REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Dairy delight: Plain vanilla exterior, buttery richness within


ADDRESS: 1726 Dairy Road


ASKING: $699,900

ASSESSMENT: $475,300 


SIZE: 3,500 fin. sq. ft., 700 unfin.

LAND: 0.62 acres

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of 10 (no curb)

LISTED BY: Inessa Telefus of Century 21 Manley Associates 989-1559

Old timers around town knowledgeable about real estate recognize the name BR & BF Bibb. The two brothers built about 100 houses in Charlottesville and in subdivisions like Colthurst and Flordon from the late 1940s until BR died in 1972. BR's daughter, Eugenia Bibb, says this house near the 250 by-pass– one of four on a large lot they subdivided in the '50s– was probably the brothers' 23rd or 24th project.

The history of the house is about as unremarkable as its appearance: the couple who bought it from Mr. Bibb in 1954 (price: $30,000) owned it– and kept it as was– until the current owners picked it up last June to flip. All those years, the large front yard sloping down to "lower" Dairy Road far below was left unmolested and unmanicured, the original wall-to-wall carpet soldiered on, the baths and kitchens went unimproved, and the large attic served only for storage.

But enter the flippers, and watch out! Up came the carpet, to reveal almost pristine oak floors. Away went a closet to enlarge a downstairs bathroom. Down came a wall between kitchen and dining room, creating a large area in keeping with the modern passion for open space and flow.

(Curiously, counter to that impulse, up went a wall to enclose a door to the kitchen at the bottom of the attic stairs, with the result that the kitchen itself seems boxed-in and constricted, and means that groggy owners descending each morning from the new attic master suite must traverse the living and dining rooms to get to the presspot. Also counter to the good-taste impulse, the renovators opted for one of those cheezy "leaded glass" front doors that's out of synch with the house and with the neighborhood.)

But the new owners did a lot of things right, too, most notably the bathrooms: every one of the four is beautiful– even one most people would have considered a utility bathroom in the unfinished basement. Tile and porcelain everywhere! And creatively done. If nothing else in the house was remarkable, the bathrooms alone would win us over.

Eugenia Bibb and the agent say that the level of craftsmanship and workmanship the brothers displayed is almost impossible to find today. They say it justifies the eye-popping asking price for what seems from the outside to be an unexceptional brick rancher. And many other things about the house are compelling.

The renovators wisely decided to make the former storage-only attic into a master suite by adding skylights instead of dormers and leaving a doorway to divide the space, creating an office/study area beyond the bedroom and doubling its usefulness. The big attraction up here, however, is the gorgeous original wide-plank pine floor. Combined with the skylights, it gives an ethereal feeling that provides an interesting contrast to the sturdy space below.

The three bedrooms on the main level are so big that one of them has been configured as a second master suite with double closets and full bath, making the house useful for a family who need to stash grandma and grandpa or put up with teenagers. The sandwich generation can have its own private retreat upstairs without feeling guilty.

The living room has a wood-burning fireplace surrounded by bookshelves and cabinets; the kitchen has the requisite granite here and there and stainless steel appliances; and large eight-over-eight windows let in unexpected amounts of light. In the finished part of the enormous basement, tile floors, painted paneling, and a second fireplace create a large welcoming area for work or play. A new patio just outside a big window looks down the sloping front yard to Dairy Road.

Overall, we'd give the flippers an A-. All new systems, good taste evident in the bathrooms and floors, generally wise decisions about what to keep (Mr. Bibb's trademark laundry chute in the downstairs hall) and what to jettison (except the front door!), and appealing little extras like cedar window-seat storage and pocket bathroom doors.

The house is hard to find in two ways– its address is on the lower Diary Road part of the lot, and the entrance is hidden on upper Dairy. The other hard-to-find aspect is the quality of construction and the loving care that's evident throughout. Even though, everything considered, the asking price is hard to imagine for such an innocuous place, the fact of the matter is that here buyers will absolutely get what they pay for.


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