this place.  



{The back of the kitchen walks out under an awning (below) which I really loved and imagined in black and white.  (This is the area that overlooks the filled in pool/ patio.)  I had decided that the awning would probably have to go, though, so that the entire back wall of the kitchen could become lass- and doors over looking the patio/ forest because I would need more sunlight in the kitchen..}  

We continued around the house to the side and walked up to the side deck, where it's rotted over the years...



The stairs lead down into the prettiest forest.  A greenhouse off the dining room is on this side of the house:


{this photo was taken from the dining room looking out at the greenhouse and deck.  The entire things was rotted and would need to be replaced.}

Walking down the long stairs into the woods, we neared the walk-out basement entrance and we could hear soft classical music playing from behind the glass.  (We felt like we were in a movie.)  As we looked into the woods we could spy a structure in the clearing at the base of the hill...  As you continue down the hill you can see that it is, no joke, a CASTLE surrounded by a moat:


{A true once-operable (maybe still operable??) drawbridge leads you to a child-sized stucco castle.  It's got multiple rooms inside of it and is two stories that lead up to a third story lookout area in the tallest turret. The little shutters you see inside behind the chairs actually open to another room that looks like a mini mead hall or pub room with tables and chairs.  The green you see in the water looks like slime in the picture but it's actually tiny little pods covering the surprisingly clear water's surface.  A little froggy plunked into the water as we approached.  This place was made with love and by someone who really wanted something special for their kids.  I've never seen anything like it and my own kids won't let me forget about it.  {"We want the castle house!!") We heard through the grapevine- so not firsthand info and we can't be sure if it's true or not- that their were once pet caimans (they're a small type of crocodile!!)  living in the moat when the owner's children still lived at home.  I feel like there needs to be a book written about this house and its fascinating owners.  }   


Going back up to the house and around to the front...  the entrance and atrium is a-mazing:


{It looks as if the owners are still caring for the massive trees inside the house.  And the vines crawling up the stucco?!!  I love them!!!  Reminds me of Rose Tarlow's house. }


Here's the view from the front door:



{The door to the left of the solarium is the door to an office/library and the living room is to the right.  Steps lead from the sunken living room up to the dining room.  The dining room leads to the kitchen on the left, which is in the center back of the house, and the dining room opens to the greenhouse/ sunroom which walks out onto a deck overlooking the woods.} 


I love the flagstone and massive arched skylight above.  The living room sits to the right, where you see the original shag carpet.  Here is a view of the skylight from the upper level with a sun canopy above it:




When I looked in the living room, I realized that the house wasn't for us.  (Yep, believe it or not, it wasn't necessarily the signs of water damage to the stucco-both interior and exterior- and the rotting wood all over and the fact that it would indeed be completely over our budget that deterred me from wanting the house...  It was the size of the living room.  From the photos, I imagined it as a sizable space where the whole family would hang out, but it turns out that it's actually very narrow (only about 14' deep with a fireplace that juts into the room and steps that also jut into the room, making it somewhere around 9-10 feet wide, which when you add 3 feet of walking space to be able to move through the room, leaves very little available space for seating.  Settees of pairs of chairs would work, but, being a family of six, we need more than that, especially when we have people over.)   When I mentally calculated all of this out, I felt at once incredibly disappointed but also very relieved.  Disappointed, because I wanted it to work so badly, but relieved because I knew what an all-consuming and costly project this would be, and with the kids being so young, I don't want to feel like we're blinking away the time.  


Dave was walking around jaw-dropped.  He loved it too and was shocked when I told him we couldn't get what we needed/wanted out of it.  

...So, we moved on to check out a few other places and have found some promising options- we have an offer in on one of them right now.  (They're not anything like this place (tear) but I think they'll fit our needs better right now.  They're architecturally, mostly just very traditional/ "normal" so I would take my time getting the architectural details right and working to add charm and character.)  They excite me in that they're more practical and will be easier on a daily basis to live in, and I think we've found some choices that we can be really happy in, and I love the idea of getting the bones right and making something feel special... but this property was once in a lifetime.  And, we don't have the funds to add on additions for more space or anything like that to it.. Also, the proportions are just incredible so I would hate to mess with the exterior... But I truly hope SOMEONE who knows what they're doing does.  (And then I hope they hire me lol!!)  I would be so sad to see it be torn down...  And I won't forget this house.  I'm filing it all away, and it just may inspire a dream house of our own one day in the way way future.  I'm not sure where the current owners are or what they're up to, but I wish them the very best and think they created something truly special here and that it must have been an incredible home to grow up in...  Kind of magical. 

I'll keep you posted on our house hunt, and am truly loving bringing you along, but just as a quick FYI, I wanted to let you know that I won't be writing about or sharing photos of any specific properties until after we have moved on from them, and I won't be directly linking to listings or mentioning the names of the specific towns we're looking in.  We'd really like to keep our home address private/offline & hope you can understand that.  Wish me luck as we wait to hear if we got one of the houses we like!!



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