REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Bellair beauty: Five-bedroom ‘princess' welcomes kids


Address: 4 Orchard Road

Neighborhood: Bellair, in Albemarle

Asking: $829,000

Assessment: $200,000 (land only)

Year Built: 2009

Size: 5,000 fin. sq. ft. / 2,200 unfin.

Land: 1.14 acres

Curb Appeal: 6 out of 10

Agent: Joan Esposito, Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 434-760-1028

It's an old myth: the poor girl becomes a princess; the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan. In this case, the metamorphosis took place in Charlottesville's own swanky Bellair subdivision off Rt. 250 west. 

Once upon a time, this neighborhood housed a collection of humble brick housemaids, which one by one began changing into fancy suburban princesses. Last year, 4 Orchard Road found its fairy godmother. With a swish of the wand (or with lumber and drywall and buckets of paint), this property became a retreat fit for the haut monde.

Like any proper princess, the house was cursed with a few quirks at the christening. The size is impressive, but it's as if the builder wanted to hit the target 5,000 square feet as a selling point instead of thinking organically about the space. 

Case in point: the front door opens to what can be referred to only as a ballroom. It's beautiful and expansive, with oak flooring and a 13-foot ceiling. But it's hard to imagine living in this space. The agent mentions the addition of two grand pianos. Her clients have suggested a bowling alley or a basketball court. In any case, a buyer will need an imagination (or an inventive decorator) and a passion for entertaining.

An amorphous area hovering between the ballroom and the kitchen could be a formal dining room as long as the diners don't mind eating in the middle of the main floor. The kitchen sports the Big Three of recently remodeled houses– shiny stainless appliances, gleaming granite counters, cherry cabinets— but it's still somehow homey after the beautiful austerity of the entrance. Sunlight streams in from large windows and a door leading out to the deck. There's space for a kitchen table and a gas fireplace at the far end with a cable hookup above the mantel. 

So far, so good. 

But two bothersome white pillars confuse the middle of this space, one positioned too close to the fireplace. They can be taken out if you rip up the drywall to reinforce the ceiling beam. But the house is not a fixer-upper, and at this price point, details should have been worked out in the blueprint stage. 

The main floor also has what the agent calls a "nanny suite" to the left of the ballroom. With narrow hallways and smaller rooms (bedroom, sitting room, bath), this area feels tighter than the rest of the house. That's because this is the original ugly duckling, the knobby-kneed Cinderella. Working the original house into the rest of the space is inspired and charming. It imbues the fresh paint with a sense of history.

This theme is continued in the basement, where one side is the original footprint (complete with a fireplace and an ancient shower). The second half of the basement boasts crown molding with "brick"-stamped cement walls below and windows above. The basement is considered unfinished, but with a small bathroom off to the side, potential buyers should think beyond storage space. There's so much natural light that the new half of the basement would make a natural playroom or gym. 

What have we missed? Well, there are two master suites— one downstairs and one above. There are more bedrooms (and bathrooms) upstairs, with a large nook off the staircase that could be used as a reading area. With five bedrooms, this place invites kids, and it's a perfect neighborhood for roaming and fun– quiet and safe, with a communal pond and seasonal bonfires. It's a gracious home on a corner lot edged in cypress, cedar and hemlock, good places for climbing, hiding, and cuttings for Christmas wreaths. 



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