Admit it: Going to someone’s house for the first time and getting to see their design aesthetic, taking a tour, perhaps finding out what type of toothpaste they use, is a fun peek into the lives of your friends and loved ones. Okay, well maybe not so interesting on the toothpaste front, but taking a home tour is a bit of a thrill to see how others live and what they find tasteful (or in some cases, not so tasteful).
That’s part of the reason I jumped at the chance to attend the 2015 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes. Having the chance to go inside some of the neighborhood’s most charming homes is a win; spending an afternoon in Virginia-Highland (VaHi to locals) is another win. This year’s home tour featured six homes all within walking distance of each other. Each home has its own personality, backstory, architecture, design — that’s the great thing about VaHi neighborhood; no two houses look the same. And though the homes were a big enough draw for me, the cherry on top was that local restaurants provided food tastings at each of the six stops.
Here’s the rundown of the tour and what we loved about each stop during the 2015 Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes (don’t worry, we included what we ate at each house, as well).
Stop #1: 840 Clemont Drive
I loved this renovated bungalow as soon as I slipped on my blue plastic booties and entered the sweet residence. The home was originally built in 1929 with two bedrooms and one bathroom. Over time, it had been renovated, most recently with a staircase leading to a whole new second level. A cool anecdote about the house? It was used in the film Ant-Man, as the home where Paul Rudd’s character’s family lives. After filming, the crew restored the home to its original condition, and as an added thank you, donated to Inman Middle School and improved an alleyway behind the home.
“I fell in love with this house because of all the windows,” says the home’s owner, Katie Nichols, who bought it in 2010 and began renovations in 2012. “I love everything about this house — the pantry doors, the openness, the neighborhood.”
The sweetest part of this stop was all the delicious goodies Murphy’s brought for the hungry visitors. I momentarily put down my notebook and pen as soon as I saw the carrot cake shooters, rocky road fudge and peppermint brownies thoughtfully displayed on the dining room table.
Stop #2: 668 Cresthill Ave.
About two blocks away was the next house on the 2015 Virginia-Highland Home Tour, also the oldest one on the tour. Originally built in 1922, this charming bungalow is surrounded by lush greenery and lovely architectural details. Over time, the home has been given many renovations, most recently in 2009, including living spaces upstairs and a new kitchen.
What really makes this house a home is the artwork covering the walls — paintings and portraits from the homeowners’ friends and family ensconce the dwelling. In fact, one of the first rooms you see upon entry is what I’d describe as a multifunctional art room/studio. Clearly, fine arts are a big part of the homeowners’ lives, and it makes a truly personal experience walking down the halls.
I can’t leave a home without mentioning the munchies being served. At 668 Cresthill, we were treated to tasty grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup from Atkins Park Tavern, the perfect snack for a somewhat chilly day.
Stop #3: 854 Highland Terrace
Those of you who attended previous VaHi home tours might have experienced some déjà vu with 854 Highland Terrace. That’s because the same home was included in the 2004 event, after the previous owners renovated it. In an odd twist of events, the current owners hired the previous owner, David Fowler, as their architect — and both owners worked with Karen Hott Interiors to add polish to the home.
The whimsical décor and rich color palette make it a joy to tour the home. The open-concept living area is absolute perfection, with light streaming in and skylights everywhere. It’s almost like relaxing in a very high-end, deluxe tree house where the outside comes in.
I ran into the home’s designer, Karen Hott, while on the tour and asked her about the house. She said she “was inspired by the clients’ art collection, from Summerfest and Atlanta Dogwood Festival. [With this redesign], now this house expresses their personalities.”
The only thing that made this house even better was the wonderful smells coming from the kitchen — where Savi Provisions was cooking up lots of sizzling, juicy sliders for everyone to enjoy.
Stop #4: 935 Highland Terrace
Just a few houses away from Stop #3 was this gorgeous home at the top of the hilly street, overlooking metro Atlanta. This three-level craftsman offers a great living space for a busy family, with stunning views of the neighborhood. The rich palette of metallics and blues creates a calming, sophisticated space that is a treat for the eye with every corner you turn.
I especially fell in love with all the textures throughout the house — horizontal wainscoting on the bottom level, ornate wallpapers on the main level and colorful paint in the top floor bedrooms.
To complete the home’s tour, we were treated to lobster bisque from Fontaine’s. Fun home and fun food!
Stop #5: 1148 N. Highland Ave.
If you’ve been through Virginia-Highland in the last year, this modern house has most likely caught your eye, be it while you’re on a drive or walking the dog through the neighborhood. It’s a statement house — built in 2014 and echoing the style of Frank Lloyd Wright prairie construction. The natural textures and materials permeate the exterior and interior of the home. The stonework alone is astounding — 186 tons of stones were quarried in Asheville, NC, and hand cut on-site by 12 masons working six months around the clock just to finish that element of the décor.
Though the modern home does have an industrial feel, the organic elements of natural wood (Douglas fir, Cypress, walnut) in the doors, floors, windows, even ceiling offer a warm touch. Massive light streams through the entire house and the master bathroom feels like you’re bathing in nature due to the window placement and stone facades.
The careful balance of geometric symmetry with natural features creates a cool vibe and makes this house one of the most memorable on the tour. While my jaw dropped at how many stones are actually used throughout the house, I took advantage of the open mouth and filled it with delicious butternut squash soup made by the people at The Cook’s Warehouse.
Stop #6: 1038 Maryland Ave.
Last, but certainly not least, was this cool bungalow a few blocks from John Howell Park. Before we entered, volunteers mentioned that the homeowner is a marine ecologist. I didn’t really understand the significance until I took a step in — the home is covered with art and décor that can only be described as “marine biology chic.” It may sound cheesy or silly but the artwork is gorgeous — watercolor paintings of sea life, wooden carvings, metal sculptures of jellyfish and many more pieces inconspicuously woven into the overall design.
There were a few standout pieces for me, namely the custom dining table featuring a gorgeous wood top over legs made of gears and wheels recrafted from perhaps an old industrial machine, and the stunning chandelier hanging in the master bathroom. And ladies, don’t fret — the home even has its own “woman cave” right as your enter through the front doors.
This was a great last stop on the tour to get a taste of a completely different design aesthetic … as well as a taste of bacon grilled cheese from Marlow’s Tavern.
Ticket sales and funds raised by this event support lots of neighborhood projects, like park improvements and sidewalk and traffic concerns. I had such a good time during the Virginia-Highland Tour of Homes, and I can’t wait to see the great houses they feature next year!