House Crashing: Downsized & Upgraded

I don’t usually write these House Crashing posts, but this home in particular is very special to me. Well, at least it will be over time – it’s my parents’ new house here in Richmond. Since we literally crashed their pad for a few days post-Hurricane Irene (when our house had no power) and have spent many an evening hanging out over there, we figured it was high time we snapped some pics to share with you guys.

That’s Dad and Mom right after moving day back in May (they’ve since painted the lavender door bright red). I’ve mentioned before how they sold their house of 32 years in Northern Virginia (aka, my childhood home) and relocated two hours south in Richmond to be closer to some of their kids/grandkids and downsize to an easier-to-maintain home (part of my mom’s retirement goals was to never have to mulch again). They landed in a beautiful new-ish community of duplexes about 15 minutes from our place and, despite it being smidge smaller, in many ways it feels quite grand in comparison to their previous digs. Just take their half bath as an example.

A lot of the design of the house is courtesy of the previous owners (my parents have been there less than 4 months) and when house hunting, my parents feared their style was a bit too formal for their tastes (their last bathrooms were more of the bold paint variety, not the floral wallpaper type). But somewhere along the way they figured “I’m retired, so who says I can’t have an ornate gold mirror in my half bath?”

We totally dig it. Maybe it’s partially just the pleasure of seeing my parents embrace a new style, but it’s also just fun to go into a house that takes risks or makes decisions you wouldn’t necessary think of for yourself. You know, it helps you stretch a little. And clearly my Mom is learning to love her new look, as she purchased this light fixture from Ballard Designs to replace what the previous owners had taken with them. She said she “never thought that she’d purchase something like this in a million years” but it’s really playful and goes perfectly in there.

Even at just four months in, my parents are making the place their own. For instance, the previous owners left them the great drapes and large ceiling medallion… but no chandelier. So my parents actually moved this slightly-too-large-for-the-space fixture from their breakfast nook into the dining room, where it’s much better suited. Three cheers for working with what you got.

While they’ve definitely had to purchase some new furniture to better fit the space, they’re also have fun mixing in their existing pieces – like this awesome wicker chair scored at Pottery Barn a few years ago. The side table is a new on-sale find from Ballard Design. Sherry has said it’s her favorite thing in the whole house. It has little clawed feet clutching a ball on the bottom, and it is of course her favorite finish (ORB).

That chair sits in the large open living room, which has great lofted ceilings, some sweet built-ins and a cozy electric fireplace.

Of course, the most popular conversation piece in their new home is this custom cabinet. Most of the houses in the development have a little builder-basic white closet here, but the previous owners went all out and had a piece designed using reclaimed wood and ironwork from Caravati’s (a local architectural salvage place).  The old owners used it as a liquor cabinet, but my non-drinking parents display frames & dinnerware on its top shelves (those top doors flip open and slide into the piece so they’re invisible) and store photo albums and games in the bottom drawers which are hidden behind the two doors on the bottom.

The cabinet sits beside their kitchen, which has an awesome island in the middle (it houses the sink and dishwasher) as well as a killer pantry cabinet at the far right. Not to mention another pantry closet that’s not pictured (it’s on the far left beyond the magnet board on the wall).

We’re jealous of a lot of things in here – awesome black-but-still-subtly-flecky granite, extra-hight ceilings, stainless appliances, etc, etc. Good thing we get to come over for dinner regularly.

Oh, and here’s that breakfast nook I mentioned that once housed the much-bigger dining room chandelier, which they replaced with a more modestly-sized one from Ballard Designs. And see those colorful chairs? They’re from Pier 1. My mom called us up and said “come see the chairs I got for the breakfast nook, they’re unlike anything I would ever have chosen even a year ago – I’m so in love with them.” It’s so fun to watch them have fun with new things for their new house.

Just beyond those big bright windows in the kitchen is their patio. It’s perfectly sized for them… and the fence is great for keeping the grandkids from running away! We’ve already broken in a plastic baby pool out there (Clara didn’t want to leave).

The second story of the house features a large landing that acts as my dad’s office and a play area when grandkids are visiting, plus two guest bedrooms – including this one that we stayed in during the whole no-power-for-three-days-after-Huricane-Irene thing. It was already painted that warm color (wish we knew the name to share it, but my parents inherited already-painted walls in every room, so they don’t have a clue). Oh but the bed frame is from Ballard Design (my mom likes to wait for sales and use coupon codes).

We didn’t get pics of the other guest room (Clara was napping in it) or the master (that’s still sort of a work in progress) but maybe someday we’ll snap those for you to complete the tour when my parents have had a bit more time to settle in (they’re such good sports for letting us crash a house they’ve lived in for, oh, 380 fewer months than their last place).

Oh, and I can’t forget one of our favorite features of the house. This is a brick from our old house (removed during our first home’s kitchen doorway widening project) that we gave to them a few years ago. I can’t remember the exact occasion (maybe there wasn’t one) but they’ve had it out on their new doorstep since day 1.

Oh, and in related news, we heard the new owners of my parents’ old home are having a great time there. They’re a family with young kids that are having a blast befriending other kids in the neighborhood, so it seems that the ol’ cul de sac is once again seeing some of the action it had back in the ’80s when my generation was there. Though I did hear that my sister’s old bedroom is now Baltimore Ravens purple. Wow.

Psst- Check out a ton of other House Crashing adventures here, or search through individual rooms for inspiration (by color or type of room) here.


  1. tricia says

    i love this house!! your parents must be thrilled!! i love that your mom is getting so excited about buying chairs…no wonder her and Sherry get along so well…lol!! best of luck to them…i hope they have many happy years in their new home!

  2. says

    What a great house! The kitchen is fabulous and that custom cabinet seriously has me drooling!

    The brick is also so-so sweet; love that it has substance, sentimentality & that the message is hand written :)

  3. says

    Holy cow,I LOVE that cabinet.
    Though we would probably turn it back to a liquor cabinet. Ha.
    Your mom seems to be just as addicted to Ballard as my sister is. I laugh at her all the time, but they really do have some great stuff.

  4. says

    That is a really beautiful home! That’s something I could see myself doing in, oh, 50 years time – moving in somewhere different and trying out a new style for a change!

  5. says

    I’ve also noticed my mom’s style changing as they get older – more modern which is surprising. I guess I expected them to get more “grandma” but it’s not that way. They downsized to a townhouse in upstate NY but then got bored once my dad retired and bought a bigger house than where we grew up (crazy people!). The also have a place in Florida which I wrote about on my blog a few months ago – definitely not granny style!

    • says

      My mom is going more modern with their house, too. She jumped on the ORB trend a few years go, and recently she has been picking up a lot of West-Elm-ish furniture. So funny to see, but I love it.

  6. JacqueL says

    I love this house!! They have fabulous taste, and the things they’ve added definitely give it a unique kind of sophistication and charm! After checking out the guest room, I am guessing we may have that same paint color in our master bedroom. It’s called Military Tan from BM…definitely greenish undertones. We love it!

  7. Victoria R says

    Frist of all, such a cute house. It looks loved and lived in, even though they haven’t been there long.

    But there’s one thing I’m dying to know. In the picture of the guest bedroom, behind the shelf/nightstand with the great storage, there is a tiny little door… I’m dying to know why! Does it link the two guest bedrooms? Is there attic access or storage or something?

    In my parent’s house, my brother and decided that we wanted a secret passage, so my dad cut a hole that linked our closets and put a little door there… That picture just reminded me of it.

    • says

      Yup, attic storage! You have a good eye. I wondered if anyone would notice that. Since they don’t go in there very often Kathy just put that shelf right in front of it.


    • threadbndr says

      My parent’s house has two of the under eaves “hobbit holes” like that. Good thing, since the attic is pretty inaccessable. There was one in the master, which was actually my bedroom growing up (the folks wanted a downstairs bedroom) that I “furnished” with rug scraps and a bean bag chair and “papered” with rock and roll posters – it was my own little hideout.

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