Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Real Estate: The Urban Family House


t the Oregon Hill house last fall.

What they wanted: With two young children, the Finches looked for a generous kitchen and playroom, a fenced yard and access to city amenities. They hoped to find an urban vitality that would suit their international focus: He's a business consultant working on strategic planning in Latin America; she's a finance manager telecommuting to Washington, D.C. When Andrea Levine of Long & Foster Realtors showed them the house, they fell at first sight for mahogany doors and an elaborate tiled fireplace in the front hall and the unusual mix of old and new living spaces.

What they got for the money: Listed at $575,000, the house is one of the most expensive in the neighborhood and, with its great-room/loft addition, one of the largest. It features pocket doors, period woodwork and eight fireplaces, four bedrooms, two full and two half baths. Its designer kitchen/great-room has glass-tile walls, a limestone fireplace and a vaulted cypress ceiling. A sunroom opens to a covered porch with mahogany flooring. Extensive gardens have mature trees and shrubbery. The original cast-iron fence surrounds terraces and lawn, and there's a tranquil view of Hollywood Cemetery from most of the house.

How they made it their own: Rosa Finch was born in Saltillo, Mexico, and honors her heritage through artwork, traditions and language. The family speaks Spanish in the home and has a Spanish-speaking nanny; special occasions are marked with commissioned Mexican paintings or pieces picked up on travels.

The house has classical leanings but a modern addition, and the Finches follow suit by combining family antiques with new purchases such as a large round table for the dining room and an Indonesian bench for the sunroom.

Previous owners David and Kathryn Gammino, a builder and art director, left behind some of their furnishings and accessories, including red iron-filigree bar stools in the kitchen and several mirrors and light fixtures; they continue to socialize with the new owners. Gammino's company, City & Guilds, designed and built the addition and restored the original house and others in the neighborhood.

Why they prefer urban life: Allen Finch grew up in Bon Air and returned to Richmond after a 17-year period away, during which he earned three degrees and worked in international business. "If you're like me and grew up in Richmond, you never came to Oregon Hill except for a funeral," he says. "But you change after 17 years. We like urban living, and this is what we wanted."

The family relishes the proximity to attentive neighbors of all backgrounds and ages, and city conveniences such as a neighborhood church, the Pine Street Barber Shop and local restaurants. The Finches take regular strolls in the cemetery and host piĀ¤ata parties for birthdays amid the garden's date trees, tulips and drifts of rosemary. They sense a growing interest in urban living throughout the city and consider their decision to buy this house timely and fortuitous.