Spanish For House Fans

This winter, I finally got around to sorting through (and weeding out) my vastly growing iPhoto library of thousands of house pictures. Well, let’s say I got started.

What struck me was not that most of them were — by American standards — old houses, but that there were so many that could be classified into distinct groups of architectural fashion: Tudor, Georgian, Arts & Crafts-type bungalows, Italianate, Greek Revival…

This will make for a great little educational series for our websites. My first part is about the “Spanish-“style:

Enjoy, and just leave a comment if there’s any particular style you’d like to see next!

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Your Home Could Be Your Castle

Castle for sale in Chevy ChaseWe frequently complain about how boring the majority of residential DC real estate is. There are a few standard layers from the center out, and they get increasingly vanilla: first the row houses, then the brick colonials, then the 1950 sprawl neighborhoods with their ramblers and split levels, and finally the far-out fake-brick mansion developments in the most remote suburbs.
Don’t get me wrong here – all of the above can offer some wonderful choices, pretty homes and great neighborhoods. After all, there are many reasons why certain styles are popular here. But for those of us who see a lot of these homes (and sometimes feel like we’ve seen them ALL by now), it’s always an exciting break to come across something more unusual.
In this case, the surprise house actually has a beyond-traditional look. It comes to you straight out of a fairy tale — a little white castle perched against a hill, complete with a spring-fed (!) “moat,” stair tower, and battlements around the roof terraces. Charming doesn’t begin to describe the unusual 3-4 bedroom, 3.5 bath home. And did I mention it’s less than 8 miles from the White House and in one of the country’s best high school clusters?
Your home could be your castle for $1,500,000 (which is not at all a bad price for a 3,900 square foot historic house in Chevy Chase). Listed by Bill Panici of Weichert Realtors. There are no public open houses — check out the full virtual tour here and you will instantly understand why — but we’ll be happy to get you in if you’re interested. Enjoy!

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The Good, The Ugly, And The Toilet Plunger

Now you can see the plunger handle...

Now you can see the plunger handle…

It’s a secret I don’t share too much, but when things get really stressful with those houses we’re trying to prep, I often turn to Leif.

Now, I haven’t actually met Leif but he is a guy who puts things in perspective. He is an agent in Arizona and the owner of my favorite pick-me-up website, a blog called Ugly House Photos. Leif’s hobby is very entertaining (and slightly depressing at the same time). Most of the pictures he posts and comments upon are taken from his local or other regional MLS, and they will make you truly speechless. They are pictures of houses listed FOR SALE!

I have no idea how he finds this stuff, or how they sell houses in Phoenix. In fact I have never been to Arizona. I’m pretty sure, most houses there will not look like that. But it makes me laugh about all the stuff we agonize about: Crack in the wall–paint, tape, disclose? Chipped wood — repair, replace, leave alone? Pictures — edit, crop? Misleading angles? The list is long.

A couple of days ago, for instance, I  spent what felt like hours trying to get a toilet plunger out of the picture of an otherwise pretty bathroom, and then agonizing another eternity over the question why the virtual tour software refused to accept the updated version of the now plunger handle-free photo (it didn’t have a problem with the disappearing Sponge Bob balloons in the rec room, right?). Arrgh!

No more plunger handle

… and now you can’t!

I ended up leaving the head of the cute black cat in the virtual tour for good luck (see if you can find it!), and then I headed over to Leif’s. His collection of bathrooms alone is priceless. And there are more than a few plungers. Yep.

(P.S. Yes, I know it’s not my job and I suck at this, but the photo editing guy was swamped and had missed it. And yes, I do know the rubber part is still visible. Come on!)  plungeno plunge

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Built For Eternity

Tuscan estateAdmittedly, I  can’t let go of those homes. I’ve been dwelling in, or better on, them ever since I came back from Italy more than a week ago. After this was – luckily – one of the busiest springs in my real estate career, it seemed like a well-earned indulgence to steal away from work and family for 8 days. A wedding in the Tuscan countryside, a day trip to Siena, and then a few days in Florence, just walking around and marveling. Ahhh.

I’m also a bit envious, but this will pass. This time, I’m not going to rant about the transitoriness of my 1988 US-built home. I’m just going to tell you that the country apartment I stayed in was part of a 14th century estate and winery (Check it out: Mona Lisa was born there, and Kenneth Branagh shot “Much Ado About Nothing” there).

800 years old, and nothing was either dated or dusty. Renovators there have this marvelously elegant way of showing off a bit of the old under the new. You see this everywhere: a freshly painted wall or smooth new plaster, and here and there, a whimsical little patch is exposed where you can see the tile or the rocks the house was built with. I have no doubt the estate will still stand in another 800 years, just like all those medieval apartment buildings in Florence.

And did I mention the food? The only packaged or processed thing I ate all week was some chocolate. (And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that!) It felt just great. Io amo quel paese.

This is from the country side. The cities will follow.


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NEW! Open Sunday 1-4 pm

IMG_1551If I have been silent for a while, it’s because the spring market is crazy-hot in DC this year. We have a lot to do, and we’re having much fun with it. Soon more…
For now, it’s a bunch of new listings – all of them really exciting. The first one is in River Falls, the lovely park-like part of Potomac that’s closest to the District. Click here for more info.


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Just Go With It: A Century Of Laminate Kitchens (Yes, It’s Really That Old!)

red ellipseI have a confession to make. For a real estate agent in the year 2013, this is going to be an outrageous confession. So… here we go:

I don’t hate Formica, at least not per se.

And sometimes — now it gets worse — I’d even prefer it to granite. (The latter situation occurs with each encounter one of those cheap-o flip renovations, where the least expensive cabinets available at Home Depot had been paired with random-patterned and -colored left-over slabs. The term “granite kitchen” in a real estate ad is intended to invoke visions of luxury and state-of-the-art-ness.

endless indigo Well, not in my mind. I happen to think that the next big wave is something other than stone or granite, and I’m looking forward to it. The next craze will probably not be the pretty concrete with the colorful shaved glass pieces (too heavy), not butcher block (not durable enough), nor stainless steel (too clinical) or resin or tile whatever else we’ve had since the 20th century, but something rather different.

In the meantime, let’s just embrace the reality that the majority of homes in America have Formica (or another such brand) counters in their kitchens, not to mention the millions of offices, cafeterias, partition walls and — you name it. If you decide on laminate as a less expensive alternative in a renovation, just go with it. It doesn’t have to be the sunny yellow of the 60s or the granite imitation print of the 90s. There are a lot of cool and funky designs available today.

blueberry  halftoneAdmittedly, they have to fit into their environments, but my favorite ones are the red ellipse and the dotted retro patterns that came out recently in celebration of Formica’s 100th anniversary. Neat, huh?



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Long Live The Lewiston

Historic mail-order home for sale in Silver SpringA few days ago, I posted on the DCHouseSmarts blog about the two pretty historic kit houses we’d located for the weekend — with the promise to give a little more detail on at least one of them later on. So, here we go, with the 1936 Sears “Colchester”/”Lewiston” that’s currently for sale in Silver Spring, MD.  (Click on the image of the catalog page to get a larger version.)

It’s a delightful place, with lots of space (two bedrooms and a full bath on each of the three floors) and a lovely, large backyard. While some modifications have been made (the kitchen for instance was opened up to the dining room for a more airy feel) that you can either love or hate, there is plenty of original detail left.

The original door hardware that shipped with the “Colchester” (including the LION brand front door lock) can be found on almost all of the doors in the house. You can see some samples, paired with original catalog pages from 1932,  in the slide show below. We don’t always find such things, but when we do, they surely help to authenticate a house. (More below the break.)

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The “Colchester” was the 1930s brick/half-timbered version of the “Lewiston,” a plank-sided model that had been popular in the 1920s. The Colchester offerd a little more of the Tudor-style optic that was a great hit at the time, at least in the DC area.

You can see the listing here, and many more pictures from the MLS here. The house is offered at $489,000, and as always, if you would like to see it, just let me know!

Find more about historic kit houses here, or learn the sad story of  another “Lewiston” here.

If you think you own (or live in ) a Sears house or other kit home and would like some assistance in authenticating it, I’ll be happy to help!
Just fill out the form below and I’ll be in touch shortly.

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