2024-07-18 4:03 AM

This Year’s Home and Garden Tour Promotes Inclusivity, Environment

On Sunday, April 16th, The Falls Church Home & Garden tour held its eighth edition of highlighting various houses and gardens in the Little City. One important difference in this year’s tour is that it included the “widest variety” of areas, including houses, apartments and townhouses. 

F.C.’s Home and Garden Tour highlights various houses and gardens, including apartments and townhouses. (Photo: Carol Sly)

Debbie Hiscott, the executive director of the Falls Church Education Foundation, said this year’s tour highlighted the inclusivity of living locations in the city. From Founder’s Row apartments to a 1800’s farmhouse, Hiscott said the tour promoted a range of “budgets and styles” for participants. 

Although the main goal for the tour is to raise money for the Falls Church Education and Falls Church City Public Schools with their various programs and funds, Hiscott said a secondary goal is to highlight “what an interesting and unique city” Falls Church is. Hiscott also said the tour is a time to recognize the various architects, realtors, landscapers and more for their work in the city. 

The tour featured eleven “stops” around the city, with most participants walking or biking to each house and garden. Volunteers greeted visitors at the front of each location, providing historical and general information about the house and/or garden. 

The first stop was the “Ever-Evolving Garden” grown by Nancy Silva and Ed Jenkins. Located on 1110 Seaton Lane, the garden was once depicted as an “urban jungle” when purchased in 1997. Clearing away invasive and diseased plants, the duo now presents a landscape of native shrubs, including red camellia and Japanese holly.

Starting in the front of their house and leading into the corner of the backyard, the garden also features river birch trees, sweetbay magnolias, winterberry holly and golden ragwort. Silva said being selected as a spot on the tour was “very humbling” and she was flattered to be asked. 

Various gardens featured on the tour promoted the use of native plants and conservation landscaping, which are environmentally-friendly ways to keep a garden healthy and happy. (Photo: Carol Sly)

“It’s my legacy when we leave this property,” Silva said when speaking about the garden. “I’d like to think that I’ve left it a lot better than we found it.” 

A Contemporary Winter Hill Townhouse owned by Diane Bartley and Andrew Miller was the second stop, the only townhouse featured on the tour. Located on 331 James Street, this townhouse was redesigned and renovated by local land development company DuBro Architects in 2019. 

Although seeming small on the outside, the inside of the townhouse features a large setting, with a custom designed dining table made from a “slab of claro walnut” by local furniture craftsman Jeff Spugnardi. When stepping outside the house, a wide deck allows visitors to enjoy the pollinator-friendly plantings, herbs, fruits and vegetables.  

Jeff Dubro, the founder and owner of Dubro Architects, said the original townhouse design had a compartmentalized interior that was both “disconnected” and “cut-up.” Dubro then worked with Bartely and Miller to “make a home” that was “well-crafted, functional and above all open for their family to stay connected.” 

“One of the prime goals of the design was to share light between spaces and open up sightlines  so as to create an open and warm interior that was conducive to gathering and sharing,” Dubro said. “By removing the center load-bearing wall full of ductwork, pipes and wires, DuBro was able to open up the possibilities.”

On 312 East Broad Street, a registered Virginia historic landmark, the Birch House, was the third stop on the tour. Having been built over 150 years ago by blacksmith Joseph E. Birch, the feel of the house gives a visitor a historic and modern atmosphere both inside and out. 

Owned by Sandy and Sam Mabry since 1984, the first two rooms entering the house have not been redesigned since initially purchased by Birch, as is the fireplace mantel in the parlor. An expansion to the house connected a small room adjacent to the kitchen, which was initially an “out-kitchen” with a tiny above room. The backyard features a large garden full of plants and even the original water pump house. 

“We are happy to offer our home for the tour,” Sam Mabry said. “The organization and coordination by the Foundation team was exemplary.” 

A mid-century Modernized Ranch house located on 230 Buxton Road was the fourth stop on the tour, owned by “relatively new” Falls Church resident Scott Plein. When first walking up to the house, the outside deceives the inside as the former gives a mid-20th century suburbia feel, while the latter is more modernized-looking with various artworks on display. 

The house features rooms with high ceilings and a patio looking out at native plantings and pollinators. Plein said he was “honored” to be a part of the tour and be able to help raise money for FCEF and FCCPS. 

“As one of the tour property owners, I thought the whole process was a success,” Plein said. “The docents were remarkable and the touring guests were diverse, friendly and engaging.” 

323 Forest Drive hosted the fifth stop, as the “Grand Custom Home” owned by Simran Randhawa gives a “New England” atmosphere to the city. Designed by two generations of architects and builders, intricate moldings, marble surrounds and custom built cabinets are hard-to-miss elements featured in the house. 

“Net Zero Home” on 611 11th Street was the sixth stop of the tour, having been built in 2019 and being one of only 500 net zero, single-family passive houses in North America. Designed by Kaplan Thompson Architects and built by Metro Green of Falls Church, a visitor will notice triple pane windows and insulated doors; important factors in designing a net zero house.

One unique fact about this net zero house is that it is powered by a 10.5KW solar array. The house’s roof eliminates heat gain during the summer, while also allowing light and warmth during the winter months. 

Kristen and Dan Ross’s “Revived Farmhouse” on 329 North Maple Avenue was the seventh stop, featuring a small, two-parlor house with an exterior Italianate design with original windows, front door and staircase. 

The result of a “demovation” beginning in 2012, the farmhouse preserves the historical elements of the 1873 original design, with the hardwoods being the oldest part of the home. One of many highlights of the farmhouse is the kitchen and family room addition with a screened porch, a perfect view for the pool that was added in 2022. 

Outside of Trammell’s Gate Condominiums on Great Falls Street is “Conservation Landscaping Gardens,” the eighth stop on the tour. Featuring the works of various homeowners and master gardener Sandy Tarpinian, the garden exemplifies conservation landscaping, which utilizes the placement of native plants to help control stormwater runoff, prevent erosion and support pollinators. 

The landscape features a variety of native plants such as sweetspire, inkberry and winterberry, as well perennial flowers. Tarpinian said she was “delighted” that her garden was featured on the tour this year, and hopes it will inform people on the benefits of conservation landscaping and native plants. 

The ninth stop of the tour was located on 306 Great Falls Street, the “Custom-built Hideaway” owned by Sheila and Ford Newman. The all-brick house was built in 1981 and has won two design competitions for best contemporary home based on its “excellent floor plan and detailing.”

A large office space, home theater, and wood-burning fireplace are just some of the many compelling features of the hideaway house, while the outside offers a deck, fire pit and gazebo. Another unique feature of the house is a detached garage with a finished second floor apartment. 

“Having been a board member with the Falls Church Chamber of Commerce, I always like to promote the businesses within the Little City,” Sheila Newman said. “We wanted to showcase the renovations that Foxcraft Design Group completed a few years ago.” 

The second-to-last stop of the tour was the “One-of-a-Kind Bungalow” on 607 North Oak Street, completed in 2022 by Dubro Architects. Owned by Ellen Winchester, the house features high ceilings, architectural angles and abundant windows that allow natural light into the house. Wood features are everywhere in the house, as the prominent dining table and benches are made from pine and the custom light fixture made from reclaimed oak beams. 

Jeff Dubro said Winchester’s goals were for the house to be “simple and elegant” that also connected with nature.  Winchester said Dubro encouraged her to take part in the tour.

“In a region where over-building has become the norm, we wanted to make a home that was scaled to the human body and the fabric of the neighborhood.” Dubro said.  “We aimed to create a reimagined bungalow that would be cozy in scale and yet soaring and full of life and light.”

The last spot, and certainly not the least, was an apartment at Modera Founders Row at 110 Founders Avenue. Built in 2021, the apartment is one of 322 units in the six-story building that also features a two-story fitness facility, clubroom and pool. The interior design of the apartment features a common room, kitchen, two bedrooms and bathrooms. 

This year’s tour raised over $35,000 to support the Falls Church Education Foundation and the Falls Church Public City Schools, with over 60 volunteers helping. Hiscott said the tour also saw its largest crowd for the event in its history with over 600 tickets.

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