Situated just off the main street in the historic district of Old Town Alexandria, Alex and Wendy's home is the epitome of the classic elegance that defines the city's character. With a beautifully traditional color scheme and period details like transom windows and cast iron rim locks, it's hard to believe that it hasn't always served as such a vivid reminder of the area's rich colonial history.
When Alex and Wendy found the nineteenth century rowhouse in 2003, it looked like a run-down bachelor pad that left less imaginative buyers unimpressed. A series of previous owners - unconcerned with preserving its tradition - inflicted one impulsive repair job after another, handing down a list of failed projects for its incoming owners to undo. Friends and family asked the couple why they'd want to take such a gamble on their first home, but they were able to look past the patchy flooring and sloppy paint jobs to see its unexposed potential. And though it has taken them nearly a decade to breathe life back into the old home, those that once questioned their judgment now come to them for design advice. Their aqua-hued front door serves as a vibrant prelude to their charismatic home, where a devotion to its original charm can be seen from the moment you cross its threshold.
Inside, the home is a showcase of Victorian revival. While a lot of young homeowners are lured by the accessibility of more modern renovations, Alex and Wendy have gone the extra mile to restore their surroundings. Down the street at their local library, they've pored over historical records in search of clues about the design elements that may have contributed to its original look. Using this research, they have thoughtfully sourced period authentic details to reintroduce to their home. Impressively, they have done all of this without compromising their contemporary tastes. Integrating vintage features like steeple-tipped door hinges and bold patterns with modern amenities like custom closets and whole house audio, they have created a stylish space that remains delightfully reminiscent of its origins without feeling magisterial.
Since 2009, they have documented their experiences as DIY preservationists on their blog, Old Town Home, where they offer amusing insight and helpful how-to instructions for the all-too-familiar pains of transforming an outdated infrastructure into something that is both convenient and livable, but also respectful of its history. Together, Alex and Wendy have done just that - cultivating a stunning composite of old and new, and proving that sometimes the risk is worth the reward.
Apartment Therapy Survey:
Our Style: Traditional and respectful of the period of our home (1880s row house in Old Town Alexandria, VA), while tastefully introducing contemporary elements and technologies.
Inspiration: Pinterest, decorating magazines, HGTV, Sarah Richardson, Candice Olson, and other homes in the area.
Favorite Element: Our location. We love living in an urban historic district, and have wonderful neighbors.
Biggest Challenge: Making the time outside of our day jobs to tackle all renovation/restoration projects ourselves, as well as blog about our experiences on Old Town Home
What Friends Say: At first they were surprised we would buy "such a crappy" place. No joke. Now they mostly love our home, are impressed by the work we've done, and often ask for our help and advice.
Biggest Embarrassment: The amount of time some projects have remained undone. For example, we've had a bare, stripped door jamb in our upstairs hallway for eight years now.
Proudest DIY: Making the desk in the office (Alex). Transforming the guest bathroom from a 1980s monstrosity to a vintage inspired space with modern conveniences (Wendy).
Biggest Indulgence: Whole house audio system from Nuvo and Sonos (Alex), Thassos marble in the guest bathroom (Wendy).
Best Advice: Take your time and do it right. And definitely use high quality paint and supplies.
Resources of Note:
PAINT & COLORS
- • Entryway: Behr Brushwood (dark diamond) and Glidden Toasty Gray (light diamond)
• Dining Room: Behr Red Red Wine
• Living Room: Glidden Toasty Gray
• Family Room: Benjamin Moore Monroe Bisque
• Kitchen/Sun Porch: Benjamin Moore Traditional Yellow
• Bedroom: Benjamin Moore Balboa Mist (walls) and Benjamin Moore Silver Crest (ceiling)
• Bathroom: Sherwin Williams Moody Blue
• Office: Sherwin Williams Toasted Pine Nut
• Guest Room: Benjamin Moore Manchester Tan
• Upstairs Hallway: Behr Brushwood
- • Rug: Ebay
• Mirror: Pottery Barn
• Candleholders: Antique corbels, salvaged and restored
• Door: Salvaged from The Brass Knob in Washington, DC
• Wainscoting in Stairwell: Made by Alex and Wendy
- • Leather Wingback Chairs, Coffee Table, Vintage Sofa, and Art: Random Harvest
• Rug: Ebay
• End Tables: Ebay/Antiques Store in Cleveland, Ohio
• Lamps: Lucketts, Virginia
• Pendant Fixture: Pottery Barn
• Fireplace Insert: www.gascoals.net
• Fireplace Screen: Restoration Hardware
• Transferware China and Egg Cups: Ebay
• Miscellaneous Art: Purchased in Italy and London
- • Table, Chairs, Hutch, and Buffet: Antiques in the Bank in Cleveland, Ohio
• Chandelier: Antiques store in Cleveland, Ohio (painted by Alex and Wendy)
• Buffet Lamps: Random Harvest
• Mirror, Candlesticks, and Silver Vase: Pottery Barn
• Glass Jug: Red Barn Mercantile
• Artwork over Buffet: Sanborn fire map of neighborhood, purchased from Alexandria's public library
• Rug: Ebay
• Antique Grandfather Clock: Ebay
- • Rug: Ebay
• Sofa and Chair: Pottery Barn
• Coffee Table: Antiques Store in Cleveland, Ohio
• Television Cabinet: Ebay
• Leather Chair: Ross Dress for Less
• Red Stool: Trash to treasure project
• Lamp: Restoration Hardware
• Wine Rack: Pottery Barn
• Brass Asian Plate: Estate Sale
• Ken Bailey Bull Terrier Print: Amazon
• Bamboo Blinds: Overstock
• Curtains: Custom made (fabric purchased from Hancock Fabrics)
• End Table: Antiques Store in Cleveland, Ohio
- • Curtains: Calico Corner
• Light Fixture: Formerly in Living Room, repurposed by Alex and Wendy
• White Hutch: Ebay
• Margarita Set: Crate and Barrel
• Sisal Rug: HomeGoods
• Wicker Bench: World Market
• Wicker Cubes: Ikea
• Brass Asian Tray: Estate sale
• Lamp: TJ Maxx
• Plate Rack: Pier One
• Wine Refrigerator: Edge Star
• Table and Chairs: Family hand-me-down
- • Rug, Bed, and End Tables: Ebay
• Chandelier: Antiques Store in Cleveland, Ohio
• Dresser: Family hand-me-down
• Mirror: Lucketts, VA
• Lamps: TJ Maxx
• Curtains: halfpricedrapes.com
• Pillows: Calico Corner
• Duvet and Shams: West Elm
• Alarm Clock: Pottery Barn
• White Ceramic Bird: Purchased at a gift shop in New Orleans, Louisiana
• Vase: Antique from Wendy's Grandmother
• Candle Pillars: HomeGoods
• Fan and Candle: Restoration Hardware
• Silver Frames: Pottery Barn with Alex's personal photography
- • Tile: Ann Sacks
• Toilet: Waterworks
• Pedestal Sink: Renovator's Supply
• Shower Glass: Wilson Glass
• Fixtures: Restoration Hardware
• Medicine Cabinet: Made and designed by Alex and Wendy
• Candle: Restoration Hardware
• Towels: TJ Maxx
- • Book Cabinet: Random Harvest
• Desk: Made and designed by Alex and Wendy to mimic the lines of the book cabinet
• Ghost Chair: Ebay
• Blinds: Next Day Blinds
• Black Frames: Crate and Barrel
• Candlesticks: Antiques Store in Cleveland, Ohio
• White Milk Glass Candle Holder: Antique from Wendy's Grandmother
- • Dresser: Family hand-me-down
• Headboard: Formerly the bathroom door, made and designed by Alex and Wendy
• Mirrors Above Bed: HomeGoods
• Curtains and Bamboo Blinds: JC Penney
• Turquoise Pillow Shams: HomeGoods
• Duvet: Gilt
• Wicker Chair: World Market
- • Rugs: Ebay
• Sunflower Painting: Done by Wendy's mom
• Picture Ledges: Made by Alex
• Frames on Ledges: Pottery Barn
• Candles and Printing Press Letters: Red Barn Mercantile
• Clock: Antiques Store in Lucketts, VA
• Hallway Pendant: Restoration Hardware
• Framed Map: Gift from Alex's parents, print of pre-Civil war military fort map of DC, purchased from the Lyceum in Alexandria, VA
Thanks, Alex and Wendy!
Images: Lindsay Wood/Alex Santantonio
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