VPIS Gives 7 F.C. Houses ‘Excellence in Design’ Nods

Seven Falls Church homes were awarded the distinction of “Excellence in Design” by the F.C. Village Preservation and Improvement Society last Sunday evening during the organization’s annual meeting. IMG_2194_nancybrandon

Seven Falls Church homes were awarded the distinction of “Excellence in Design” by the F.C. Village Preservation and Improvement Society last Sunday evening during the organization’s annual meeting.


Nancy Brandon (left) accepts she and her husband’s “Excellence in Design” award plaque on behalf of the Falls Church Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS). Seen with Brandon are “Excellence in Design” committee co-chairs for VPIS, Keith Thurston (right) and Ruth Rodgers (center). (Photo: Barry Buschow)

Among those chosen from the 13 total nominations were residents Steve Handy and Claudine Pierce of 211 E. Columbia Street, Peter and Riva Adriance of 216 Great Falls Street, Nancy and Skip Brandon of 227 Forest Drive, Greg and Doran  Ruyak of 103 N. Cherry Street, Edward Newburn of 713 Parker Avenue, Michael and Marybeth Connelly of 204 W. George Mason Road, and Stephen and Amy Smith of 117 E. Columbia Street.

As the stated mission of Village Preservation and Improvement Society (VPIS) is to protect the quality of community by maintaining neighborhoods and period structures, the award, which has been given out since 1965, recognizes homes, businesses and landscapes that are upholding VPIS’ goal.

Pierce and Handy moved from a home they renovated on S. Oak Street to their current home (top right), originally built in 1894. The structure, a mere 800 square feet at the time, now sits pretty at 4,000. The husband-and-wife duo have their own in-home business, Thoughtful Development, LLC, with Handy as the architect and Pierce as the designer, both specializing in historical home renovations.

“It was sort of this shoemaker syndrome, where Steve and I spent time in every house but our own,” said Pierce, who joked that the biggest difference in designing their own home was that “everything moved much slower.”

Both used the same word to describe what set their older home apart from the new kids on the block: soul.

“Our main concern was saving the house. New houses don’t have the same history,” said Pierce.

Their daughter, however, 15 at the time of the move, took one look at the “save me” property — overgrown with trees and showing significant termite damage inside — and said she “thought [they] were nuts.”

“She just wanted to be told when it was finished and how big her room would be,” joked Handy.

The Adriances’ son had a similar reaction.

Peter and Riva were “empty nesters” when they first began the three-year-long renovations in 2003.

“My son was really disappointed, but now he loves it. Many people have told us now that they wouldn’t have had the vision we had starting out,” said Peter, who’s home was painted entirely by local musician, Andrew Acosta.

A labor of love, Peter said it was clear, in his and Riva’s choice of words, just how dramatic the transformation had been.

“The first year we moved in, we often used adjectives like ‘gross’ and ‘disgusting,’ but hardly a day goes by now where we don’t look around and see ‘beautiful,’” said Peter.


Adriance residence following renovations. (Photo: News-Press)

While Nancy can’t relate to Peter and Riva’s move-in reaction, her and Skip’s story quickly shifted in the same direction. Moving into their home in 1993, though having owned property in Falls Church since 1975, Nancy and Skip “didn’t plan to do one thing” to their 1,800 square-feet home. Over 2,000 additional square feet later, Nancy said there’s still progress to be made.

“I thought if we just bought this house, that’d be enough,” said Nancy, who was originally content with the thought of moving into a home with a larger dining room.

However, then the breakfast room was revamped, and later the kitchen, which got her thinking about creating a sitting area … and doing a master bedroom upstairs.

And she’s not done yet.

“I’m happy with the house, at  least for the moment that we’ve come to rest,” said Nancy, who plans on diving into the landscape come spring.

As co-chair of the VPIS “Excellence in Design” committee, Keith Thurston said, “The commonalities among the winners this year is the appearance of the homes and the renovations’ impact on the community. The key with all of these additions was that they couldn’t be seen by the naked eye.”

Pierce and Handy’s 1939 period doors, Peter and Riva’s enhancement of their home’s arts and crafts design, and the Brandons’ effort to match the bricks are all visible proof of Falls Church’s heritage.

Of course, the “Excellence and Design” plaques greeting their visitors don’t hurt getting the message across either.