"We weren’t planning to buy a house. We were just looking while spending time at my sister’s lake house,” recalled recently retired Navy captain and aviator Eric Cheney.
Eric and his wife, Marita, initially had mixed feelings about the Boxwood Green home that they had seen online.
“But when we got out of the car, an EA-6 — one of the military jets that makes runs down the Blackwater toward the dam — flew over the house,” Marita added. “That was Eric’s old airplane. We thought that must be a sign.”
At first glance, Marita found the home’s interior too dark for her liking. “But despite all its dark wood cabinets, moldings and doors, I could see that the house had good bones,” she said.
Eric’s reaction? “I walked in, saw the lake, checked out the dock and said, ‘This is it,’” he recalled.
That was 2014. Since then, the Cheneys have spent time, effort and money brightening up the 15-year-old home before moving into it full time in April.
Because the Cheneys were living in a condo in Virginia Beach — Eric’s last post of his 37-year Navy career — they had the luxury of not having to live in the house while it was being updated. Marita made trips back and forth to oversee work on the house. “This is our 14th house,” Marita said, “so maybe the project gets easier after you’ve done a house 13 times before.”
They hired painters to redo the olive green walls to a pleasant blue — which Sherwin Williams calls “graphite gray.”
“I tried eight color samples on one wall before deciding on the color,” Marita said.
And all of the home’s dark moldings, as well as the kitchen cabinets, got a fresh coat of white paint.
“It was transforming! What a difference,” Marita recalled. “I had the painter leave the toe molding dark to match the newly refinished floors, but when I saw how it looked, I decided it, too, should be white.”
Marita took care of it with primer and two white topcoats of paint one rainy weekend. She also brightened the stairs leading to the home’s lower level with two coats of blue and white “deck and stair” paint.
Marita then tackled the stone fireplace. She transformed the tan, orange and brown stones to a grayish white with watered-down Annie Sloan chalk paint often used for painting furniture. It took her three days to do the project, in part because the orange from the stone kept ruinously infecting her paint supply. She also painted the grout.
In addition, she has chalk-painted several pieces of furniture, including tables, chairs and a rocker. She re-batted and recovered the rocker with a nautical material that matches the inserts she installed on a built-in entertainment unit.
The only beige-colored room is Eric’s office, which includes his desk, along with military awards, his Navy scabbard and his son’s West Point scabbard.
When they purchased the home, the lower level was unfinished, so they hired a contractor to put up wallboard and create a fireplace, an entertaining area and an art studio.
All of the paintings in the home were done by Marita, who happened upon an oil painting class at a Hobby Lobby craft store in Tennessee nine years ago. Since then she has continued to take lessons.
“All the moving around has afforded me a wonderful opportunity to take lessons from phenomenal artists,” she said. She even sold one of her paintings at The Little Gallery when it was located at Bridgewater Plaza.
“Make each day your masterpiece” is written on the wall of an upstairs bedroom that is occupied by frames and canvasses awaiting her attention.
With the transformation complete, the house now feels light, airy and beachy.
The Cheneys have made outdoor improvements as well. Visitors are greeted by fragrant pink roses that climb their home’s front porch railing. There are colorful flowers in planters along the side porch and a brilliant line of shocking pink creeping phlox that blooms in springtime and edges along the riprap on the lakefront side of their home.
Although still relative newcomers to the lake, Eric and Marita, who have three grown children, have made many friends as they’re often seen walking their English cream golden retriever Scotty or kayaking along the nearby shoreline.
And now that the house is finished, “We look forward to having our distant friends come and share this wonderful place with us,” Eric said.