The Not-So-Little House

by Aaron Wilson

While the 1960s are oft remembered for tumultuous civil unrest, along with “The Sound of Music” and emergence of The Beatles, on the economic and housing fronts, it was a prosperous decade. Though the average home was a 1,600-square-foot ranch house with a price tag around $31,000, many large homes were constructed. These offered spacious living rooms for entertaining, closets in every bedroom and nicely landscaped grounds. Formica counters and wood paneling were popular, along with a wood-burning fireplace in the living room.
This family home in Blacksburg, constructed in 1963, sports wood paneling in both the sheet panel variety and upscale raised panel walls in the living room. There’s a requisite fireplace in the living room and a charming chair rail with solid wood paneling on the lower third of the formal dining room walls. Medium-tone wood kitchen cupboards with scalloped wood décor embellishments and linoleum kitchen flooring are still in place here with other floors being attractive hardwood. V.e.r.y. ‘60s.
The 2-story brick house, however, is exceptionally large for the times with seven bedrooms and three full baths in the above-ground basement! Rumor on the street is that there was a student housing shortage, and surely this 2,000 square feet of lower level space helped out, plus providing maid quarters. Some of those walls have come down to create an extraordinarily charming Airbnb guest suite with windows and a private entrance into a very inviting, cozy space.
“We specifically sought out property with an income-producing element,” states homeowner Katie Bowling who, with her husband Philip, does some of the renovation. It was just a little over three years ago when the family had been living outside Boston for several years that they discussed their long-term, raise-the-family plan. “Philip’s family is in Tennessee, and I am a Blacksburg native, and we decided moving back to my hometown made sense for everyone.”
The Bowlings love restoring old houses, and this house is spacious, family friendly and near downtown. Philip works with Katie’s dad, John Byers, at Townside Property Management, owned by Byers and Mike Eggleston.

“As is” – All Original 1960s

The property sold for the first time in 1998 “as is”, since the original owners never made any changes. The gentleman who purchased it lived there solo for 20 years without renovating. Thus, it was a real “as is” acquisition. One of the first updates for the Bowlings was adding duct work and a heat pump. Much of the other early renovation work went into the Airbnb accommodations, installing drywall over concrete walls, painting and furnishing. The upstairs bedrooms and hall bathroom were spruced up for the kids. The master bedroom is gigantic with a tiny bathroom en suite. A much larger bathroom will be designed and added at some point using some the bedroom’s large floor space.
The generous living room, like the entire house, is flooded with natural daylight from copious 8-over-8 pane windows. The charming, eclectic décor reflects tradition as well as transitional accents and family pieces. “Having a large house now, we seem to be the favorite place for heirlooms to land as older relatives downsize,” Katie points out. Guitars hang on the living room wall with a pink piano nearby for the musical inclinations of Philip and the kids. “The piano was my grandmother’s, and painting it pink was just for fun.”
One could easily get lost just on the main floor among the living room, formal dining room, very large eat-in kitchen, family room, office, expansive “wild and free” playroom, laundry, hall and full bathroom. The Bowlings painted the wall paneling in the family room and plan soon to knock out a window and wall in favor of doors to a new, large deck.
The kitchen is substantially big for the 1960s with lots of cupboards, counter space and a window over the sink. There’s another window over the L-shaped counter along the outside walls, an island and the proverbial kitchen table. Though dated in many ways, the largess of the kitchen renders it very workable and pleasant.
There are buzzers all over the house – to call the maid(s) back in the day – plus a working elevator. Katie has added décor elements which radiate the graciousness and warmth of the impressive home while offering a casual contemporary feel. One accent wall in a child’s bedroom sports a doggie wallpaper, and the inside of the front door is a bright, sunny shade of yellow. Hanging chairs were a 1960s phenomenon which still evoke a whimsical, modern place to relax, especially when outfitted with a furry seat, pillow and teddy bear.
From the master bath, new deck, knocking out a few more walls here and there and ongoing home renovation to kitchen updates and more painting and wallpapering, the Bowlings actively embrace the move back to Katie’s hometown. The entire family is thrilled they can live, work and play from their stately house in the New River Valley, a classic home with a grand past and exciting future.


Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Kristie Lea Photography

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