Little Ivy: Out of chaos, wholeness

ADDRESS: 3501 Layton Drive

ASKING: $295,000

SIZE: 1,344 fin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: 2003

NEIGHBORHOOD: Ivy

CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Frank Quayle of Roy Wheeler Realty Co. * 951-5155

As we know from Little League and Little Italy, adding that diminutive prefix often implies a greater (if not larger) namesake. Ivy has long been on many radars as the perfect Albemarle address. A short shot to Charlottesville combined with a bucolic setting, a smattering of dining possibilities, and the coziness of an English village– it seems to epitomize perfect living conditions.

Little Ivy has all the same attributes but doesn't really toot its own horn quite so loudly. Out Morgantown Road past Murray Elementary School, the houses start to shrink in size. No big deal, but one can get used to the current wave of colossal "homes" carving up the hillsides.

Layton Drive is a gravel road curving gently through the woodland. This second-to-last house sits unpretentiously quite close to the curb where the road dead-ends. First impressions didn't really amount to much.

Usually, the occupants' individual style adds a lot to the livability and comfort of a house, but here the fact that there have been no full-time occupants since an extensive renovation is evident in the chilly exterior. Uneven granite slabs (each about four feet long and a foot thick) serve as steps to the front door. A little reworking of these will be necessary to facilitate carrying grocery bags with ease.

When the owner arrived and began to explain the organic nature of building this house, those pesky details of real estate reviewing became somehow more appealing. A tornado ripped through the property on which an A-frame once stood, decimating trees and unearthing those (and many more) granite slabs. Almost all of the wood was salvaged and milled locally to create this tribute to Mother Nature.

The house consists of one very large room over another. The first floor is wide open. The kitchen takes up an entire corner– its smooth cherry counters a reminder of what used to stand on the property. Poplar and pine wainscoting around the perimeter also came from the land, and that adds a beautiful notion to the idea of homebuilding today. The emphasis here is on recycling the products of nature's frenzy into a viable and living structure.

Upstairs is much the same but sectioned into a massive bedroom, full bathroom with whirlpool tub, closet space, and laundry area. An open fireplace of local fieldstone with cherry mantel is another example of recycled material from the property. It's all brand-spanking new and so it's unclear how real residents might divide the space. For a couple, the space seems ample. For a family of four, some walls will be necessary.

A barn about 20 yards away has more room with a workshop on the first floor and a clean loft area with a separate entrance from the outside. Any teenager would be happy up here if only there were a bathroom.

The land being offered for this price includes only two acres, which precludes (due to county code) anything else being built. For $40,000 more, pick up an adjoining four acres and scout out a building site. The contiguous farmland is said to be protected from further development, so what you see may be what you get.

Although this is a little version of many new homes in Ivy, because of its deep connection to the land where it sits, it pulses with life as well as history. And since it was designed more as a project than a real estate venture, the focus has been on what worked for the owners, rather than just what might produce the most for the least. Buyers with an appreciation for organic wholeness might find that this spot grows on them.

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