REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Wayland's Grant: At home in the faux '50s

ADDRESS: 1815 Clay Drive

NEIGHBORHOOD: Wayland's Grant

ASKING: $515,000

2005 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $303,300


SIZE: 3,500 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.20 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Jonathan Kauffmann of Real Estate 111 


Driving through the hamlet of Crozet, one can easily imagine a town like this almost anywhere in rural America– circa 1955. The hallmarks are all there: the do-it-yourself car wash, the Dairy Queen, the train depot-cum-library, a smattering of dining choices, and a rolling backdrop of verdant green (sometimes blue) hills.

But all is not as it seems.

Along Jarman's Gap Road just outside town, the last two years have brought unprecedented change. Houses sprout like the weeds they've replaced, and the hills are glimpsed through the multi-gabled roofs of countless new developments. 

But as shocking as this may be to old-timers and nostalgia buffs, driving into Wayland's Grant has a pleasant perfumey about it. Weed-free (and one might think feet-free) lawns decorate this simulacrum of a '50s-era neighborhood. Even the white picket fence that borders this house on its large corner lot projects an image of security and simplicity that may or may not be accurate. And like the opening sequence of Desperate Housewives with its flagrant use of the same symbol of suburban values, all is not as it seems.

Not to imply there's murder and mayhem going on behind closed doors. But houses today bear little similarity to anything from the days of Mamie Eisenhower's bangs and white gloves. While all the same charm is there on the outside, creature comforts unimaginable to even the wealthiest Cold Warriors abound on the inside.

As one enters this house, nothing really stands out. But the mind boggles at the array of upgrades and specifications, so many that it seems the builder should have chosen a bigger house in which to work out his fantasies. 

A very short version reads like this: exotic Malaysian merbau flooring, 18-inch custom tile backsplash, custom window box, colonial three-piece 12-inch crown molding in almost every room, shadowbox-style wainscoting, upgraded plumbing with all Delta faucets, body spray in master shower, three-hole faucets with c-spouts and an elongated bowl in the water closet. And this is just a drop in the... bucket.

People coming home to these houses may want the '50s feel, but they don't want the '50s work. Where a basic 60-amp box used to power nothing much more than an oscillating fan and an ice box, now there's a two-zone high efficiency heat pump with electric backup, a central humidifier on first floor, central air cleaners for the whole house, and a gas fireplace with a thermostatically controlled fan. 

One needs a physics degree just to get to the kitchen. Come home, turn on the fire, flip on CNN and presto, instant comfort. And comfort counts.

The front room is the only oddity in the whole house. Called the "living room," it serves no purpose other than entrance way. Builders can't seem to design a decent living room– instead, they've opted to ignore its potential in favor of a "family room." 

The rest of the house continues with conventional space. Upstairs, three regular-size bedrooms (and bedrooms should be on the second floor) share a bath. The master suite is also up here, but due to its proximity to other (read: children's) rooms, it has soundproof walls, with pipes also insulated to reduce sound transmission and solid-core doors for added privacy. If after all that the noise still becomes too much, there's a 20' x 32' bonus room on the third floor.

Out back– a mere hop, skip, and jump from the kitchen– is the two-car garage. A mini-version of the house, its Wayne Dalton garage door with programmable I-Drive operator is vehiculalry accessed from an alley behind the house. Another bonus room on the second floor of this building has cable, electricity, heating/cooling, and is wired for surround-sound.

Inspired by the New Urbanist movement, Wayland's Grant looks and feels very cozy. But some of the underlying tenets of New Urbanism have failed to materialize. Intended to provide a diverse range of housing options as well as reduce commute time, Wayland's Grant (and every other new development in Crozet) fails. The neighborhood may be walkable, but not to nearby Crozet to pick up the dry cleaning or buy a quart of milk.

Maybe New Urbanism should take a hint from Old Urbanism. It works best where you need it: in downtown Crozet.

Photos courtesy of the agent