An Ever-Evolving Family Home With Family Ties
Alex and Sackett Wood’s home focuses on the family. Clearly, this is what matters most for this couple. Around the home are family photographs, carefully framed and displayed in every room, and heirloom furnishings passed through generations. Even its location, in proximity to both Alex’s and Sackett’s families, is important to the couple.
The Woods have lived in their home for 13 years. Both Alex and Sackett grew up in the Lynchburg area and their families were friends. Shortly after beginning a family of their own, the couple moved into the house across the street from Sackett’s parents. “My mother-in-law asked me if I was ok with moving in so close-by,” recalled Alex. My reply was “I feel great about it, but how about you?”
Today Alex and Sackett Wood, along with their three boys, still live close to their relatives. The home’s location, which is off Link Road, is a great setting for raising children. “We wanted a family-friendly neighborhood” said Alex, “ where kids can bike and throw a football.” Moreover, she pointed out, “We wanted to be near both sets of our parents, all of whom are very involved and close to the kids.”
The home’s Federal style, symmetry and traditional appearance initially drew Alex to the house. The couple enhanced its exterior design with new landscaping, a circular drive, a front patio and a flagstone path trimmed with brick soldiers vertically laid along the edge of the stone walkway.
Directly across the street is a large triangle owned by the city. Landscaped with trees and benches, the park is a tiny haven of common ground open to all. Here everyone gathers. According to Alex, popsicle parties are regular events in the summer. Children bike around its perimeter, play ball there and enjoy the extra green space.
The home was in relatively good condition when the family moved in. However, since Alex enjoys cooking, she knew that a kitchen renovation was necessary. “We lived here for about eight years before redoing the kitchen,” said Alex. The couple hired Bill Justis of Justis Construction for the project. Bill Justis represents the third generation of contractors and cabinetmakers.
According to Alex, “He gets it. He does a lot with older homes and knows how to continue the look.” He’s a perfectionist and that is why he is so good at what he does.
“Alex knew exactly what she wanted and what she was looking for,” said Bill. The result is a very compact and efficient kitchen with everything in the best place for food preparation, cooking and serving.
A pantry was gutted in order to install double ovens and a cooking range. A center island doubles as additional workspace and an extra dining spot. With its four comfortable stools, the island is perfect for family breakfasts and snacks after school. A farm sink, granite countertops and stainless steel appliances give the room a sparkling clean appearance.
Following Alex’s design suggestions, Bill also added wainscoting on the kitchen walls as tall as the chair rail for an added touch of interest. He explained that this wainscoting was installed the old-fashioned way, one board at a time, unlike the newer wainscoting that comes manufactured in sheets.
Five years ago, they added a first-floor master bedroom and bath, a family room and a screened porch facing the backyard that runs the length of the house. Since Bill Justis proved to be so essential to the kitchen project, he was the obvious choice to build their addition.
“We wanted an open family area so we added this room,” explained Alex as she pointed to a large and comfortable space necessary for a house full of children. “This is where we eat and live,” said Alex. An enormous round table dominates one end of the room. While it is both massive and indestructible, the table’s rich wooden finish and design add an air of sophistication to the room. Beneath the table is one of Betsy Burton’s hand-painted floor cloths. Known for her unique designs, Betsy begins with a large piece of canvas that has been primed, and using acrylics, she paints fanciful designs, in this case butterflies and other small creatures. She then covers the canvas with a coat of polyurethane for protection and durability.
While the family room is a separate space from the adjoining kitchen, Alex did not want to feel isolated from the family when she was busy cooking. Instead of walling over the original kitchen window, the glass was removed creating a vista and a handy kitchen pass-through between the two rooms.
Bill Justis’s talent for cabinetry is especially evident along one wall lined with book shelving. The opposite end of this very large room includes a fireplace flanked by tall windows topped with transoms. The window and transom combination is carried over on the outside wall that connects with the porch and allows abundant light to stream into the room.
The family room is decorated with a mix of comfortable chairs and couches along with several period pieces that have been passed down from both sides of the family.
Artwork by Virginia artists hangs throughout the home, and the family room is no exception. Two very large paintings by Richmond artist Andras Bality hang here. Known for his landscapes and seascapes, he often paints in plein air technique which means he paints outdoors on location and bases his work on observation rather than painting from a photo. One of his works depicts a scene at Goshen Pass. The Wood family spends time in the Warm Springs area and was attracted to Bality’s work because he often uses this area as subject matter. They are especially fond of the Cow Pasture River. When their youngest son questioned the artist about why he had not ever painted their favorite river, Bality promised him, “When I get home I will do a painting of the Cow Pasture River.” Two months later, their son received an oil painting in the mail personalized on the back with the message “To my young art enthusiast.” Needless to say, Andras Bality holds a special place in Alex Wood’s heart.
French doors from the family room lead onto the screened porch. The backyard is still a “someday” project for the family. Alex explained that when they first moved in, they planned to plant a vegetable garden. “We started to till the land and when we finally got it ready to plant I went into labor with my first child. We never got any further.”
The final portion of the addition includes a small side hall that leads to the master bedroom and a lower level playroom for the kids. The hall features brightly painted furniture and two leather upholstered chairs in a robin’s egg blue which contrasts with a bright red oriental carpet. Sackett is president of Moore & Giles, a local company well known for importing exceptional leather. Alex utilizes this resource whenever she can to carry out her design and color scheme in the house. A lovely painting brought back from China from a cousin covers one entire wall.
Framed family photographs, all in black and white, hang on the hallway walls. “My mom did a lot of black and white photography while we were growing up. She developed her own pictures in a neighbor’s darkroom and many of our friends had her take portraits of their children,” says Alex. Some of the pictures Alex’s mother shot were of Sackett when he was a child. Alex has combined all of these with photographs done by other family members and the result is a charming display of family, past and present.
Understated yet elegant, the master bedroom is painted in tones of French blue with white accents. A small sitting area and a four-poster bed decked with pillows and bolsters creates a cozy room. French doors lead to the screened porch and add additional light into the bedroom. A well-designed bath in white with touches of blue is dazzling due to Alex’s choice of white marble for the floors and countertops. An adjacent walk-in dressing room offers ample space for clothing, shoes and a vanity.
Alex has a natural flair for interior design although she has no formal training. She is now helping others decorate their own homes. As she explained, “I work with Laura Sackett (of the Arched Doorway) who is Sackett’s cousin. She helped me when we were adding on and told me, ‘Alex, you don’t need me, let’s just do this together.’” At the time, Alex was too busy with young children to consider turning her talent into a business. “Now I am ready,” she proclaimed. The two still work together, pooling their experience and talents for various projects. “Laura has been a wonderful mentor and there is a nice balance between the two of us.”
Always with her eye on fresh ways to transform the spaces in her home into their aesthetic and efficient best, a back room — still a work in progress — will eventually become Alex’s office. The room is painted aqua with an upholstered bright pink sofa accenting the room. Portraits of each of the couple’s three children hang along one wall.
As in the rest of the Wood home, the formal living room reflects the heritage of both families with its blending of furnishings and decorative pieces. A pair of ornate Victorian lamps in cranberry red glass illuminates through their bases. They were originally her mother-in-law’s and Alex describes them as “a little gaudy and a lot of fun.” Built-in shelves display Alex’s pottery and porcelain collection and a large bay window allows light to pour into the already-bright room.
An ornate library table is covered with family photographs and flanked on either side with lamps depicting Chinese girls dressed in bright red. Alex originally spotted the table at Enchanted, which is a downtown Lynchburg shop well known for antiques and decorative pieces. It had a bright red HOLD sign on it. Each time Alex visited the store she would look at the piece until finally she asked the shop’s owner Mary Brockman, “Who has a hold on this table?” Mary’s reply: “Your mother-in-law.” A quick phone call settled that and Alex bought the table.
The dining room is very traditional with its original chair rail and built-in corner cabinet. Collections of family silver, including several family members’ silver baby cups, are on display in the room and a painting by local artist Annie Massie decorates the wall. “While this house is traditional, I love it,” said Alex. “I like to mix the old stuff with the new.”
Throughout their home, the theme of “family” is evident. It is found in the location, the décor and the design. The Woods expect to stay here a long time. Their home is ideal for the entire family now and for many years to come, perhaps even carrying the tradition into the next generation.