Special/Signature Issues » Home Style

Setting Down Roots

In the search for a home, newlyweds find the perfect fit — and the right price — across the river.



The residence: A 1930 brick four-square near Forest Hill Park.

The owners: Liz and John Hawthorne. She's a computer project manager with RightMinds; he's a relationship manager with Capital One.

Previous home: A duplex apartment on Stuart Avenue. "We were renting but got priced out of the Fan when we were ready to buy," Liz says.

How they found this house: "We looked at about eight properties and came across the river kicking and screaming. I was a South Side snob," Liz says, "but Benji Tull of Keller Williams Realty [a friend they'd known since high school in Roanoke] assured us it was a cool neighborhood."

Tull says the couple's priorities were clear: "They wanted a nice home, to be around other young people in a citylike setting. When their price range didn't meet the criteria for the Fan or the Museum District, going across the river was the next logical step. When we opened the door, it just fit them. You could tell just by stepping into the foyer." The couple first noticed the tall ceilings and the house's circular, party-ready layout and made a quick decision to write a contract.

What they got for the money: "We got a steal," Liz says. Their purchase price was $209,000, but their mortgage is actually for $216,000 because the couple used a zero-down financing plan to gain ownership and rolled their closing costs into the loan. (See sidebar for details.)

The house features original hardwood floors, large living and dining rooms, French doors, updated kitchen, three bedrooms, 1 1/2 baths, three porches, original unpainted wood-panel doors, a basement and a large yard with mature trees.

What they're doing to make it their own: The Hawthornes are gregarious and creative, so they've chosen lively paint finishes for each room. A checkerboard design in the dining room shows off three shades of green. Upstairs bedrooms are painted mandarin orange, red and mocha, and the living room's gray walls and white trim set off red upholstered furniture.

They're spontaneous to a point: "We go into the paint store and make a decision in 10 minutes and roll with it," Liz says. But she uses her computer expertise to plan the look, and she laid out the dining room paint design on paper before putting it on the wall.

Out back, a new deck looks onto newly planted perennial beds filled with hostas, lilies, oak-leaf hydrangeas and rhododendron.

How they decorate affordably: Avid do-it-yourselfers, the Hawthornes scavenge for antiques and strip off paint, like the seven layers of pea green on a large cedar armoire, to add vintage character to their modern accessories and colors.

"And IKEA is a godsend," Liz says, for Roman blinds and inexpensive textiles. John redid the bathroom in blues, frosted glass and light woods as a surprise for his wife's birthday and built a blond wood and tile console table for the front hall.

How they've adapted to the neighborhood: "We love the sense of community here," Liz says. "We know our neighbors — they're friendly and outgoing people — and we're still close to downtown." The Hawthornes say their favorite nearby spots are Forest Hill Park, Maldini's, Cielito Lindo and The Locker Room, but their favorite activity is entertaining neighbors and friends at their home, which is steadily growing equity through their improvements. HS


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