F.C. Home & Garden Tour Fundraiser Aims to Help City School Programs

virginia-forest-custom-home-on-tourSpring brings blooming flowers in the garden, open windows and freshly cleaned homes. This year, the season’s arrival also marks an opportunity to check-out a group of Falls Church neighborhood gardens and homes during the Falls Church Elementary PTA Home and Garden Tour next month.


This Virginia Forest neighborhood home is on the Falls Church PTA Home & Garden Tour next month. (Courtesy Photo)


Spring brings blooming flowers in the garden, open windows and freshly cleaned homes. This year, the season’s arrival also marks an opportunity to check-out a group of Falls Church neighborhood gardens and homes during the Falls Church Elementary PTA Home and Garden Tour next month.

This year’s self-guided, fundraising tour features six City homes and two gardens from families with children in the City school system.

Terri Tornell, president of the F.C. Elementary PTA and head of the tour’s planning committee, took care to ensure the homes represent the uniqueness of the Falls Church community through imaginative design and modernization.

“The participating homes make thoughtful use of existing aspects, whether it’s the original home, the lot or the style of the neighborhood. They bring modern innovations to make homes that suit the lifestyles of a busy Falls Church family,” she said.


OUTDOOR classroom seating. (Courtesy Photo)

This year’s fundraising effort is especially important for schools in light of the struggling economy and the cuts in school funding. “This has been an extremely tough year with the school budget and of course cuts had to be made. The PTA is very aware of the cuts and wants to be poised to help the teachers through the upcoming school year,” said Tornell.

Premiering in 2006, the Home and Garden Tour has continued to open doors and raise funds every two years to benefit City school programs.

This year, proceeds from the tour will be specifically dedicated for the purchase of new Smart Boards– interactive white boards that function as both a blackboard and an overhead projector– and to aid in the enhancement of Outdoor Classrooms at Mt. Daniel and Thomas Jefferson Elementary Schools.

“The teacher can put a worksheet on the Smart Board projector and write on it or directly, on the board itself, in a variety of colors. It makes for a collaborative educational experience that benefits both the teacher and the students,” Tornell said. Smart Boards can replace whiteboards, chalkboards and even pencil and paper tests.


THE F.C. Elementary PTA Home & Garden tour kicks off next month. (Courtesy graphic)

In addition, money raised will go to the creation of Outdoor Classrooms which allow schools to work in conjunction with the National Wildlife Federation’s (NWF) Schoolyard Habitats program, working to help create and restore wildlife habitats.

“The Outdoor Classroom program provides a variety of learning opportunities for our students outdoors. It isn’t a single physical space in the traditional sense of a classroom, but rather a number of activities designed to bring teachers and students outside,” said Tornell.

Parent volunteers venture outdoors with the Outdoor Classroom program to engage in various activities including leading pre-established lessons and activities mostly related to science, math and nature, helping to implement the schoolyard plans and pitching in during weekend work parties in the gardens.

According to the NWF, which also certifies Outdoor Classrooms, the open environments lead to increased student comprehension, performance and motivation, provide a local site for teachers for interdisciplinary studies and allow more opportunities and resources for creative instruction.

Students are afforded the opportunity to learn about a subject and then in conjunction with the learning go outdoors and literally get their hands dirty in gardens and habitat maintenance.

“The Outdoor Classrooms provide a hands-on experience that supplements classroom learning. For example, the fourth graders plant a “Jefferson Garden” at the same time they learn about Virginia history. Basically, Outdoor Classrooms bring history, science and other academic subjects to life,” said Tornell.

The 2010 Falls Church Elementary PTA Home and Garden tour will take place on Sunday, May 16 from noon – 4 p.m. Tickets for the tour cost $25 and may be purchased in advance on the PTA website or on the day of the event, starting at 10:30 a.m., at the Cherry Hill Farmhouse located at 312 Park Ave., Falls Church. For order forms and more information, visit


A Preview of Homes on the Tour


Here’s a sneak peek a the six homes on next month’s Falls Church PTA Home & Garden Tour.

Greenway Downs “Nouveau Craftsman”
The homeowners, who had previously rented a house in the same Greenway Downs neighborhood, truly felt they were “coming home” when they purchased their current house. Even so, the post-World War II house was not suited to their active family of five. Their renovated “Nouveau Craftsman” home makes thoughtful use of the existing foundation, including the cinderblock construction that lent itself to attractive deep windowsills. Addition rooms are faithful to the original style, with arch-topped entrances that match the old archways and two-panel solid core doors. The home’s showpiece is a one-of-a-kind fireplace, featuring artisan tiles from Mercer Tile Works, illustrating the four seasons.

Little Falls Craftsman
On a street filled with a mix of beautiful historic and newer homes, this Little Falls house fits in perfectly. Originally a small Cape Cod-style house, the new Thomas French-designed Craftsman home makes use of the original basement as well as one section of the old structure. The family’s appreciation for older architecture resulted in the homes many built-ins, moldings, paneling and transoms. Special living areas throughout the house give everyone an opportunity to “do their own thing.” Featuring four porch/patio areas, the home’s design flows easily from inside to out, with a large covered patio for all-weather al fresco dining and “semi-indoor” marshmallow roasts in the screened porch’s fireplace, just off the family room.

Virginia Forest Custom Home
This Virginia Forest neighborhood home was originally a small cottage-style house in very poor condition, necessitating a complete teardown. However, the homeowners felt very strongly about preserving the lot’s vegetation and magnificent trees. Their modern-style Novus-built home features breathtaking views of treetops from the upper levels and a serene screened-in porch with `invisible’ screens. Inside the home, antiques and memorabilia from both sides of the family are prominently displayed and the family’s love of the water can be seen throughout the house, from the natural, riverbed-like kitchen surfaces to the custom kayak storage.

Ellison Heights Colonial
The tour’s “green” home showcases innovations that bring environmental consciousness to well-thought design and construction. Erected in 2003 by Greenbuilt Homes, the updated Colonial design home in the Ellison Heights neighborhood features fine craftsmanship, attention to detail, an open floor plan and a traditional layout. Special “green” elements include vinyl windows that block some UV rays, recycled insulation and environmentally friendly appliances. With open, multifunctional living spaces, the rooms are comfortable and inviting for kids and adults. The backyard has both lovely new landscaping as well as a mini basketball court with a padded surface.

Fowler’s Addition California Craftsman
Falls Church’s own version of Gracie Mansion is a California Craftsman home totally renovated by the homeowners in 2004. The homeowners chose the original Fowler’s Addition structure for the lot’s “family garden cottage” feel. Architect Charlie Moore worked to preserve that feeling by incorporating into the design usable space, porches, and good sight lines. The home was carefully situated on the lot to maintain an appropriate setback, and dormer windows provide recognition for the home from multiple directions. Following the Craftsman style, key furniture pieces are Stickley originals.

Ellison Heights Contemporary Farmhouse
Multiple renovations over the years have transformed this 1940s Ellison Heights rambler into a stunning contemporary farmhouse. With a professional decorator as a homeowner, the interior spaces are harmonious and feature pieces obtained through the family’s travel throughout Asia. One interesting item is a church pew in the front hall, which was originally used by an Anglican choirmaster in London.