Renovations Make Retirement Home Just Right

By: Kim Robins, March 13th, 1997

A year-long expansion and renovation project turned a Gloucester Point residence into an elegant yet comfortable retirement home for Charles and Anne Avery. The Averys, formerly of Richmond, were not newcomers to the county prior to settling on their retirement spot. The couple had a home in York River Pines that for several years served as a summer retreat form the city.

After Avery sold his insurance business and retired, he and his wife found they were spending more and more time in Gloucester and decided to look for the right setting for a more permanent home. They found that site on a high bank overlooking the York River in a quiet Gloucester Point neighborhood. “We saw this place and just loved it,” Mrs. Avery said of settling on their choice and purchasing the property in 1994.

The residence on the property, built around 1962, was not quite large enough for the couple. While wanting to expand the house, they also desired to open more vistas to the property’s grand river views. They put their ideas on paper with the help of Williamsburg architect Paul White, then looked for a builder. After bids and discussions the Averys decided to work with a Gloucester general contractor Robert Ottarson, a choice they now feel was the best they could have made. “We’ve been so happy with Robert. He took my ideas and made them work even better than I had envisioned. And he and his men are particular. They take great pride in their work,” Mrs. Avery said.

The Averys sold their house in York River Pines and moved temporarily into a rental unit in Snug Harbor while improvements were being made to their new home. After being “packed up like sardines,” one concept that would definitely be apart of their new home was plenty of closet space.

Ottarson began the project in February of 1996, ripping out walls and windows and preparing for the expansion. “It seemed like months before Robert finally said, ‘Mr. Avery, we’re going to start building back now,’ ” Avery recalled. In testament to the good relationship between the couple and their builder, Mrs. Avery said, “Robert is very special to us. this took a year and we’re still friends.”

The renovation included replacing all windows and laying wood floors throughout the house. The expansion filled and stretched the L-shaped rancher, resulting in a tow-room deep house with wide room entranceways that allow the river views to be enjoyed from almost every foot of the home.

An oyster shell covered drive approaches the residence from Mercer Street and circles a large, well preserved willow oak. A covered rear porch was added to stretch from the main entrance across the rear to a side door.

The main entrance was not moved, but expanded into a larger foyer with a wide view in the living room and to the river beyond. The wing to the right still houses the original two bedrooms there, with an extra shower added so that each guest room has its own bath. Original tile work in the baths was left intact and renovations in this area were mostly cosmetic. Small windows were replaced with larger ones to expand the river views.

A portion of the large living room was shelved on two sides for a library area, with the shelving installed by Harris Cabinets of Gloucester. That company also did other cabinetry and shelving work in the home. “We wanted to use and buy from locals as much as we could,” said Mrs. Avery. “We felt that’s what we should do. We’re very enthusiastic about Gloucester.”

The library area ends with a fireplace on one side and a wide entrance to the dining room on the other side. On the river side, a six-foot sliding door in the living room was replaced with two sets of glass doors leading to the front terrace. The dining room, which was part of the addition, has six full length windows to take in the river vistas. It is serviced by a large butler’s pantry that previously served as a dining area.

A narrow room with a raised hearth, brick fireplace that once served as the kitchen was made wider with the installation of a large bay window overlooking the backyard. The room now serves as a cozy den. On the other side of the den is the new kitchen with a center island with cooktop. At its far end, a counter bar separates the kitchen with a river front breakfast nook.

The master suite consumes most of the eastern wing of the home which previously serves as a garage. Again, there is plenty of glass for enjoying the river. The suite includes a smaller room, a large bath with both a shower and a separate tub, and a walk-in closet large enough to get lost in. A door at the rear of the closet area leads to the laundry room and a hallway to the side door. A new garage was added to provide space for two vehicles as well as a workshop.

The expansion and renovation was completed November of ’96, and a mid-December house blessing “made it all feel complete,” Mrs. Avery said. Entertaining at the residence has sometimes meant a crowd of about 100 persons, all accommodated comfortably in the enlarged home. “We absolutely love it, Robert did a wonderful job. We’re just so happy here, and we’re happy to share it with others,” Mrs. Avery said.

When not enjoying the company of friends, the Averys are content to enjoy simply the company of their beautiful surroundings. “We really like this point. We can look out over the water at night and see the lights on the parkway. We log in the naval vessels as they come and go. It’s never really dark at night. There are lots of lights, and day and night, something’s always moving out there,” Mrs. Avery said of the waterfront. “We’ve got wonderful neighbors,” Avery added, “and good fishing.”

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