Thursday, March 14, 2019

Got Your Pliers Right Here

Turns out I can date a house by its bathtub.

When Mac pointed to the unusually-sized square tub in the bathroom, she guessed its origins were the 1950s. Not so, I suggested, recognizing that size and style from a Northern Neck house I'd recently seen that had an identical tub. A house that had had bathrooms put in by its very rich new owner in 1932.

As a side note, I find it curious that I went a lifetime without ever seeing a square tub and I've now spotted two in three weeks.

Today's square tub was located in an International Style house (Richmond's first, it should be noted) in the Maymont neighborhood. Mac and I had walked by it many time (her especially because it's her 'hood) en route to Texas Beach, the difference being that this time we got to go in.

Thanks, Modern Richmond, for letting us be voyeurs.

As soon as we'd seen what house was being featured, we'd gotten tickets so we could ogle its interior. Like the master bedroom with two walls of windows looking out over the canal and river. And not just any windows, but the original casement windows that opened out.

All I'm saying is, if that was my bedroom, those windows would be open April through October and any 65+ degree day in between.

The house's current owners had combined a mix of old and new belongings. A vintage black telephone like the one in "Dial M for Murder" sat next to a computer screen. The sunny bedroom had a small, VCR TV much like the ones from the early '90s.

Mine was stolen the weekend I moved into my Floyd Avenue apartment, a convenient way to pull the plug.

Walking outside to the deck overlooking the river, Mac ran smack dab into the same stranger who'd been behind her in line at Lowe's in Short Pump last night. When the cashier's two pairs of scissors weren't able to cut the zip tie off the product, he'd offered to get pliers to help her remove it.

What are the chances their paths would cross again so soon? Or ever?

The former garage had been attached to the house and covered at some point, allowing for a raised dining room which could be seen through the windows near the kitchen. The flooring was the same as in NYC subway cars, so incredibly durable, although a pain-in-the-butt to install.The bathroom was drop dead gorgeous with a patterned red and black floor made of ruby glass and amethyst glass.

One of the owners who'd bought the house in 1987 and lived there for three decades gave a talk with lots of dirt about the house. It had been built in 1935-6 by Richmond architect George Edward Hoppe, Jr., an unfamiliar name I knew immediately I needed to go home and research.

So I'm a nerd and a voyeur.

Like how her husband had rented the house for $250 a month before he met her. How he'd finally convinced the owner to let him buy it for $52K in the late '80s - a gentleman's agreement with no actual documentation - only to have someone else offer the guy $92K. How the owner told the higher bidder he'd have to talk to her husband. Now, that's integrity.

During the ten-year renovation ("I now know how to use a Saws-all," she bragged), the couple knew one thing for sure: they were keeping the original windows, a wise move given how distinctive they are (that or the $30K cost to replace them all).

Also, they didn't need George Edward Hoppe, Jr. rolling around in his grave.

One of my favorite features was that while the roof was flat outside in keeping with the International Style, inside the roof was peaked, with beams visible. And although the house had originally been unpainted brick, it had long since been painted white, making for a striking contrast with all the foliage around it.

The couple who owns it now also spoke, gushing about how external feeling the house is during the day with all the un-curtained windows allowing in light and nature, but at night, it morphs into something internal feeling and cozy. Perched on a hill over the river, it was easy to imagine.

He pointed out that all the windows in the living room are at eye height to draw the eye outside. On the sun porch, the windows are at eye height when you're sitting down. Brilliant, George, that's all I can say.

"It's funny to live in a work of art," one of the owners admitted. "But that's what it feels like."

Walking out afterwards to my car, I spotted a friend coming down his walkway. From the screened porch above, his wife called out to me. It was the same couple I'd seen performing in their band last Wednesday at Capital Ale House. Their rock and roll aura was somewhat subdued. She was wearing yellow pants and filling a brand new yellow bird feeder and he was chatting with us about what we'd just seen.

But we couldn't chat for long because even though we'd already made a pit stop at 821 Cafe for a plate of my favorite black bean nachos, we had a movie to see at the Byrd.

Walking in, manager Todd announced, "There she is! Now we can start the movie," his kind of humor. Inside, buttered popcorn and Milk Duds procured, we settled in for 2011 film "Pariah" about a young black woman struggling to come out as a lesbian to herself and her family.

Tellingly, the woman who introduced the film. a familiar face from poetry and haiku readings, gave the most heartfelt of affirmations about it, saying, "Watching this film felt like the first time I saw myself on the big screen."

The movie had premiered at Sundance and won an award for its exquisite cinematography and we didn't have to get very far into it to see why. Add in the knockout performance of newcomer Adepero Oduye who played the woman and I was just sorry there weren't more people in attendance for the sensitively-acted and well-written story.

But then again, I can't worry about what others miss. It was enough to eat, ogle and watch with Mac and get her home at a reasonable hour since she'd been up since dawn. Maybe this is why people tell me they're exhausted being with me.

"This is the best Modern Richmond ever!" I heard a man tell someone on the deck of the Hoppe house. Later, during the talk, he repeated it to the entire room. Can't say that I agree and I've been to plenty.

But it was a fine introduction to a local architect and I'm living proof that that can be life-changing.

Oh, and I'll look up Hoppe, too.

No comments:

Post a Comment