Bill and Liz Sykes were searching for a lifestyle change in 2001, when they decided to leave behind the long commutes and congestion of Northern Virginia. They found it in Williamsburg’s Windsor Forest.
“At first, we tried to find a home that was closer to my work in Northwest Washington, D.C., but it was way too cost prohibitive,” explains Liz. “So, we decided to make a big change. Since we had both gone to William & Mary, we felt comfortable with moving to Williamsburg.”
The couple had a vision. They wanted to start a family, so they sought more space than their Northern Virginia townhouse had offered, and they wanted their new home to have some character. They wanted a big yard for their two dogs. And they wanted a family-friendly, tree-lined neighborhood with a community pool.
“We were driving around Williamsburg neighborhoods in the spring and saw this cute Cape Cod with a flowering dogwood in the front yard,” Liz says. “It had great curb appeal, and we immediately thought we just had to live there.”
A “Great Family Home.” The 2,100 square-foot, 3 bedroom/3 full bath home, built in 1978, has formal living and dining rooms and a kitchen-family room area. A bonus room above the side-loading garage, accessible via the kitchen, offered the couple additional living space. The .88-acre yard backing to mature trees — no one can build behind them —seemed perfect for the dogs.
“The hardwood floors also were a big feature for us, and we liked that the house is pretty traditional,” Liz says, noting that since they moved in, they have replaced the windows, HVAC, and roof. They also redid the kitchen in 2004.
“We have our morning coffee in the living room, but the kitchen and family room are where everything happens,” says Liz. “We also spent a lot of time in the bonus room. It has been an office, a play space, and a combination of office and play space. It’s a great multi-purpose space.”
Liz notes that the entire back of the house, including the kitchen and family room – which have sliders onto a deck — overlook the private, fully fenced back yard.
“The house looks onto the woods, and it’s very peaceful,” Liz says. “We often see deer in the yard.”
A “Great Family Neighborhood.” Seventeen years and three children after they moved in, the Sykes still rave about Windsor Forest, describing it as “a great family neighborhood.”
“Windsor Forest has a community pool, tennis courts, and a playground, all within walking distance of the house,” Bill says, noting that their three children, now ages 5, 10, and 13, are all on the Windsor Forest swim team. “Within about a mile, there’s an outdoor soccer complex and the James City County Rec Center, which has a great indoor pool. It’s the perfect location for us and for kids’ activities.”
The neighborhood offers many social activities planned by the Windsor Forest Homeowner’s Association, a volunteer organization. Membership, which is optional, covers maintenance of the club house, tennis courts, playground, and other common areas; pool membership is a separate fee. Bill, an auditor with the Commonwealth of Virginia, served as HOA treasurer in 2004-2005, and says that about 2/3 of residents chip in.
“Tons of family friendly things happen around the holidays,” Liz points out, noting her family has participated in many of them. “There’s a Halloween event, Breakfast with Santa, an Easter egg hunt, and a huge July 4 bike parade and pool party.” Most events revolve around the community clubhouse.
The Sykes say their neighbors are wonderful, and their street, located in the back of the neighborhood, is wide and private, with little traffic.
“It’s great for walking the dogs and for kids on bikes; we feel totally comfortable with our kids riding their bikes in the street,” says Liz, a stay-home mom who formerly worked in fundraising for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.
Liz and Bill describe Windsor Forest as a mix of young families and empty nesters. “There are a lot of educators, college professors, and Colonial Williamsburg employees,” Liz says.
Lifestyle Change? Check. “Moving here has been a major lifestyle change,” Bill says. “If we go to the Target here at 8 pm, there aren’t many people. But if we went to Target at 8 pm in Reston [Northern Virginia], you probably couldn’t even find a parking spot. It’s completely different. It’s a slower pace and less congested here.”
Windsor Forest is minutes from the Williamsburg Premium Outlets, and about a ten-minute drive to Colonial Williamsburg, where the family often heads for recreation. “We like to go to basketball games and tailgates at William & Mary,” Liz notes.
Although Bill now works from home, Liz points out that the commute for Windsor Forest residents isn’t bad. “We’re close to 199, so everything is pretty accessible. And we’re on the Richmond side of Williamsburg, so we have neighbors who commute to Richmond.” That commute is about an hour.
Leaving The House, But Not The Neighborhood. The Sykes family of five needs more space than their beloved Cape Cod home can offer. They have put it up for sale, but aren’t going far: they just bought a 4-bedroom home in Windsor Forest, mainly because of the kids.
“All the kids wanted the same schools, and they wanted to stay on the swim team in the summer,” Liz notes. “Windsor Forest is just such a nice neighborhood.”
“Our first house is a great house; we just ran out of room,” Liz explains further. “We have really loved living there, and all have mixed feelings about leaving, but we need that 4th bedroom with three kids. Our girls are 13 and 5 years old. We have tried every configuration of sharing a bedroom that’s possible, and we just ran out of ideas.”
The Sykes asked realtor John Womeldorf, a Windsor Forest neighbor, to help them sell their first family home. But Liz concedes that if they didn’t have three kids, they would probably be staying in the Cape.
“It’s a great holiday house; we’ve spent a lot of Thanksgivings and Christmases here with extended family,” Liz notes. “Our oldest daughter has a little bit of trepidation about being in the new house; she says she can’t imagine having a Christmas or birthday that isn’t at our first house.”
“Everything about the house is tied to the arrival of our family,” Liz adds. “We brought each baby home into it. I’m hoping that there’s a family out there that will have as great memories as we have with that house. I’m hoping that its life as a great family house is not over.”
Psst, Mr Williamsburg is a different sort of real estate agent.
This post was authored by local resident and REALTOR, John Womeldorf. John is known around town as Mr. Williamsburg, for both his extensive knowledge of the Williamsburg/ Hampton Roads/ Richmond VA area and his expertise helping buyers and sellers in the local real estate market.
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