One of the things I love most about the town in which we live is the large number of interesting and historic homes and architecture. Alex and I spend countless hours touring open houses, walking the streets, and admiring the homes, buildings, landscapes, and interesting details. When we're on vacation, we can't seem to take a vacation from this hobby of ours, and part of the fun in seeing a new part of the world is exploring how and where people live in that region.

When we were on vacation last week in California, we took advantage of the change of scenery to check out some of the local sites. What we came across in both Napa and Sonoma were charming, quaint, and modestly sized homes -- just what we love!

So we quickly turned into weirdos, walking up and down streets, stopping, pointing, mouths agape, snapping photos of the homes that caught our eye. So today's Opening Housing post will be a bit of a departure from our norm. Instead of touring the inside of a single home for sale and critiquing it, this time we'll be showing you some of our favorite homes from the outside, regardless of if they're on the market or not. 

We'll start our tour in Sonoma on a street just minutes from the main town square. There are several homes that were quite large and impressive, but we gravitated towards the homes we could more easily see ourselves living in. Let's start with this gorgeous home for example. I loved the exterior color scheme and the gorgeous landscaping, and the big bay of windows was to die for. (Although, I suppose without curtains it would allow for your neighbors to get to know you really well.)

Next up was this charming home. Its perfectly manicured lawn and towering old tree were stunning, and we loved the pop of color introduced by the front door.

This cute Spanish style home had great landscaping and interesting architectural details. We loved the arched doorway, but if we owned it, we'd select a new paint scheme with additional colors that would better highlight some of the features, including the clay tile roof.

This beautiful home was set off by an interesting front fence and gate. The potted arrangements were dramatic and beautiful. Once you looked past the gate, the home itself was also beautiful and well cared for. 

Just beyond the last home, a very pleasant tudor style home caught my eye. I have a particular fondness for this style of home, and this was a great example of one. The landscaping unfortunately hid a lot of this charming house, but I loved it nonetheless. 

The next home was what I think of when I think of California living. This charming sunny home just oozed character. I loved the color scheme, the arched door, the interesting walkway and the beautiful front porch. If it were our home we'd probably change the white garage door to something that went a bit more with the rest of the house, but otherwise, it was quite nice.

A few more houses down the street we found this well cared for and charming home, but what really caught our eye was the succulent driveway. What a neat idea!

Here's another look at the "succulent" house from the other angle, so you can get a feel for just how adorable is.

Can you say super cute? How great is the shutter color on the house below? I just love the pop of raspberry on the neutral backdrop, and the crisp white trim looks so clean and fresh.

This next home's front porch was fantastic. Can't you picture you and your family relaxing in this beautiful space, enjoying the sunny California weather with a glass of local wine in your hand? I sure can.

I have a thing for nice porches, and the next home fits the bill. This beautiful home has a paint color that reminds me of yellow cake batter. With a porch to die for, beautiful landscaping, and a rustic split rail fence, I think I'm in love.

All of the homes I've mentioned were in the historic portion of Sonoma, which means they are all somewhat old and more in line with what we typically like. However, we found several places that we really enjoy on the other side of the mountain in Napa Valley, and these were all built in the 1960s and beyond. This particular neighborhood is adjacent to the Silverado Resort, our "home away from home" when we venture to wine country, and I love to walk this street every time we visit. I particularly love the home below, and think of it as the California version of our home. (In person, the color scheme is very similar to ours.) 

I'm also madly in love with this home. This French country inspired abode exudes charm and European flair. 

On the same street sits this California beauty. I love the standing seam roof, the detail of the windows, and the architectural interest of the portico.

Last but certainly not least is this home, chosen not for its unbelievable curb appeal but more for the fact that it's home to a cluster of palm trees. How cool is that? It makes me think of the Mad Men episodes when Don went to California to visit the "real" Mrs. Draper. 

So there you have it. Our tour of a handful of California homes that stopped us in our tracks. 

And now for our game...

Would You Trade? (Or in today's case, would we trade our home in Old Town Alexandria for any of the homes above in wine country?)

Wendy: Absolutely yes, but not now. What do I mean by that? If you're a frequent reader of the blog, you know that I am completely in love with Napa Valley. But a large portion of the allure is being able to sample wines and the amazing cuisine at a leisurely pace, without the stresses of career or commuting. So in other words, I'd trade in a second if I didn't have to work a 9 to 5 job. So where that leaves me is putting off a move to the Golden State until after retirement. Only thirty odd years and I'm there.

Alex: I don't think I could do it, and this might cause a problem for us at some point in the future. I love many of these homes, and I really enjoy visting the area and looking at these places, but my heart is with really old homes, the older the better. I'd much prefer one of the mid to late 1800's homes in the area, but they are so few and far between that I fear they'll all be either owned or too expensive for our budget. But I do have to agree with Wendy on at least one point -- a move out west might not be a bad thing, but we couldn't see ourselves doing it until after we retire. Thirty years, perhaps, but we'll see if we can do it sooner. 

For those of you who are newer readers, our game of "Would You Trade?" is based on the ridiculous notion that we would have the opportunity to trade our house for the Open Housing house straight up, where price is not an issue. Sometimes the result is obvious, sometimes not so obvious, but usually it is based almost entirely in the ridiculous. I hope you enjoy.

Interested in reading about other interesting homes for sale? Want to offer your take on "would you trade?" Check out the Open Housing section of Old Town Home.

So what do you think? Should we pick up our roots in exchange for a home on the other coast? Of all of the homes pictured above, do you have a favorite? 

We'd also like to remind you that today is the last day to enter the contest to win a $100 gift certificate from The Home Depot, just in time for Mother's Day. Simply leave a comment on this post to enter. The winner will be announced tomorrow.

Comments 10


5/7/2012 at 11:07 AM
Seriously, those homes are phenomenal. I can't tell you how many times I have wondered where the houses in the movies come from, and now I know. I love the craftsmen details and the front porches and the landscaping. Wonder what they are like inside... They do remind me of some of the homes on Lake Rd, too... With the tapered columns and what not.

PS. Alex, I feel you. Those houses are too young. Plus, Cali is gonna fall into the ocean, don't you know. ;)
I couldn't agree with you more! This street is the perfect backdrop to a Nancy Meyers film! I could have walked along, gawking, for hours. :-)
5/7/2012 at 11:08 AM
I love how different the architecture is out west...way more Craftsmans than Victorians!(I notice this too when I go and visit my parents in BC).

My favourite, for what it's worth, was house #10!
#10 is gorgeous!
5/7/2012 at 12:42 PM
CRAFTSMAN HOUSES!!! I love 'em, you know. (grin)

I would love to see inside of some of these to see how they compare to THE Bungalow as far as woodwork and layout are concerned. We have porches here, of course - but you don't get those really open ones and big expanses of glass like the first picture. We have all four seasons here in Kansas (usually).

Would I trade? If price is no object, yes, of course.
We know you love 'em, and we can see why! They're beautiful!

It's always to play with the "money no object" rule, isn't it? ;-)
5/7/2012 at 1:27 PM
I love to look at open houses when I am on vacation too. Glad I am not alone in this quirky hobby! Would be interesting to know the value of the homes you walked past. I imagine they are significantly more than something comparable in the DC area.
Excellent question. I just did a little looking on Redfin and Zillow, but didn't come back with any definitive answers. What I do know is that Sonoma is a lot more reasonable than Napa, but I can't imagine many people would think homes there are a "deal." :-)
5/11/2012 at 2:58 PM
The spanish style home needs you guys immediately.
I couldn't agree with you more, Justin! :-)
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