Hollin Hills House & Garden Tour 2014

Every year, Hollin Hills, a planned community of mid-century houses located in Alexandria, Virginia, holds a house and garden tour. This year's tour was held in May and was the first since the Hollin Hills Historic District was listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places in 2013. Hollin Hills is one of the few planned communities where the houses were designed by a single architect, Charles Goodman. Another rare quality is the location of the houses on irregularly shaped plots designed specifically for uninterrupted views (i.e., no fences, but hedges and other landscaping options for marking off property are allowed).

I love mid-century houses and the Hollin Hills tour is spectacularly well organized and worth seeing. The self-guided tour cost $25 for advance registration ($30 at the door) and included eleven houses (three were garden only); a 28-page booklet; and lectures on Hollin Hills and the historical context of planned communities, open-plan houses, and natural landscaping. The booklet contains not only a map of the community with the locations of the tour houses identified, but also two-page spreads of each house on the tour, which include a line drawing of the house, a short narrative on the house's history/features, and the model of the house (there are about eight standard models).

After I attended the lectures, I met up with friends Gin, Tanja, and Meg at Gin's Hollin Hills home (not on the tour) for brunch on her screened-in back porch with its lovely, very green view. Then we headed out. The houses on the tour were in two clusters; walking was easy within the clusters (although, frequently, there weren't sidewalks), but we drove between clusters.

Because these houses are lived in by the owners, I got a real feel for how these spaces worked. The interior design of the houses ranged from original or updated mid-century modern (one of the houses won The Washington Post's Mad Men house style contest) to traditional. Some were open-house staged; others were more party ready. Usually not all rooms were open for the tour, but sometimes even when a room wasn't open, it could be viewed from the outside because the drapes of the floor-to-ceiling windows were open. I was inspired by some of the kitchen designs and fell in love with more than one landscaped backyard (and boy do I want a large, circular, faux-wicker sectional sofa—and patio to put it on).

Some of the houses have not been changed from the original floor plans; others have been extensively renovated with rooms added and walls removed. Most however keep with Goodman's aesthetic of open, flowing floor plans and large windows for sunlight. I particularly enjoyed seeing the mostly unrenovated c. 1950s kitchen in a home still lived in by its original owner (whose favorite color I'm pretty sure is red) and the extensively renovated home with the walk-in wine refrigerator.

I'm not posting any pictures, because these are private homes; however, the Hollin Hills website has a photo gallery.

Toured May 3, 2014