House Hunting: The Cottage In The Woods

We’ve been passively house hunting for a few weeks now (driving around different neighborhoods, checking out pics on MLS, and popping into a few of them every now and then) and are finally getting around to writing about it. It’s amazing how frantically cleaning your own house and scheduling showings can distract you from actually blogging about the thrill of the hunt for a new place.

Part of our delay has also been deciding the best way to share this house hunting journey with you guys. We’d love to show every nook and cranny of each place, but at the same time we want to respect the privacy of each home’s seller (after all, unlike HGTV’s House Hunters these folks haven’t signed up to have their homes pluses and minuses publicly dissected for all to see).

So after much debate we decided to only share a (slightly doctored) exterior photo along with a description of the house’s pros and cons with thoughts on whether it’s a good fit for us. With that said, let’s start with the place we started calling “The Cottage In The Woods” that we recently toured. We found this one driving around getting lost in a nearby neighborhood and got crazy excited about it before knowing anything about it.  Almost “we don’t even need to see in inside” excited. It really was that charming from the outside.


  • Age: 1953
  • House size: 1,905 square feet
  • Lot size: 1.4 acres of land
  • Bedrooms: 3
  • Bathrooms: 2


  • Old, modest and in need of some TLC
  • Amazingly private lot that’s bursting with charm (you drive about 150 feet through the woods before you even see the house)
  • Great neighborhood and schools
  • Nice open living and dining room


  • No master bathroom
  • Cramped kitchen (about half the size of our current one) with no room to expand
  • 2 bedrooms on the main floor, one in the basement
  • Low ceiling in basement (like I-had-to-duck low)

So despite having been won over by the exterior, the interior left lots to be desired for our open-and-airy loving hearts (and our I-don’t-like-to-touch-basement-ceilings heads). We’re all about taking a small compartmentalized house and blowing out some walls, but this specific layout didn’t seem very conducive to those kinds of changes as all. And the fact that one of the bedrooms was in the low-ceilinged basement complete with a dehumidifier (while we’d prefer to keep all the bedrooms close together and above grade so we can be near Clara and future kiddo(s) in their earlier years of life) left us feeling like this house would be “settling.” Thus our dream of living in this secluded little cottage in the woods came crumbling down. Oh well, on to the next one!

Altered exterior photo taken by us and edited thanks to our friend Photoshop.

Psst- Don’t forget about our big nerve-wracking appearance on The Nate Show this coming Monday the 25th (more details here). Fingers crossed that we don’t look like big starstruck geeks.


  1. says

    We are “kind of” house shopping and something that has really helped our aimless driving hunt is an app that we downloaded called zillow on our phontes. You can see the prices, houses that recently sold and mls pictures for most of the houses for sale. It’s been really helpful, happy hunting!

  2. tarynkay says

    I’m sure that you’ll find the perfect one. And it doesn’t make sense to settle at all in this case, b/c you’re only moving in order to get a more perfect house than your current digs. BUT I’ve got to say- it is possible to move a kitchen. We actually did move our kitchen to a different room in our house, and we’re turning the kitchen into a small bedroom. We did the whole kitchen-moving ourselves, too, and the whole kitchen renovation cost us a little over $10K. I’m not saying that you’d want to do this in this particular house, but if you found one that was perfect other than that, you might want to. But we found that one of the downsides to these great little 1950s houses is the tendency towards teeny tiny kitchens located at the very back of the house.

  3. Danielle says

    yeah that definitely does sound like you’d be settling – sounds like the setup of your current house is more conducive for your needs than this one (other than the whole in need of TLC part). It’s so fun and exciting though so i’m grateful you are sharing it with us.

  4. anonymous says

    What are your deal breakers?

    For us it would be a small kitchen with not enough counter space. We are in one of those now. Although it has a lot of cabinet space, the counter top space is very limited.

    Also, noise. We would like a relatively non noisy (car traffic) area.

    • says

      Hey Anonymous,

      We outlined what we’re looking for in this post so anything that’s the polar opposite of a few of our parameters (no potential to create an open floor plan, bedrooms that aren’t together, not old enough or in need of enough help) is a deal breaker for the most part.


  5. dawn says

    it’s a shame you had to rule out Forest Hill bc you can certainly get a lot of house w/ alot of charm for your buck! we just bought our first casa over in FH and love everything about it! from our terrific neighbors (most w/ youngin’s under 4 like ourselves), proximity to the river and parks. the school thing could be an issue, but there are sooooo many families here you’ve got to think we’re all facing the same issues. my husband, for example, is a teacher in a rva private school as well as an alum. he and his sister were both on financial aid all 12 years. my in-laws say that is the best thing they ever did for them. hey, you could always teach one class on blogging or design at said private school and get a nice little faculty discount on tuition ….just a thought :)

    • says

      Hey Dawn,

      We based our house hunting area not only on schools but also on proximity to family and lot size, etc. So while we love Forest Hill it was just too far from John’s sister’s house (where we drop in nearly every day) and also didn’t offer the same large wooded and private lots as Bon Air. But it was definitely a contender for a while!


  6. rd shugart says

    Whatever you do, don’t settle. I wasn’t crazy about the ranch we’re in (it finally went on the market beginning of Oct.) when we were looking at it, but in our case the pros outweighed the cons and it was quite the steal. 5 and 1/2 years later, I’m still not crazy about it, in spite of all we’ve done, and it has never really felt like home. Sounds strange but true! You live and learn, I guess.

    Another question – it seems like at one time you guys would answer emails with design questions or am I making that up? :) I have a painting question …

    • says

      Hey RD,

      Yes, sadly there just aren’t enough hours in the day anymore (with a baby, a house hunt, a house to sell, and hundreds of emails filling the ol’ inbox). Feel free to leave a comment with your question on a painting post though- we do our best to respond to every single comment we receive!


  7. anonymous says

    It would be neat if you could sort of recreate the interior of the houses using that floor plan maker thingy. That is if you have the time.

    Then we can see exactly what y’all are talking about (while still maintaining privacy) and what improvements you would make to it or what you love about it already.

    • says

      We actually tried that (both with floorplanner and with bad hand drawn sketches) and it just got too complicated instead of short sweet and simple. So we figured our bulleted list was the easiest way for you guys to digest the highlights and the cons to see why what we’re thinking.


  8. says

    My 2nd cousin and her husband took their 1-yr-old and 3-yr-old daughters to ALL SIXTY of the houses they visited before picking one a few weeks ago, and she said it worked out really well and the girls actually for the most part enjoyed the experience of seeing all the houses! Especially the 3-yr-old, who learned some fun lingo such as “this room is trashed” since some of the homes they toured were forclosures. So it’s fun to hear that you’re taking Clara along with you, even if she’s still too young to have an opinion!

    I too definitely thought that basement rooms couldn’t be counted as bedrooms, but perhaps it has something to do with whether there’s a viable escape route in case of fire? Did they have reasonably-sized windows down there? Yeah, I totally agree, even if it is legit I’d probably never be interested in a basement bedroom and would much prefer to have all the bedrooms in one place on one floor!

    Looking forward to more house hunting posts! Are you guys planning to look at any foreclosures? Any that you’ve spotted so far?

  9. Kim says

    I just want to write a little plug for showing more photos of a few of the houses down the road. I don’t see why you couldn’t ask the owners to see if they care and then show a few photos of the inside when there is something more to actually show. The way I see it, the owners of the houses you will be seriously looking at (i.e. homes that have seen better days) obviously don’t take much pride in their home and read your blog or else their houses would be way cuter/nicer! Other blogs I read put for sale homes on their blogs all the time and as far as I can tell nobody thinks it’s a big deal. I seriously doubt the sellers will object to you showing a few inside pictures of homes that are really interesting to show. I don’t care about this house because it was definitely blah, but I would love to see more pics of the insides of the more interesting ones.

    • says

      Hey Kim,

      Thanks for your feedback! We thought long and hard about how to share our house hunting adventures (and of course we expected that we’d receive requests for more photos even after explaining our decision). But this method is definitely what we’ve decided to stick with because it feels best to us. Plus it allows us more time to keep hunting for the perfect house (instead of spending those precious moments hunting down permission to share homes that we’ve decided aren’t even right for us in the end). We hope you understand!


  10. says

    I think there’s a better house out there for you guys — some con’s can easily be turned into PROs but tiny kitchen, no master bath and low basement ceilings… kind of a deal-breaker.

    Sidenote- I glanced at the blurry house pic really fast and though there was a DEER standing in front of the house. HAHA!

    Best of luck!!!!!

  11. susanne says

    Not sure if I should hope you guys find “your” new home quickly, or that it takes some time so we can all enjoy the hunt with you! We found our home after looking at 4 others….very quick. When I hear about people looking at 60 plus houses, I can’t fathom it! Hopefully you will find a happy medium. Enjoy!

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