House Tour: Berto & Mary's Cozy Casa

House Tour: Berto & Mary's Cozy Casa

Grace Shu
Apr 17, 2009

Name: Berto, photographer; Mary, writer; and Moe, adorable beagle
Location: Norfolk, Virginia
Size: 950 square feet


Despite the perfect weather I'm used to in Los Angeles, there are aspects of my hometown in Virginia that I still really miss. Sure, the fall season is fantastic in the Mid-Atlantic region; but even more importantly, it's the people that I grew up with and who have settled back into the Hampton Roads area of Norfolk that make Virginia so appealing. Berto and Mary are high school friends with whom I've reconnected with recently; and after I saw photos of their home, I had to share. What was once a house rented out to college students is now a cozy, brighter, personable home thanks to Berto and Mary's careful planning and do-it-yourself attitude. Oh, and their beagle, Moe.


AT Survey:

Our style: We love good design of any kind. If we had to pick some keywords, they would be: clean lines, 50s modern, natural materials, reused, touches of color.

Inspiration: Books including The Ultimate House Book and The Very Small Home. The colors of South America. Dwell. Scandinavian design. Apartment Therapy of course.

Favorite Element: Our floors. The house does not get a ton of natural light; so we took time to find a nice, light wood that would reflect the little sun that does come in. We chose Kahrs European Maple.

Biggest Challenge: Even though this is a standalone home, the floor plan feels like the end unit of a condo complex. It's long and narrow. Combining living area and dining area comfortably became the biggest challenge. Having dining chairs with a really small footprint helped open up the space and create a clear path between the kitchen and the sliding door to the patio.

What Friends Say: The really honest ones say, "I did not expect this from the outside." It's kind of a surprise. People generally find it cozy and warm, and they like that our art is very personal.

Biggest Embarrassment: The doors. They are an ugly wood, and we have been too lazy to paint them.

Proudest DIY: The whole house, but more specifically, the hardwood floors and scraping the popcorn ceilings. Mary's parents hired a guy to do the renovation with the understanding that we would help with the work and select most of the materials as long as we stayed within the $10,000 budget. We were never big fans of the spray-on popcorn ceiling effect. I spent several hours in a cloud of dust scraping it off the vaulted ceilings. Not fun. We went $800 over budget, but managed to install hardwood floors downstairs, berber carpet upstairs, tile the two bathroom floors, get new vanities and toilets for the bathrooms, and repaint the entire house in addition to the kitchen. This place was rented to college students for several years before we moved in. We visited twice to measure the house while the students still lived here and found dog feces on the carpet each time. Amazing!

Biggest Indulgence: The painting in the entrance to our house. We got it in Paris on our honeymoon. We spent a good chunk of our gift money on it, but is was worth it.

Best advice: Buy what you love. You'll find a space for it. Also, buy the best quality you can afford. Expensive stuff is usually expensive for a reason. It lasts.

Dream source: I would love to have one or two items from Thomas Moser. Their furniture combines beautiful materials and craftsmanship with contemporary design.


• Act II (consignment store in Norfolk): Peach vintage chairs and side table
• Scan (DC store): Natuzzi sofa, dining table, bedroom set
• eBay: Series 7 dining chairs
• IKEA: bathroom vanity
• Design within Reach: book shelf and green book case
• Parents' attic: bedside table, entry table and recliner (all of which will be replaced eventually)

Accessories: Our vases are mostly gifts from friends. Mobiles are from Buenos Aires.

Lighting: Lighting in kitchen and living area are from IKEA. Vintage green lamp in bedroom is from Mary's grandmother. Lamp on office desk from EQ3.

Artwork: Paintings collected mostly on travels to Argentina, Peru, Italy, Paris. Painting above couch is from our friend Seth Patrick. A few of my own photos are next to that painting and in the office. A photo by my friend Jen Sens is above the printer.

Paint: A cream eggshell finish from Norfolk Paint. It was a 5 gallon custom color they had mixed incorrectly for another customer. We liked the color and got a really good deal on it. The walls through out the house were such a mess when we moved in that we just wanted to get a fresh coat of a very neutral color up as soon as possible.

Patio/Backyard/Porch: The backyard is a work in progress. Last year we grew tomatoes and peppers and plan to plant a few more things this spring.

(Thanks, Berto, Mary and Moe!)


(Images: Roberto Westbrook)

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