Cottage character: Lots to love at an Ivy country place

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The area immediately around the house has obviously received lots of attention from a happy gardener, but carries no whiff of capital-D design. There's a homegrown feel to the perennial beds, stone walls and pea-gravel walks that lead to the main entrance. Photo: John Wade The area immediately around the house has obviously received lots of attention from a happy gardener, but carries no whiff of capital-D design. There’s a homegrown feel to the perennial beds, stone walls and pea-gravel walks that lead to the main entrance. Photo: John Wade

“The most interesting faces generally oscillate between charm and crookedness,” writes Alain de Botton in his Essays in Love. Replace “crookedness” with “quirkiness,” and you’ll have a fair description of why we’re drawn to this listing in Ivy: It it isn’t intimidatingly perfect. It’s lovely but not bland, and it feels real.

Sited at the end of a narrow gravel drive, the house sits midway up a gentle slope. It has space and trees buffering it on three sides; a privacy fence screens the view of a neighbor on the fourth. This isn’t total isolation, but there are five acres here on which to cavort, with most of that space comprised of parklike lawn.

We can see the property and its environs appealing to a few different kinds of buyers. Those who want space to garden, tinker or otherwise create will appreciate the acreage and the large two-story garage. Those who want convenience, but not a cookie-cutter home, might be attracted to the mixed housing stock in the neighborhood.

(It’s not hard to imagine the recent history of the Ivy area: an old, settled country place that has become home to more and more Charlottesville commuters. Murray Elementary School, right down the road, serves kids from humble cottages as well as from large new homes, and the growth of nearby Crozet provides a lot more of the suburban-style amenities than Ivy has ever seen in the past.)

Those who just want pretty views from the windows will be happy too, as long as they’re up for the maintenance involved in a house and yard this spacious. This is a bigger place than it seems from that modest entrance.

Photo: John Wade
Photo: John Wade

The first-floor master suite isn’t enormous, but it feels pleasantly open because of its many windows, high ceiling and a door that opens onto the deck. But if you turn right from the tile-floored foyer, you’ll find yourself in a space that is more than generous. What to call it? “Living room” doesn’t seem to cover it, since it includes two separate seating areas and a built-in desk. Whatever its name, this is the quirky room that lends the house its character.

The main oddity is simply the fact that a small seating area cozies up to the brick fireplace, but occupies a corner within the much more expansive room. A half-wall and some ceiling details suggest that it’s separate, but really it isn’t, and the remainder of the space would be challenging to furnish in a comfortable way. That’s not to say the job is impossible, just that a simple couch-and-coffee table arrangement probably won’t suffice.

Perhaps a solution lies in the adjoining kitchen, which is the room that most belies this house’s age. Nowadays nobody builds galley kitchens with one measly window that feel more like workplaces than hangout spots. Most buyers are going to be eyeing up ways to make this kitchen more a part of the social action, and stealing space from the huge living room might be a solution. Adding square footage in the corner between the kitchen and the dining room—which is also rather removed—could also do the trick.

If it takes a while to plan the attack, the kitchen will be functional in the meantime, with plenty of storage, inoffensive cabinets and a gas stove. At its far end, it opens onto a useful laundry room.

In the basement are two more bedrooms and a bath; upstairs are a small bedroom and a larger one that’s reached via a storage-rich “between room” lit by skylights. In-laws, recent college grads and little kids might all find use for this zone.

The house’s underlying sense of homey comfort means that most of the details manage to appeal, despite being sometimes odd or dated. Nothing’s perfect, but outside and inside, this house offers a lot to love.

The area immediately around the house has obviously received lots of attention from a happy gardener, but carries no whiff of capital-D design. There’s a homegrown feel to the perennial beds, stone walls and pea-gravel walks that lead to the main entrance.

Property details

Address: 3482 Layton Dr., Charlottesville

MLS#: 548333

Year built: 1975

Bedrooms: 5

Baths: 3.5

Square footage: 2,695

Extras: Garage

List price: $595,000

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