By Alexa Epitropoulos | email@example.com
Lindsey Swanson and Terry Burcham had just decided to move in together when they stumbled upon a house that they immediately fell in love with. Though the couple wasn’t looking to buy at the time, when they walked into a home in Del Ray on their first weekend of attending open houses, they knew immediately that they had to act.
“We walked in the door and said, ‘We’re home. We need to buy this house right now,’” Swanson said.
The two, who both have artistic backgrounds, were impressed with the creative touches the previous owner had added to the house, which was built in the 1930s. The archway between the kitchen and living room had black-and-white stripes and the kitchen had a blue refrigerator. Upstairs, two smaller bedrooms had been combined into a light-filled master bedroom.
“We told them, ‘We love everything about the house, everything you’ve done.’ He was touched by that and he said, ‘We have multiple bidders, but I want you guys to have the house. Please just let me know what you want to pay and we’ll make it happen,'” Swanson said.
The two purchased the home near the height of the market in 2006. They moved into their new home in February of that year and the night they moved in, Burcham proposed to Swanson.
The engagement wasn’t the only sweet part of the move. The two, who were consolidating their two condos into their new home, found that their furniture fit together seamlessly.
“It was kind of funny for me. We had this great buying experience, we’d fallen in love with the house and then when we moved in, we were merging our two condos and, eerily, every single piece of furniture between the two condos completely worked, between the dimensions of our space and our two design tastes blending together,” Swanson said.
Burcham said the moving experience was a highlight for him as well, especially because of the team that helped them make the transition: Swanson’s family.
“It was like a small army. Her family is really large, so we had all of our furniture in the morning and, by the evening, it was all pretty much set up,” Burcham said.
The house, even a little more than a decade later, is a mixture of the couple’s furniture.
The white couch in the living room is from Swanson’s condo, while the couch in the TV room in the back of the house is from Burcham’s condo. The bed in the master bedroom is from Swanson’s condo, and the dressers in the room are from Burcham.
“Everything just kind of merged beautifully and it was funny – one of my cousins came in from town from Arizona and asked how long we’d been in the space and we told them a week and he was like, ‘Wait, what?’” Swanson recalled. “We had art on the walls, everything was painted, everything was up and ready to go.”
Swanson and Burcham have changed the paint color of a few rooms, including the living
room, which went from ketchup to mustard to its current teal. They also painted the upstairs bedroom a light blue from the same paint can that Burcham had used at his condo.
While altering little of the home’s interior, they have made the basement their
own, painting the walls and transforming it into a recreation room and practice area
for the Janna Audey Band, in which Burcham plays the drums.
Several furniture pieces are from Swanson’s family, which has been in Alexandria since the 19th century. A painting from her grandmother, “New Orleans,” hangs in the living room.
Swanson and Burcham also inherited Herman Miller Eames chairs, which had resided in her grandmother’s home for multiple decades, after she died.
The furniture and the art in their home is highly personal and the couple created
many pieces themselves, including Swanson’s sketch above the couch in the living room and photographs by Burcham and friends in the kitchen. A Noguchi coffee table was given by friends as a wedding gift and they replaced their battered IKEA dining room table with one made of glass they found at an independent shop in Georgetown. Throw pillows on the couch were crocheted by Burcham’s mom.
A pop art piece from William Christenberry hangs above the fireplace and the couple has many prints from Shepard Fairey, the artist who designed the “Hope” poster of eventual President Barack Obama, throughout the house.
“It’s just a bit from here and there from different friends and family,” Burcham said.
“We wanted to make everything very personal,” Swanson said.
One of the biggest changes the couple has made is on the outside: the addition of a patio in the back left corner of their backyard. The entire project came together over the course of a week in 2016, just before their home was featured on the Del Ray Home Tour.
“[The tour] just hit at a time when all of our contractors disappeared on us at the same time. We had our backyard all torn up,” Swanson said. “Everyone didn’t coalesce until the week before the event, so we were pouring concrete the Saturday before the event. We were having our contractors do that, while they were putting in decking. They were putting in all of our landscaping. [Terry] and I and friends of ours were all painting the mural at the same time.”
“All of that was happening at the same time,” Burcham said. “It was crazy.”
The patio was done with just hours to spare, meaning guests were able to enjoy it before Swanson and Burcham.
The two said they have multiple favorite places in the home, depending on the time of day.
“If it’s a nice day outside, we like to be on the patio. If it’s a snowy day, or if we’re snowed in, [the living room] is kind of nice, because it’s cozy. We can build a fire and get that going,” Burcham said.
“Typically, we’re in the back room, watching TV, but that’s still cozy and comfortable,” Swanson said. “Then our bedroom is really, really great to be [in] and kind of rejuvenate.”
The two also love the neighborhood surrounding their home. Swanson grew up nearby on Chapman Street and her mom and several siblings still live in the city. Burcham, who is originally from Galax, Virginia in the commonwealth’s southwest region, has adopted Alexandria as his hometown. The two were married at Swanson’s family home on Chapman in spring 2007, with Sheriff Dana Lawhorne officiating.
“He had us walk down the aisle handcuffed and then we just basically partied the entire night,” Swanson said.
“That’s what we like to say – it was a party and we decided to get married there,” Burcham added.
They enjoy hanging out in the neighborhood, whether it’s joining their neighbors for wine on their porch or talking shop about the couple’s 1965 Ford Mustang.
“All of our neighbors are amazing. We really lucked into the best street in Del Ray,” Swanson said. “I know a lot of people think they have the best street – we have the best street. Our neighbors are just really fantastic people. Everyone has so much fun. We look out for each other, we all band together when someone needs help and we all
are able to party together.”
Swanson said the couple also loves how easy it is to walk to small businesses, community events and public transit.
“In terms of buying in this area, you can’t go wrong. It’s such a lovely area, so walkable,” Swanson said. “… We can walk to the farmer’s market that’s 10 minutes away [in Pat Miller Square], we can walk to the Metro in 10 minutes, we have access to so many different places we can go very quickly, so many cultural activities – whether it be in the neighborhood [or] in the city – and enjoy the amenities.”
Both Swanson and Burcham work nearby – Swanson as chief marketing officer at Gravitate Solutions in Old Town and Burcham as a user experience designer at Sapient in Arlington.
Twelve years after moving to East Luray, their home has become a central point for family and friends.
“It feels like our house is Grand Central Station sometimes,” Swanson said.
“Which is kind of what we wanted,” Burcham concurred.
“Growing up – I’m one of five kids and the oldest of five, so our parents had a larger house – our house was constantly filled with not only the seven of us, but all of our individual friends,” Swanson said. “All of our friends would come over, some of our friends would live with us for a time. We always joked that our house growing up felt like Grand Central Station, so I kind of like that ours feels that way too sometimes. I’m glad I found a partner that also agrees [with that].”
Does your home tell a story? If so, we want to hear from you. Email Alexandria Times editor Alexa Epitropoulos at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to be featured in our monthly Real Estate column.