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the Old Town home: the As & Bs

Updated: Dec 8, 2022


Painting by Betsy Grady

My husband and I were engaged in November 2014, we bought this little gem in historic Old Town Alexandria, Virginia in January 2015 and we were married in April the same year. Needless to say, we know what we want when we see it.


When we started looking for our first home, we poked around Redfin for several months to feel out the market. While there was plenty of inventory in the “DMV” (DC/Maryland/Virginia for those of you not from the area), it was challenging to find what we wanted within what we believed to be a realistic price point for a first-time home buyer. The cost of housing led us to Old Town Alexandria- a walkable, quaint little downtown just outside of Washington, DC full of charm, history, access to Metro, and just a mile down the road from the Crossfit gym where we met.


We called our realtor and asked for a tour of the house (the only house we toured). The house seemed to have great bones (100-year-old bones as a matter of fact) and was updated enough that we could renovate rooms (or as I like to say “add value”) if we wanted to but no immediate work was required. We also didn’t have a ton of money to dump into renovations once we paid the down payment and added furniture, so this checked a lot of boxes for us. We put in an offer right just shy of asking and the buyer accepted with minimal back and forth.


We made some cosmetic improvements over the years: mostly paint (interior and exterior), added a backsplash to the kitchen, and installed pavers to the backyard. When we found out that we were going to be expecting our first child in October 2019, we decided it was time to make a move so my mother-in-law could come help us with the new baby after he was born.


We made a couple of touch-ups around the house, decluttered as much as we could by moving items to our storage unit down the street, put our house on the market and left town to go skiing for a few days out West.


Our house received 8 offers and sold $50K over asking in March 2019. We saw a 20% increase in sale price from when we bought the house in February 2015 to when we sold the house in March 2019. The HPI increased 12.6% during the same time period, which means our house merited an additional 7% over the market. I know some of this had to do with our timing and the limited inventory, but I can’t help but think that the home decor didn't have something to do with it.


From my experience, there are a couple of important elements to keep in mind when decorating your house and its marketability (if and when you’re ready to sell):

1) Routine maintenance- keep up with the maintenance on your house- it’s better to make small improvements overtime, than to have to play catch-up down the road

2) Maximize the use of each space in your house- one of the biggest improvements we made was leveling and adding pavers to the little courtyard between the house and the patio. We added conversation furniture and essentially turned this space into an additional 200 SF of usable space to our 1,400 SF house

3) Furniture layout and scale- this is SO important, particularly in a 12’ wide x 100’ long row home. We maxxed out every inch of this house to make sure each space had a purpose and typically, multiple functions

4) Home décor style that makes a person think “I could see myself ”


I believe that home décor, while pretty, is an investment in one of your most valued assets. I also believe that buying nice jewelry is like being able to wear your savings account. The money is just going to sit in the bank so you may as well be able to look at it and enjoy it (have it sit on your hand or in your ears). And if you need the money one day (and invested wisely)… you should be able to reasonably cash out. I digress…


My point is invest in your home décor ("decorvest"). Make smart improvements to your home. Make it functional, but also make it pretty, so you can enjoy your house while you live in it, and feel confident that your "decorvestment" will be money well spent in the long run.




THE AFTERS & BEFORES (THE As & Bs)

Here are some pictures from the listing of our house when we bought it back in 2015 to when we sold it in 2019 along with descriptions of some of the improvements we made over the years.



THE EXTERIOR

When we moved into this house, one of the first things we did was we repainted the exterior, removed the outdated storm windows and replaced them with new screens, and upgraded the storm door to add some curb appeal. Simple changes with a big impact.


PAINT COLORS: Exterior- BM Swiss Coffee, Trim- BM Dove White, Front Door- Green (I can't remember the name of the paint color), Shutters- BM Onyx



THE KITCHEN

The kitchen was renovated back in 2006 so not new, but not terribly old either. We wanted the house to feel a little brighter and with a touch of urban charm. As such, we repainted the kitchen, installed basic white subway tile to the ceiling, replaced the door hardware, and replaced the back "doggy door" with a fully paned French door to allow more light to come into the house.

PAINT COLORS: Walls- BM Edgecomb Gray


THE FAMILY ROOM

The biggest change we made to this space was maximizing the functionality and flexibility of the space by installing a TV over the fireplace, adding a sleeper sofa, and adding seating for when we had guests. The back portion of the room served as our foyer, wine storage and additional seating (either for the family room or dining room depending on the need).

PAINT COLOR: Walls- BM Linen White (very hard to tell from the way this room was photographed)


THE DINING ROOM

Again, small changes, but maximizing the use and functionality of this space was the name of the game. We repainted this room to make it a little brighter and made sure the paint color we chose tied the first floor together. We were able to seat 8 people in this tiny space when needed (which happened more often than not). Scale of the furniture and the light fixture were critical in making this space feel usable but not overcrowded. The neutral palette also allowed for ultimate flexibility when it came to tablescape.

PAINT COLOR: Walls- BM Revere Pewter


THE PRIMARY BEDROOM

Window treatments go a long way in softening and elevating any master bedroom. We repainted this room as well, with a gray/blue color. A comprehensive furniture plan and bedding brought the room together.

PAINT COLOR: Walls- BM Smoke (came out much more blue than gray)
BEDDING, WINDOW TREATMENTS, FURNITURE: Pottery Barn (mostly)


THE GUEST BEDROOM

A fresh coat of paint and comprehensive bedding and furniture gave this space a nice overhaul.

PAINT COLOR: Walls- BM Linen White (very hard to tell from the way this room was photographed)


THE PATIO

This was hands down my favorite room "in" the house. When we bought the house in 2015, this area was incredibly challenged with a 3-foot-wide tree stump on the far-right side of the yard encroaching on the walkway from door to door, and multiple levels with multiple surfaces (mulch, pavers, and steps). We had the entire "courtyard" leveled and installed Pennsylvania bluestone throughout, allowing us to utilize the entire backyard rather than just sections as shown in the before pictures. In the warmer months, we would replace the coffee table with a firepit and place a TV on the console for the ultimate football viewing environment. This backyard holds some of our fondest memories and was the best investment we made in this house.

PHOTOGRAPHY BrightMLS













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