REAL ESTATE- Doing it right: Farm offers best of old and new


ADDRESS: 2455 River Road, Fluvanna

NEIGHBORHOOD: Scottsville vicinity

ASKING: $1,900,000

ASSESSMENT: $1,146,800


SIZE: 3,700 finished sq. ft., 677 unfinished sq. ft.

LAND: 197.70 acres

CURB APPEAL: 9 out of 10

LISTED BY: Jim Faulconer, McLean Faulconer Inc. 295-1131

UVA Lawn residents will be the first to say that historic architecture may be lovely to look at, but it needs serious adaptation to be livable when it comes to creature comforts like bathrooms, air conditioning, and closet space. Renovators must walk a fine line to preserve the older aesthetics while adding modern amenities, and often they don't succeed with either goal. While making improvements at Spring Hill Farm on the Hardware River in Scottsville, the owners have shown not only a willingness to compromise, but also an impressive attention to detail. 

To start with, they removed one of two staircases to the second floor, which created more floor space and let more light penetrate the interior space. (The stairs were saved and refitted over the old staircase leading to the English basement, a move that gives a consistently antique appearance throughout the house.)

The kitchen at the bottom of the redone stairs is lit by sunlight from the upper floors as well as by the tall windows lining the room. It's a large, bright space with lots of counters and a six-burner stove with both gas and electric ovens. The extra light and the raised roof on the attached side entrance work together to distract from the room's position in the English basement.

Close to the kitchen is a breakfast room, which, thanks to the sloping lot, lies almost level with the ground. The walls are defined by windows, which might suggest a draft, but the owners say they didn't need to use the electric baseboard heat at all last winter. (The rest of the house is heated by heat pump.) Rather than remove a connected concrete slab that was once used in a smokehouse, the cement has been hollowed out to create a small pond. It nicely complements the room's view of the lawn, a strolling ground for several peacocks, which convey. (The owner explains that the gaudy birds "don't travel well.")

Also on this floor is the dining room whose original wood floors have been replaced with saltillo tile the color of the soil. The dining room fireplace– one of six in the house– (surrounded by painted French tiles) is somewhat overshadowed by a large surrounding mural of a country scene. 

Vents for the home's central air system run through the ceiling of the lower level, but have been cleverly concealed to maintain the original look of the exposed beams. The main floor of the house has experienced some similar unobtrusive tinkering as rooms were adjusted and features added. The 10-foot ceiling height was retained, along with the oversized windows, and a concealed wet bar was added off the living room, sharing plumbing with a bathroom on the other side of the wall. The living room, bathroom, and adjoining guest bedroom can be closed off to create a guest suite complete with its own gas fireplace.

Upstairs are three more bedrooms. At one end of the house, the master bedroom has exposure on three sides, making it well-lit and airy. It used to have a huge adjoining bathroom that has since been split in two, creating a full bath for guests, and an extra full bath with toilet, bidet, sinks, Jacuzzi, and separate shower for the master suite. The master suite also got some of the extra floor space from the removed staircase for additional closet storage. 

Aside from the guest bedrooms in the main house, the property has a separate guest cottage with covered porch, two bedrooms, bathroom, galley kitchen, and two sitting rooms. The main sitting room downstairs has been fitted with the original hardwood floors from the dining room of the main house. An antique stove is attractive but not needed for heating; the cottage has central heat and air.

Only a 19th-century schoolhouse said to have been moved onto the property in the 1880's has not been updated. It's currently used as a storage shed for the nearby pool, maybe because the pool doesn't require much maintenance– or because the owners knew better than to pursue renovation for renovation's sake.