Erika Howsare



Cory Spencer Partners updated and transformed a Free Union property into a playground where owners and guests alike can play while surrounded by archetypal Albemarle scenery. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Come play: A horse farm gets a fun-loving update

It’s a luxury to imagine, then create, a playground—not only for children but for adults of many recreational persuasions. That is just what Brooke Spencer and her partner, Kim Cory, did at a Free Union property whose 97 rolling acres include mountain views, mature oak trees, and a spring-fed pond. Its present owners bought it […]

In a great location, this Earlysville brick ranch could use some updates. Photo: Max March

Refreshing the ’70s: Creating a better ranch in Earlysville Heights

In the heart of Earlysville sits a fine brick ranch at the end of a quiet cul-de-sac in the Earlysville Heights neighborhood. Fifteen minutes from Charlottesville and five minutes to Hollymead Town Center, this home currently features three bedrooms and one-and-a-half baths. We asked Troy Yancey of Teal Construction to give us his contractor’s expertise […]

Appliances and cabinets remained in this Belmont loft, but Formwork extended the kitchen's island to make an oversized, uninterrupted workspace with a dark gray quartz countertop. Photo: Scott Smith

The big picture: A condo goes oversize—and back to basics

Buying a condo might seem to be an exercise in ceding control—one has little prerogative to alter the building’s exterior, and a condo association has veto power over many other changes a homeowner might desire. Yet one resident of the Belmont Lofts, which were developed on a city brownfield near the railroad tracks in 2003, […]

A panoply of native species provides a changing symphony of color, texture, and scent. Photo: Bill Mauzy

At woods’ edge: A prime Albemarle property gets a light touch

It’s not always the case that a landscape design can actually encompass the entire landscape. But when a client owns 600 acres of woods and farmland, along with the headwaters of a small river, a landscape architect may find the opportunity to think on an ecosystem-wide scale. Waterstreet Studio had that chance at a bucolic […]

A Staunton company wanted architectural firm Shank & Gray to provide a connection to the outdoors from nearly every workstation. Photo: Philip Beaurline

Around the edges: Views light up a Staunton blade factory

Innovative companies may start in garages—or, in the case of one local concern, an old dairy building—but the successful ones will eventually need a proper home. Cadence is a Staunton company that manufacturers blades, needles, and other sharp components for medical instruments. Since its founding in 1985, it has graduated several times to larger workspaces. […]

Mossy Rock, Sue Sargeant's home, was designed by Bushman Dreyfus and built by Dammann Construction. Photo: Stephen Barling

Prairie home: A new home harkens back to big sky

Albemarle County and northwest Iowa wouldn’t seem to have much in common. The vast, table-flat spaces of the Midwest are utterly different than the private, wooded coves formed by Central Virginia’s endlessly rolling topography. But at Sue Sargeant’s home, Mossy Rock, the feel of her native Iowa is palpable. The house, designed by Bushman-Dreyfus and […]

"Landscape architecture was as important to me as the building," said Elizabeth Birdsall. Photo: Robert Radifera

Outer edges: A landscape unifies a modern complex

Time marches on! Last time ABODE visited Turkey Saddle—the Free Union home of Elizabeth Birdsall and Eric Young—it was 2008 and the house had just undergone a major renovation, led by local architecture firm Formwork. It was a serene, minimalist retreat, like a treehouse overlooking the Moormans River. Now, the vibe has changed a bit, […]

Remodeler sets his eye on a Free Union two-story. Photo: Christian Hommel

Make it your own: How to upgrade an oldie (but a goodie)  

Glenn Robertson, of Smith & Robertson, cast his remodeler’s eye on a Free Union two-story. Here are his ideas for bringing it up to date. 5315 Free Union Rd. $279,000 MLS# 516858 This home is worthy of a major remodeling project due to the excellent location and house site. The house is suffering from a […]

Daylight enters through ample windows at the new CFA Institute headquarters. Photo: Elli Williams

Strong Connections: At CFA, design puts people and places together

When Martha Jefferson Hospital relocated to Pantops Mountain in 2011, it left behind a neighborhood landmark whose history went back for decades. And when CFA Institute, an international organization headquartered in Charlottesville, made the building its own, it formed a closer relationship with the city where it was founded back in 1947. CFA, which awards […]

Photo courtesy Early Mountain Vineyards

Stay awhile: A winery finds a way to say ‘welcome’

Four years ago, a winery in Madison County was named Sweely Estate, it was facing foreclosure, and its 18,000-square-foot visitors’ facility was decorated in a dark French chateau style. Today, it’s called Early Mountain Vineyards, it has new owners, and the tasting room is light and bright. All in all, a hopeful change. Current owners […]

Photo by Dan Addison

Living in history: At UVA, residing on the Lawn is a unique privilege

It’s easy to say that occupying a pavilion in UVA’s Academical Village is akin to living in a museum. Which is true: The 10 pavilions, 54 student rooms, Rotunda, and surrounding grounds—in their totality, a UNESCO World Heritage Site—are dripping with significance. Every brick, every timeworn doorstep, and every garden bench is documented and preserved. […]

The Gardens at The University of Virginia on Easter Sunday. Photo by Eric Kelley

Secret gardens: UVA’s pavilion gardens harbor history

Here’s a fairly well-kept secret about Charlottesville: If you walk uninvited into one of the gardens just off UVA’s Lawn, in the Academical Village, you will not be breaking any rules. They are open to the public. You wouldn’t necessarily know this, because the gardens are surrounded by Thomas Jefferson’s famous serpentine walls; the design […]

Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Mix and match: An all-new kitchen (with the same old cabinets)

Usually, when tackling a kitchen renovation, homeowners and contractors assume that the first step is to gut the old kitchen. But not always. Last year, Todd Buck and his team at Weston Construction completed a kitchen redo that left nearly all the existing cabinetry in place—and yet completely updated the space. The house, built in 2005 in […]

Blue Moon Fund employees travel from the parking lot along a "spine," or boardwalk, to the courtyard just behind the building. Along the way, they see a grove of river birch trees, a small meadow planted with native species, and perennial beds. Photo: Eric Piasecki/OTTO

Outside chances: At Blue Moon Fund, a landscape ups the ante

It was none too inspiring—just a paved area behind a Downtown house-turned-office. But the people behind the Blue Moon Fund, a philanthropic organization that occupies the building, had a vision for their outdoor space that went far beyond simply sprucing up the spot where they park their cars. “They approached us to create a progressive landscape,” […]

Photo: Amy Benoit

Rough as silk: A city studio shows off its true character

Think of history in Charlottesville, and you might think first of Court Square, Monticello, and other seats of power. But the city has an industrial past, too, and it’s still visible in places like the Silk Mill Building, an 1898 factory whose brick façade is tucked behind the Preston Avenue Bodo’s. Eighteen years ago—after stints […]

The wall between the kitchen and dining room was removed and replaced with a walnut-topped breakfast bar. Photo: Christian Hommel

More ranch, please: A house grows inside its old footprint

It was a familiar Charlottesville story. The house, a 1960s ranch, boasted a great location near Downtown, but its outdated floor plan needed to be modernized. “It was a lot of square footage but didn’t seem like it when you walked in,” said Scott Abbott, owner of Abbott & Co. General Contractors. “It was your […]

The home, built in 1988, has gained a garage with a garret apartment and a one-bedroom B&B in a converted shed in recent years. Designed so there's no opportunity for segregation, the 16'-wide home has no den, family room, or kids' room. One end of the long, flexible space is organized around a fireplace. Photo: Stephen Barling

Through the years: With the family grown, a home evolves

As children grow up, change is a constant. So it’s appropriate that their surroundings would continually evolve along with them. In the case of Kirk and Cathy Train, the process of raising two children has been intertwined with the process of building, rethinking and rebuilding their house. “Buildings and houses are living fabric,” said Kirk, […]

The spacious porch, a custom-built frame of Spanish cedar, is flanked by two bluestone patios and walls of Pennsylvania fieldstone. Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Big screen: Two walls make a porch for three seasons

Upgrading a stoop to a screened porch is roughly like trading a cot for a California king: It really does make your life better. The owners of one 1940s-era house in Charlottesville knew they’d reap many benefits from investing in the outdoor space behind their home. Justin Heiser of the design-build firm STOA said it […]

Photo: Christian Hommel

Getting the look: A postwar kitchen joins the new century

When Jon and Lauren Thompson bought their Rugby neighborhood house three years ago, it was more than 60 years old and “in need of significant updates” throughout, said Jon. “The kitchen was the low-hanging fruit.” Besides aqua-hued formica countertops and a “gross” linoleum floor, the old kitchen suffered from layout problems. An exterior door to […]