If you are a reader of the Mitford series of books, then you probably know that the author, Jan Karon left her successful work in advertising to walk in faith in a new career. That walk involved moving to the small mountain town of Blowing Rock, North Carolina – the place that eventually became the inspiration for the setting of her novels. She purchased a small blue cottage and painted it…pink.
from Victoria magazine, January 1998
It was there that the Mitford stories began – stories that were first run as a weekly column in her local newspaper, The Blowing Rocket. After many many rejections, Lion Publishing finally agreed to publish her work. Then she set about marketing it everywhere she could (without an agent.)
from Victoria Magazine, January 1998
Eventually, she did find an agent (or one found her), and that led to a 5 year contract with Penguin Books – and the Mitford series took off from there. But with their popularity came the popularity of the author and the town of Blowing Rock. Eventually fans of the series, anxious to meet the author, made finding privacy difficult for Ms. Karon. So she began to look for another place to call home. She started her search in the mountains of North Carolina but found nothing there that really touched her heart. So she turned to farmland in Virginia. In a small town outside of Charlottesville, she found a suitable place – a brick home built in 1816 set on 109 acres. It still had its virgin heart pine floors and original bricks that had been made on site.
It had been built by an architect who had worked with Thomas Jefferson on some buildings at the nearby University of Virginia. But…to say “it needed work” was an understatement. There were huge cracks in the plaster. All of the plumbing and electrical systems needed replacing, and the foundation was crumbling. It took Ms. Karon a year before she finally committed to the project in the fall of 1999. Then began the four years of detailed work by craftsmen to restore it to its former beauty, but what a beauty it is today! Just take a look at the entry hall with its French wallpaper.
The living room was once one of two parlors in the house. It and the dining room (the other parlor) have creamy painted molding and walls covered in a soft copper colored fabric.
Her favorite space in the house is the kitchen. It would be mine too with window seats, antiqued green painted cabinets, that long island, and even a fireplace!
Wander upstairs and you will find the master bedroom, a sitting room, and two bedrooms used for guests.wsj.com
Wander down to the basement and you will find many things original to the house – the brick walls, bars on windows and doors, and most notably – the original brick fireplace that was once used for cooking.
The 5,000 square foot home is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Among the 10 buildings on the estate is a small chapel, a guest house that was once the outdoor kitchen, and a 3 bedroom farmhouse used as her office for writing.
She has chickens, dogs, and sheep on the farm there. That part reminds me of Meadowgate farm from the books, but the interior makes me think more of Miss Sadie’s gorgeous home. What do you all think?
It is a wonderful restoration – much more fancy than I could live in – but beautiful none the less! It is also quite a change from her sweet little pink cottage back in Blowing Rock, North Carolina where all the stories began. One of the articles I read about her new home stated that visitors could tour it. I am not sure exactly how one gets to do that. Perhaps one of us will have the opportunity to do so in the future.
Until then, just enjoy her books. And speaking of books, don’t forget about the giveaway going on for the next few days. Click here for all the details.
Simply leave a comment on any of the Loving Mitford posts, and you will be entered for the drawing. I will leave you with a question to get you started today:
If you could, would you rather build a new home from scratch or restore an old home?
Can’t wait to hear from you!
***Giveaway has closed. Winner was announced 2/7/13.***