Illustration by Kristy Heilenday
“Moneyball,” the 2011 Brad Pitt film based on Michael Lewis’ 2003 nonfiction book, delves into the heady economics behind Major League Baseball. It’s a deep dive into the Oakland Athletics and their record-setting run in 2002 when, despite their paltry, 28th-of-30-teams payroll, they ran off a string of 20 consecutive victories and made the playoffs. I’m no Billy Beane, but I’m simpatico with how the A’s general manager maximized his resources. Early in the house-building process, my wife, Amy Lee, the real bean-counter in our family, laid down the money laws with a simple edict: Splurge and save. In short, if we wanted to go hog-wild on one thing, we had to trim the pork on another. When it finally came down to the dollars and cents of it, here’s how it played out.
Our splurges amounted to three things that we couldn’t live without. First, a disco-lit espresso machine connected straight to our water line. Coffee and cream are entwined with our romance and daily ritual, and due to Lamplighter’s influence on our lives, we’ve graduated to barista-level devotion. Thanks to Advanced Coffee Tech, the company that supplies and services all the professional-grade machines in our city, latte-art lovers across RVA will soon find ready cortados standard-issue in our kitchen.
Second, a wet bar and temperature-controlled wine cellar. Think we take our coffee too seriously? You should see our bar. If The Roosevelt’s famed barman, Thomas “T” Leggett, isn’t making my cocktail, I would just as soon shake it myself. Thus, we are at all times stocked like a Church Hill franchise of The Rogue Gentleman. And as a sommelier with a modest but growing collection, I wanted a place to properly cellar enough wine so that thirsty dinner guests over platefuls of rabbit and polenta could never say, “My kingdom for a 2010 Barbaresco!” and be denied.
The Tesauros' Church Hill home is fully framed and well on its way to completion. (Photo by Jason Tesauro)
Lastly, we went for first-class plumbing fixtures across the board, especially in the kitchen and master bath. The kitchen sink is a prep cook’s friend with its fitted cutting boards, colanders and drying racks. Our first-floor powder room now has a gorgeous vessel sink that will win the day in bathroom selfies. And in the master bath, nothing beats a royal flush. Our intelligent toilet has a heated seat and bidet functionality that leaves you fresh as grocery greens after the produce mist. And our shower offers a built-in spa experience with multiple shower heads and body sprays. Oh, and there’s music. (Cue B.J. Thomas for the shampooing playlist, because raindrops keep fallin’ on my head.)
Now, to make all of that add up, we had to slim down in three other places. First, our flooring. Working with Wellborn + Wright, we selected wide and long reclaimed white oak hardwood for our first floor, but we went with narrower and shorter boards of the same oak for our second and third floors, saving bucks with every square foot. In the mud room, we opted for vinyl tile. Second, while Classic Kitchens of Virginia designed a custom layout for us, we selected stock kitchen cabinets for a fraction of the bespoke price. Lastly, we kept the overall design simple. Our architectural plans included minimal flourishes with nary a pricey turret, gable nor decorative niche. Heck, one side of the house has no windows at all, but no one will give a hoot while they’re enjoying a freshly spiked cappuccino after an inspiring trip to the loo.
About the Author
Jason Tesauro is a national award-winning booze/food/culture journalist and co-author of “The Modern Gentleman.” He and his family are building a modern house in historic Church Hill.