REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK-Home sweet home: Cutesy Nantucket cottage in Fry's Spring



Address: 118 Monte Vista Ave. 

Neighborhood: Fry's Spring

Asking: $329,000

Assessment: $307,300

Year Built: 1935

Size: 1,400 fin sq. ft./ 350 unfin.

Land: 0.25 acres

Agent: Sonja Casero, Frank Hardy Inc. Realtors 981-3523

Curb Appeal: 7 out of 10


Mary J. Irons, the current owner of 118 Monte Vista Ave., is selling this house in order to open a bed and breakfast. And it shows. Not in the cobwebs-in-the-corner, I-don't-care-about-this-property-anymore kind of way, but in the owner's loving attention to detail. Upgrades could always be made– maybe you've always wanted a marble shower– but there aren't any glaring flaws, perhaps because Irons has been renovating this house to her taste since she moved here in 2003. She opened up and redesigned the kitchen, added a downstairs bathroom, put in a new HVAC system and redid the floors, wiring, plumbing, and the roof, among other improvements. So while a new owner could easily slide right in, nothing screams modern: everything fits in tastefully.

The operative word for this house is cute. With honeyed oak floors and baby-blue walls with white crown molding, 118 Monte Vista's presentation is gracious almost to the point of cloying. Of course, any resourceful buyer could pay a visit to Sherman Williams after signing, but paint will take one only so far. Plus, magenta or chartreuse would feel wrong in this house: a muted brick red is the max it could handle. The place is homey, not funky. 

Built in 1935, the house still bears the charms and foibles of that era. The upstairs bathroom is very tiny but sports a kicky black and white tiled floor and an original 1930's medicine cabinet. The bedroom facing the street has a sloping roof that leads down to a little sitting area illuminated by a large window– a perfect reading nook. The two larger bedrooms have cupboards built into the walls– Irons keeps her shoes in one of them. Because that's the problem with this house. The closets are very small, and there's just not enough storage space. That might have been fine for grandma and her three everyday dresses plus the Sunday finery. But people whose duds could easily fill a walk-in may not fit in here. 

Dogs will fit, though– the yard is fully fenced with white pickets in the front and chain-link in the back. And when Fido gets tired of playing fetch, the master can catch a breather on the double-decker back balcony or the little front porch that leads into the dining room. Plus, hardwood floors make for easy clean-up in case of any accidents.

The backyard looks out to a large tract of undeveloped land with a thicket of bamboo fronting the property. For a busy area (several nearby multi-unit rentals, and traffic audible from the yard), the woodlands give the house a secluded feel. But for how long?

The lot is part of the Belleview Woods Development owned by Kelly Town, LLC, according to the City's neighborhood planner, Brian Haluska. Although the site is marked as "potential development" on Haluska's map, "we haven't had any discussions with anyone recently" regarding development, he says. According to the agent, potential developers could not build on the Monte Vista side of the stream that flows through the area, leaving a hefty swath as a buffer between future construction projects. But Haluska says those stringencies only apply to Moore's Creek, Meadow Creek, and the Rivanna River. Either way, it seems that yet another corner of Charlottesville will eventually make it onto the grid. So enjoy the woodlands while they last. 

The back bedroom and the charming sunroom downstairs (this house cries out for adorable diminutives) also look out onto this wooded lot. But trees don't overwhelm #118. It's full of light thanks to the prevalence of windows, grouped in sets of three in two of the upstairs bedrooms and the sitting room downstairs. Yes, sitting room. It's what the front door (complete with Victorian twisting doorbell) opens up to: a smallish book-lined room with a stone fireplace leading to the dining area. It's the stately little space one would wait in before the hostess was ready. Yes, a flat screen could be installed here, but it doesn't have the flop-down-on-the-sofa familiarity of a living room, and it's certainly not a den, for heaven's sake. 

Perhaps she straightened up the place for me (thanks, Mary J!), but the only sign that this house is lived in is a Williams and Sonoma breakfast and brunch cookbook on the dining room table. Research, perhaps? If the forthcoming B&B is as well-loved as 118 Monte Vista, put me down for a reservation. 



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