House or home? Crozet farmette exudes warmth

ASKING: $449,000

SQUARE FEET: 1545 fin./1000 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1931

ADDRESS: 868 Miller School Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: Crozet

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Jim McVay of Roy Wheeler Realty Co.

434-951-5155

At the onset, a house needs to become a home in order to encourage conviviality and comfort. Brick and mortar may define space, but the inhabitants of that space define their own existence.

Consider Hummer king Ira Rennert. The industrialist has undertaken the ridiculous task of building for his family the largest private home in America: 100,000 square feet, 29 bedrooms (they have two children), 36 bathrooms, and a 200-car garage on Long Island. Who needs it? Who cares? Of course, their neighbors are balking (one of them is Kurt Vonnegut, who regularly rails in The New York Times about the structure's absurdity). Perhaps the Rennert family will save our ailing consumer-driven economy just by furnishing that house?

Back to Crozet. This house, with its brevity and near-perfect use of space, says much for the joys of rural living. The garden, even though in the depths of a mud-luscious winter, has ambling paths and archways that make it difficult to decide whether to go indoors or stay outside. The owners used to grow day lilies commercially here, so although the evidence of such a green-thumb business currently lies dormant, one imagines that all those dirty patches hold multitudes of springtime blooms.

The classic country porch, perfect for lemonade and first dates, doesn't slow us down on our way inside. Immediately, we encounter the living room with pristine heart-pine floors. It's a little disconcerting to confront the largest room first, but nonetheless, the roominess and effusive natural light give one the feeling of, "Gee, it's great to be home."

To the left, through elegant French doors, lies a formal dining area with a walk-in bay window that adds light, floor space, and plenty of character. A completely re-done full bath sits off this room, and although the placement is a little odd, one imagines many steamy hours could be whiled away in here once the door is shut and the bath drawn. A Jacuzzi tub between two huge windows with ample shelf space (for wine, books, plants, or ?) and mirror-covered walls are indulgences few could resist.

From the dining room, a small hallway leads into a spacious kitchen, which, although not grand, has warmth and usability to match the rest of the house. An extra room with laundry, pantry shelves, utility sink, and a window always warms the cockles of our heart. Rooms like this sell a house– although not intrinsically pretty, they are the warp and weft of a home's functionality. Next to that, a glassed-in back porch, while small, could easily accommodate several chairs and be a great place to relax.

Upstairs, a landing that currently serves as an office space leads to three full bedrooms, each with a double window and deep closet. It's not opulent by any means, but it's perfectly laid out to accommodate family, friends, and other needs. A full bath, less spectacular than downstairs but with the requisite clawfoot tub, rounds out the second floor.

From the kitchen, one gains access to the unfinished basement that also leads outside. From there, the yard with its numerous beds and horticultural interest gently dips into the valley beyond, giving an unobstructed view of the mountains. However, the snap, crackle, and pop of nearby power lines are a distraction.

Four outbuildings have been used in the past for horses, cattle, and even 70 head of sheep. The two-stall barn has electricity and a nearby water spigot.

These 10 acres have everything for a self-sufficient mini-farm including a 14-tree orchard with apples, pears, peaches, and plums. Although the property comes with division rights, the neighbors– Crozet Sportmen's Club with 50-plus acres– insure that the surrounding land pretty much will remain the same. Let's hope so.