REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Esmont 'steampunk': Modern input makes old house fun OR Bringing old farm into 21st century
ADDRESS: 6925 Porters Road
YEAR BUILT: Early 1900's
SIZE: 2,740 fin. sq. ft.
LAND: 6.89 acres
CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10
LISTED BY: Chris Wilkes @ Virginia Estates 434-981-0862
Steampunk is a term describing the elaborate gadgets employed by Artemis Gordon in the Wild Wild West series, or the punch cards rumored to program artificial intelligence in William Gibson's novel The Difference Engine. It's also a term used to describe modern devices created with old technology, like steam-powered computers or clockwork robots. It may even apply in rural Esmont, to a farmhouse offering modern conveniences amid classical aesthetics.
The antique fixtures of the farmhouse are immediately apparent. Visitors announce their arrival with a twist doorbell; thick, aged windows bear the glassblower's marks; and original door hinges and other fixtures are evident everywhere. High-tech amenities are more subtle: jacks for network cables, stainless appliances, and speakers throughout the house connecting to a central audio system.
The entrance seems crowded: horizontal beadboard panels give the space a tunnel feel relieved only minimally by stairs leading to the second floor. Fortunately, the illusion is dispelled in other parts of the house. An office off the hallway is a comfortable size, with a brick fireplace for atmosphere. While the non-functional fireplace could be fitted with a gas hearth, a re-alignment may be required before it burns wood.
Sockets for network cables parallel phone jacks in the study and throughout the house. It's a definite bonus for setting up Internet access, but unlike a wireless network, it limits placement of computers to available connections.
The entry hallway ends at a greeting room on the first floor, which can hold a television and furniture, but may be a little cozy for a proper living room. Accessible through the greeting room is a downstairs bedroom, sharing a wall with the study that's enlivened by the exposed brick chimney serving as an accent wall. Everything seems bigger in its attached bathroom (constructed as part of an addition) that features wide-plank pine flooring and fits in a decorative arch between the shower and the raised ceiling.
Under the addition is a basement with storage space and a view of the soapstone pillars bracing the original part of the house. It's a large area, with storm cellar doors leading up and outside, but it could be difficult to convert into a finished living space.
The kitchen has been modernized, but lots of wood trim is a nice reminder of the house's history. An expansive island with a sink and gas stove-top also offers lots of counter prep space. In a wall surrounded by pantry storage, a new oven and microwave are accessible from a second sink and counter area.
Living and dining rooms flank the central kitchen space. Although delineated by a narrow counter extension, the dining room feels open, surrounded by windows enhancing the effect. From the living room, an audio network connects to speakers both upstairs and on the back deck– the system has local controls allowing listeners in the various areas to set their own volume.
As with most older houses, the bedrooms aren't huge. However, generous closets have been added to both upstairs bedrooms, partly by annexing some of the landing. The closet off the master bedroom is a weird shape, but one can forgive the odd space because, unlike most closets, it has a bright window! In fact, several upstairs windows provide significant amounts of light: they're roughly five feet high in rooms with seven-foot ceilings.
The chimney venting the downstairs study does the same for a fireplace in the master bedroom, and the unplastered and unpainted bricks make a neat wall in the master bath, which embodies the then-and-now elements of the house: it has a claw-foot tub but a modern tiled shower.
The almost seven acres provide room for additional buildings. The owner suggests a garage, farm outbuildings, or even division into multiple parcels along the lot's significant road frontage. Decks on all four sides of the house look out on the property, with covered extensions in front and off the kitchen that create proper porches, while the back deck is large enough for entertaining or a table for meals.
Steampunk may not be the exact word to describe this Porters Lane property, since the last-century elements of the house don't actually power any of the modern amenities. But it's a close approximation of the impression the house leaves– old and new working harmoniously together.
PHOTOS BY PETER M. J. GROSS