Fixer-upper: Not your typical shanty

ASKING: $595,000

SIZE: 3,990 fin. sq. ft., 580 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1960

ADDRESS: 4088 Fairway Drive

NEIGHBORHOOD: Keswick Hall

CURB APPEAL: 9 of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Charlotte Dammann of McLean Faulconer 981-1250

When people hear the stock real estate phrases "fixer upper" or "handyman's delight," they probably imagine a rundown shack on an overgrown weedy lot with holes in the roof and water in the basement.

Well, this house on the seventh fairway of the golf course behind the Orient Express compound, Keswick Hall and Keswick Club, is a handyman's fixer-upper, all right, but it most definitely defies all those stereotypical images.

The brick house, painted yellow, has a slate roof, stately columns in front, an elegant brick patio across the back, three fireplaces, and trees, shrubs and other plantings out of a garden magazine. In the rear of the three-acre lot sit a swimming pool and a guest/pool house which is an authentic, moved-to-the-site, 19th century log cabin.

So where does the handyman come in?

Well, you hope the handyman will come in the front door and stay a long time. The house was built in 1960, and it shows. While the '60s were fun and avant-garde in lots of ways, interior decoration doesn't seem to have been one of them... at least interior decoration that could hold up for 45 years or so.

Except for the dining room, the large living room that extends the entire width of the house, and the four second-floor bedrooms and baths, every room in the house and that is a lot of rooms is sheathed in paneling dark, floor-to-ceiling, depressing, brown paneling. Every wall of the very large basement, two large bedrooms and all the halls and closets on the third level, a family room/den in each wing, a large laundry room, and the kitchen all paneled.

All of that has to go.

But the paneling isn't the worst of it: Except for those two paneled dens and the kitchen, which have hardwood floors, the downstairs floors need recovering: the living room and dining room have aged wall-to-wall carpeting, while the grand entrance foyer is covered in black and white squares of... vinyl.

The good news is that all the improvements will be worth it, because this is a glorious house. While it suffers from many of the corny impulses of the '60s, it also benefits from the quality workmanship and materials that were standard then.

While the fixtures in the one half- and three full baths will need to be updated, real tile is plentiful around all the tubs, showers, sinks, and even on two walls– and in good shape. The house has radiators, surely the best kind of heat. Beautiful marble surrounds the living room fireplace, and the fireplaces in the wings are elevated on high hearths, making tending the fires easy business.

The yard is a riot of plantings huge magnolias, flowering shrubs, and undoubtedly bulbs galore for springtime beauty. And for golfers, the fairway of the seventh hole of the Keswick Club is right at the back of the property, easily visible if some trees are cleared. Floor-to-(almost) ceiling 12-pane windows in many of the downstairs room, reminiscent of Monticello, admit lots of light and provide great views of the gardens.

The swimming pool and large cabin (with living room, kitchen area, bath, and sleeping loft) are not visible from the house, but add considerably to the property's charm. A patio in the woods beside a tiny waterfall could easily be a dance floor or spot for elegant al fresco dinners. All in all, with some imagination and a lot of elbow grease, golf lovers, entertainers, homebodies, gardeners anyone who cherishes the good life in Albemarle could have it all here, just ten minutes from town.