CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Daniel Fassio wanted his first home to have lots of character. And he plans to keep the home he found in its natural condition.
The young associate with Steptoe & Johnson law firm looked at dozens and dozens of houses before purchasing his East End property. Built between 1904 and 1905, the stately Tudor-style exterior has dark wood, brick, stone and stucco. But when visitors pass through the vestibule into the main living room and dining room, they are struck by the beauty of the woodwork, which abounds.
The floors, staircase and rail, built-in bookcases, pocket doors, mantel, coffered ceiling and wainscoting are all a rich, deep oak carefully polished for decades.
"This was once a convent," Fassio said. "The nuns polished these stairs every day." One of the daughters of the original owners became a nun, and the house was the sisters' sanctuary for years. Upstairs, there are five bedrooms, and Fassio said the woodwork up there was painted by a past owner.
Fassio loves the wood and plans to keep it in its original state, although he laughs when he admits he's probably not polishing it as much as the nuns did years ago. He points to the plate rail that's eyeball-height around the dining room as one of his favorite features, and he slides a pocket door out of its heavy trim to show off the oak.
While the woodwork stays original, Fassio is thankful that a former owner was a contractor and upgraded the heating, electrical, plumbing and security systems in the house.
Around the corner from Fassio's home, friends live in another stately home. The woodwork in this one, however, was painted a glossy white before the family moved in -- eliminating the debate about whether to paint or not to paint.
Real-estate agent David Bailey, of Selling WV, helped Fassio find his house, and he has a very strong opinion about painting woodwork.
"These homes have survived 100 years -- they are living pieces of art," Bailey said. "You shouldn't repaint a master's work. You can't replicate the charm."
While he said he gives a "disclaimer" to the family who moved into the already painted house, he vigorously opposes those who want to change the look of the natural wood. With his tongue firmly planted in his cheek, he described those who paint.
"If you are the person to take a brush to wood, you're the bad guy. But if you have the misfortune to move into the home after it's painted, well, that's just sad."
Bailey believes the value of a house with nonoriginal woodwork could be impacted because the East End is a niche market where buyers are looking for the old wood features. But he's realistic.
"Could it depreciate your marketability? Maybe, maybe not. If the house looks good, it looks good. But a lot of the buyers are looking for that wood."
Then there's the furniture