Erika Howsare

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 The house, a 1960s ranch, boasted a great location near Downtown, but its outdated floor plan needed to be modernized.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 […]

In the renovated Signature Financial office space on Water Street, the hallway provides "jewel-box views to the staff, while inviting shared sunlight into the hallway," said architect Maggie Schubert. Photo: Christian Hommel

Design that works: History lives in a modern workspace

There’s no architectural union more typically Charlottesville than the marriage of new and old. And the project of marrying a historical legacy to a fresh, modern sensibility isn’t limited to the residential world. At the Water Street offices of Signature, a financial management firm, past and present combine in an upscale office that honors its […]

Richard Bean. Photo: Ashley Twiggs

Remembering local farmer Richard Bean

Eleven years ago, in the spring, my friend Leslie told me she was going to an organic farm to interview for a job. She’d seen a flyer at Integral Yoga. Did I want to come too and maybe work with her? I asked how much it paid. Five bucks an hour, she said. I laughed […]

Photo: Robert Radifera

Make me a match: Color unifies a landscape

“I’m a firm believer in editing,” said landscape architect Anna Boeschenstein. On a project at a historic Free Union property, her tendency to omit the useless came in handy. The house dates to the 1700s and has received numerous additions since it was built, resulting in “all these disparate elements—house additions, patios, pergola, the pool […]

Photo: John Robinson

Learn as you go: One Albemarle homesteader does it himself

Ryan Williamson had never used a chainsaw when he began logging his own Earlysville homesite in 2005. And he was “always kind of scared of power tools,” but that didn’t stop him from building his own house and workshop the next year. To say Williamson has a can-do spirit doesn’t quite do him justice. He’s […]

Photo: Andrea Hubbell

Contempo casual: A modern house in the woods makes living easy

One advantage to moving around a lot? You figure out what you want. By the time Mark and Ellen Jackson approached Bushman Dreyfus Architects several years ago about designing a house, they’d lived in enough places—New Jersey, London, Chicago—to develop a detailed list of wants. These began with broad strokes: The house, destined to sit […]

“A lot of stuff is secret—you couldn’t see the hostas until a week ago,” said Jan Glennie-Smith during a late April visit. Photo: Lucy O Photo

The manor reborn: Belle Haven blooms through the seasons

“It hadn’t been touched for 50 years and was a beautiful disaster.” That was Belle Haven, Jan Glennie-Smith’s historic Scottsville estate, when she moved there 22 years ago. The house, built around 1880, overlooks the James River and anchors a sweeping tract of woods and fields. “I started just by uncovering the foundation gardens,” she […]

Photo: Justin Ide

Material world: A Valley house tells stories in wood

Behind Kelley and Susan Blanton’s home, outside Staunton, is a symbol of its new-meets-old spirit. In a juxtaposition of technologies from different eras, a large array of solar panels, propped on an angle, shelters a stack of firewood. The Blantons have a deep appreciation for what’s old: low-tech craftsmanship and natural materials. When they built […]

File photo.

Winter wonder: Color the cold with camellias

The camellia is an all-around surprising plant. First of all, this evergreen actually blooms in, of all seasons, winter. Autumn-flowering camellias bloom from November through mid-January. And while spring-blooming camellias aren’t supposed to put out flowers until March or April, “last winter and this winter they’re already blooming” by the third week of January, said […]

Photo: John Robinson

Tropical treat: A beginner’s guide to growing orchids

Fascinated with orchids? So is anyone with eyes, at this time of year when the world outside tends toward browns and grays. Orchids can bring a splash of tropical color and a certain joie de vivre to your indoor environment. Aren’t they hard to care for, though? Not necessarily, says Stephen Shifflett, co-owner of Floradise […]

The back of the Trowbridge house, renovated and updated by STOA Design and Construction, sports a deep overhand above the sliding doors to let winter sun into the dining room, but not summer glare. STOA designed terraces, delineated by steel borders, leading from the driveway to the back yard and patio. Photo: John Robinson

Little big house: Big update for a North Downtown Cape Cod

The remaking of one Charlottesville house is a study in contrasts. It was a modern addition to a traditional (though not very old) house. It didn’t change much about the original structure—except for turning it from a dark, unpleasant space into a light-filled and open home. It bumped up the house’s square footage considerably but […]

Photo: John Robinson

This month’s artisan: Brian Rayner, furniture maker

A regular on both the craft show circuit and local farmer’s markets—look for him at both the Nelson and Charlottesville City markets—Brian Rayner is a multifaceted artisan, creating both furniture and sculpture. If you want to see him in his native environment, find him on the Artisan Studio Tour. Check out or call him […]