Foursquare Curb Appeal Part 2 – Complete Exterior Paint Job

Continuing on our quest for curb appeal, we’ve tackled the next major step in our exterior project list at our “new” house, and I must say, I absolutely LOVE the results!

As we mentioned in our first post in this series when we talked about how we spruced up our flower beds, this summer we’ve also decided to approach improving the curb appeal and address some deferred maintenance items of our American Foursquare home in three distinct phases.

  1. Flower/planting bed beautification
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

Yes, the exterior paint is the next major item on our list of projects, and boy is it needed. As you can see from the following photo, we have several examples where the paint on our siding had been compromised and was simply bubbling and peeling off.

This issue in the photo could been seen on all sides of the home’s exterior. Alex even did a little bit of work last year to address some of the absolute worst sections on the front of the house.

Now, you know us as DIYers to the core, right? Well, we also like to fein that we’re reasonable homeowners from time to time. When dealing with something that’s a large scale project that requires many people to get it done in a timely manner, and would require a lot of work up high on ladders, my preference is to hire it out to the pros. As a result, when it came to painting our home (both now and when we last had our home painted in Alexandria), I look to a dependable painting crew.

But before the crew could get to painting, we had some color selections to make, as well as some prep work we wanted to tackle ourselves.

The prep work included two significant elements. The first dealt with repairing and replacing some significant wood rot on the front porch decking and steps.

Alex worked to repair those when we were working on the garden this Spring, and was able to install new boards where necessary to make the porch whole again.

We also removed the handrails from the front porch because they were a soggy, rotten mess. We may build new ones at some point, but rather than get bogged down for the next several weekends building new ones, we decided to patch the railing and live without them for now to see how we like the look.

The second was the fact that there were many rotten pieces of siding that would need to be replaced when the painters came. But this isn’t siding you can just go pick up at the big box. Oh no! This is 100+ year old siding that is flat, not beveled. It’s 5-1/2″ x 1/2″, so not your standard size that you can go buy. As a result, Alex picked up a bunch of cedar boards that were all 5/8″ thick, and planed them down to 1/2″ to match the old siding profile and reveal.

It was a ton of working running them through the planer (and then pre-priming all sides of the boards with oil-based primer), but it was work that was necessary to make sure the new boards looked appropriate with our existing siding. This, in and of itself, was a full day project, but one that was important to help correct the issues in the right way.

Next up, we had to make our color selections. This is one of those cases where you can often reach project paralysis at a fairly rapid pace. I was sure I wanted the overall color of the exterior of the house to stay white. Rather than dive down the rabbit hole of different shades of white, we kept it simple here and went with our painter’s recommendation of using Sherwin Williams factory mixed bright white. That way if we ever have to touch up sections, we don’t have to worry that the paint might be mixed differently than the color on the house.

The porch floor, porch ceiling, and the metal roof colors all needed more deliberation. We’d already painted our front doors Benjamin Moore Wythe Blue, and I love how that turned out, so I wanted to make sure I chose colors for the porch floor and ceiling that would complement the Wythe Blue. I certainly wanted to stay in the blue family for the porch ceiling, and opted for a shade lighter than the door, which is called Rainwashed by Sherwin Williams. We landed on this color after determining the equivalent Sherwin Williams color to Wythe Blue, and then moving one shade lighter on the chips.

When it came to the porch roof, which was installed with a factory hunter green finish, I wanted to find a shade that wasn’t quite so green. The old paint had failed in places and was beginning to rust, so we wanted to get a coat of paint on it to protect it. This seemed an idea time to change the color to something we liked a little better. At the same time, the shingles on the upper roof are a gray/green/black combination, so I didn’t want the metal roof making the upper roof color stand out. Really, I just wish the shingle roof was gray or black, but we’re not replacing the roof anytime soon so we’ll have to embrace it. My preference for a roof is to always use a dark neutral color when choosing shingles, so you never end up with this situation when you want to change things in the future.

We ended up choosing a very dark gray with the slightest hint of green to work with the upper roof. We used Sherwin Williams Andiron, and I feel like it really nailed the color I was going for. It has just enough of a green undertone that it works for the asphalt shingles, but it also tones down the green tremendously.

While the house, porch ceiling, and metal roof colors all came together pretty seamlessly, the porch floor has been a major saga. What we were looking for was to change the existing brown tone to gray. So we chose Sherwin Williams Chatroom. a gray with a hint of green to work with the roof color, selected off the same chip as the Andiron color for the metal roof. But after Alex repaired the rotten sections of the porch, and we put on the first coat, it ended up looking really green. Far too green for our liking.

At this point, we knew we didn’t like it but the painters hadn’t started yet, so we decided to reserve judgment on the Chatroom color until after the rest of the house was painted (and it actually dried).

As far as the professionals go, our painting crew ended up spending a full week painting the house. They power washed everything, removed loose paint, repaired rotten boards, caulked where necessary, corrected splits and gaps, and generally made our house look 10 times better!

It was amazing to see the house transform from slightly dingy with siding cracks to a clean and crisp historic waterfront home. As far as the porch floor is concerned, we ended up revisiting the color after we realized it wasn’t the look we wanted (even with the new metal roof color). The Chatroom color worked with the roof, but when you’re on the porch, you can’t see the roof, and it just looks a little off. Though we’d already applied our paint to the front porch and steps outside the laundry room, we begrudgingly admitted we made a misstep.

After a lot of back and forth, we eventually landed on Sherwin Wiliams Dorian Gray. It’s more of a true gray, and after applying this color, I’m much happier with its look rather than a greige with green under tones. We still have a good amount of work to do on the porch, but here’s a quick comparison between the Chatroom (lower stairs) and the Dorian Gray (upper stairs).

As much as I hated having to repaint, we forced ourselves to look at it as primer and a failed experiment. Even before the new color was dry, we already liked it better than the old.

We’ll give you more updates on the porch in our next curb appeal post, as it’s still very much a work in progress. But we’re certainly headed in the right direction.

Driving up the driveway is a wonderfully welcoming introduction to our home. The fresh white paint is classic and just looks like it could have looked over 100 years ago. And if you’re seeing our home from the water, we decided to add a little patriotic flair to our facade in celebration of Independence Day.

The new roof color is far more neutral and looks great with the upper roof. While we won’t be changing the relatively new shingle roof, the new dark gray color on the lower roof balances the green and makes the coloring on the shingles far less apparent, which was exactly my goal.

But I think my favorite part of the whole project is probably the porch ceiling. The Rainwashed color we used is exactly how I was hoping it would look. The painting crew sealed it all up and painted/filled any significant cracks. And, at least for the next few weeks, all of the spider webs and bugs that usually collect on the porch ceiling, are all gone.

Our curb appeal’s second step is complete and looking great. We still have a lot of work to do to repair and spruce up our porches, but a freshly painted house is a huge weight off of our shoulders. We’ll be working over the next several weeks to address these larger porch issues. While it won’t move along nearly as quickly as the house painting project with a large crew, I think it will be just as impactful.

Hope you have a wonderful Independence Day if you’re from the States, and happy 150th to our Canadian readers. Have any projects on your list during your days off, or are you using the time for a little bit of relaxation?

How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On/Off

 

Here are some problems solvers to keep you warm and dry and inside your house while lighting up the neighborhood.

Digital Timer for Outdoor Christmas Lights

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Outdoor Bluetooth Power Center

Set it and forget it—until the Christmas lights twinkle to life exactly when you want them to. You’ll love the multi-tasking capacity of our Outdoor Bluetooth Power Center. You can light up the whole street, and then some, with this 6 grounded outlets. Thanks to hybrid technology, you can control your devices (within an 80-ft. range) from either your smartphone (iPhone or Android) or tablet (use the user-friendly HyBlu app) or the included wireless handheld remote. Use the timer to set a daily, weekly, countdown, or vacation schedule. It’s that simple!

Protect Outdoor Christmas Decoration Electrical Cords from the Elements

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Extension Cord Safety Seal

The Extension Cord Safety Seal is a smart little dome that locks cords together to prevent shorting and has rubber ends to protect them from moisture. Once you’re connected your outdoor Christmas decorationsto the extension cords, simply snap the protector around the connection and keep out water and snow.

Protect Multiple Outdoor Christmas Decoration Cords from the Elements

Christmas Decorating Ideas-How to Turn Outdoor Christmas Decorations On and Off-Twist and Seal Cord Dome

If you’ve created a Winter Wonderland in your yard and now you’ve got a lot of cords that need to be joined, here’s a way you can use a power strip outdoors! The Twist and Seal Cord Dome™ takes the place of hazardous wrapped tape or plastic. This dome-shaped cord protector has room for a whole power strip, so once you put it in and screw on the lid, the cords are protected from the elements. There’s even a removable ground stake to get the whole cord protector up off the ground and closer in your reach.


Turn On Your Outdoor Lights from Inside Your House!

Whipping Our Foursquare Home’s Exterior Back Into Shape

Though it’s been a little quiet on the blog lately, we’ve been very hard at work on several ongoing house projects.

The most major of our projects has been our focus on the overall exterior appearance of our Foursquare. As a realtor, I’m keenly aware of curb appeal, and how small differences on the exterior of your home can truly set the tone for how you feel on the interior of your home. But as an owner of a house with wood siding, a large yard, and a lot of plantings around the house, I know what an overwhelming endeavor it can be to stay on top of those items that impact the curb appeal of your home.

In our case, I’m not so concerned about what people driving or walking by our home think. Instead I’m more concerned with how the curb appeal makes me feel, or how it makes our visitors approaching the house feel. I want our home’s exterior to set a tone of relaxation for all of our visitors, and it’s hard to feel relaxed when you approach a yard of long unkempt grass, flower beds full of weeds, and significant sections of cracked or peeling paint on the house. After all, it’s our goal to have more relaxing evenings like this.

This summer we’ve decided to approach the curb appeal and exterior maintenance of our home in three distinct phases.

  1. Flower/planting bed beautification
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

We’re going to put off repairing/rebuilding/repainting our picket fence and some bigger yard projects until next summer, but this list of three items should keep us busy outside for most of the summer. So we kicked things off a few weeks ago with the garden beautification piece of our curb appeal project.

You can see some of the paint/siding issues on the house in the photo above, but we were more focused on the flower beds. We planted a good number of ferns and other items last year, and they were doing well, but we had several bare spots we wanted to fill in. If you saw that we installed a drip irrigation system last year, you can also see it exposed in the photo. The black tubing has bothered me since we installed it, but we installed it all after mulching, so we never went ahead and buried it all last year. That’s another item on our list that we’d like to take care of.

We have a few friends in Alexandria that have an absolutely lovely garden. After they visited us last year they told us we should stop by to split some of the plants they have when it came time to plant this season. So we took them up on the offer.

After a very nice tour of their gardens, we ended up walking way with several bags of plants destined for our garden. In total, we had ourselves a new rose bush, obedients, cone flowers, daisies, and sedum.

We took all of the plants to the house and placed them in the locations that would soon be their new homes. Throughout the garden we have about nine different areas where we can plant. I planned it all out based on likely cover, color and height of the plants, and where I felt our existing plantings were just a little thin.

That same weekend, my parents and brother had planned to visit. While I’m sure they wanted to relax a little, they also offered to help us get the garden in order for the season. I can’t tell you how wonderfully welcome it is to have a helping hand when it comes to weeding, mulching, and general garden prep.

While my parents and I worked to rid our beds of as much dead, overgrown, and unwelcome inhabitants from our flower beds, my brother and Alex hit up Lowe’s for all of the mulch and dirt we’d need.

Alex and my brother brought back 30 bags of mulch and three bags of dirt. It’s amazing just how much mulch you need for this garden, which takes up a relatively small part of the yard.

We took a methodical approach to the whole project. First my parents trimmed or cut back the plants and boxwoods. Then my mom and I worked our way through the beds to remove weeds, and I worked with my dad to plant the new plants and flowers in theirs places around the garden. Alex then followed burying the drip irrigation line and running anything new to supply water to the new plants. Finally, my dad, mom, Alex, and I all worked around the whole yard spreading the bags of mulch. (My brother during this time was on the water side trimming our massive hedge.) The whole thing took two days, but when we were done we had the garden looking better than it’s looked since we bought the house in 2014.

I varied the colors of plants from bed to bed to keep it interesting, and with the larger bushes now nicely trimmed back it gave some of the smaller plants a little more room. While the wood borders may not be perfect, they work well with the garden in its current state, and give us a well defined area in each section for plantings.

I’m very hopeful that the drip irrigation system will do wonders to keep everything well fed throughout the summer. And now that the line is fully buried, mid-day waterings won’t end up supplying swelteringly hot water onto our plantings.

One area that I’m particularly excited about is the front of the house. It’s actually the “back” given the orientation of the front towards the water, but this is the view that visitors see when they pull up. The large white metal box houses the geothermal ground loop at the entrance to the house. We planted our new rose bush to the right of the box, and the rose bush from last year is on the left. It’s my hope that these climbing rose bushes will flourish and eventually will camouflage this unsightly feature.

This section of the house is also where our drip irrigation system hose bib sits. It’s in direct sun for the second half of the day and that abuses the hose timers. The first hose timer, which we installed last summer, was solar powered but the solar cell went bad after the first month, leaving our plants without water for a week (and they died). The second hose timer we installed had an LCD panel on it, which ended up going bad. We couldn’t read what it said and we weren’t able to change the program after that. So this summer Alex decided to go the wifi route. He picked up this Melnor Rain Cloud wifi enabled hose time.

It has 4 outlet zones, was extremely easy to setup, has advanced scheduling options, and even has a component that allows the system to monitor soil dampness, only watering when the plants actually need water. Best of all (for Alex’s peace of mind), he can check on the watering status from his phone.

This is one of the parts of the house he wanted to be able to monitor remotely, and now he can.

Right now we’re only using one outlet, so we will just cap off the other three. But we plan to expand this in the future if we ever plant a fruit, veggie, and flower garden in the front yard. Each zone has an independent schedule capability, which is great for something like a vegetable garden that has far different needs for water than a flower bed garden.

All told, we had a pretty solid weekend of work and effort to get this garden looking good. But when we were done we could really see that we made a ton of progress.

It’s amazing how great a few dozen bags of mulch can make a garden look. We used the mulch with weed stop in it this year in the hopes that it might keep some of the weeds we normal get at bay. We’ll see if it actually works, but I’d love to pull fewer weeds this year.

With the garden in shape our attention turned to the next more piece of our curb appeal efforts, taking care of the siding and paint issues that have plagued our house since day one. But that’s another story for another blog post. I can tell you one thing for sure, when this is your scientific method for figuring out the right paint colors, you might be in for a bumpy ride.

Do you have any curb appeal dreams for your home this year? Is your garden the place you go to relax and enjoy, or is it a daunting part of your home that you dread the upkeep on each year? I have a love/tolerate relationship with my garden, and I welcome all advice on how to make it more of a love/enjoy relationship.

Fixing a Broken Cabinet Door – #NiceLittleSaturday

Hope you all had a nice weekend. Today we’re going to be trying something new on the blog.

Over the last several weeks I’ve been trying to knock out little projects here and there as time permits. These are small items I’ve been putting off for a while, things I can take care of in a relatively short amount of time, and things that are a little more routine. Rather than type up a giant blog post, I’ve started sharing some of these smaller projects on our Instagram Stories.

Since Instagram Stories fade away into oblivion after 24 hours, we figured we can share the video here as a quick blog post for anyone that didn’t see it on Instagram. We’re calling these #NiceLittleSaturday projects, since we should be able to knock most out in a day.

This first #NiceLittleSaturday project is a quick fix of a broken cabinet door that belongs to a good friend of ours. A dog she was watching got his collar stuck on the knob and broke the door right off. I figured it could be fixed really easily, and #NiceLittleSaturday was born.

And there you have it, that’s our #NiceLittleSaturday post for this week. I’d say it was a success, and now our friend will once again have a working door on her cabinet.

These #NiceLittleSaturday posts are certainly a work in progress, so we’ll tighten up the videos a bit and shorten them in the future, maybe even shoot them not in portrait mode (this is because of IG Stories). Does this seem like something you’d like to see more of?

If you’re wondering where #NiceLittleSaturday comes from, it’s an ode to Will Ferrell’s character, Frank “The Tank” in Old School. He was asked what his plans were and he responded with his classic line, “Well, um, actually a pretty nice little Saturday, we’re going to go to Home Depot. Yeah, buy some wallpaper, maybe get some flooring, stuff like that. Maybe Bed, Bath, & Beyond, I don’t know, I don’t know if we’ll have enough time.”

Did you knock anything out over the weekend you’re particularly happy with? Or maybe you checked a nagging project off of your list? Let us know what you were up to, we’d love to hear.

Kicking Up Our Curb Appeal with a Front Porch Makeover

Curb appeal comes in many shapes and sizes.

Back when we first laid eyes our home in 2014 it already had that classic waterfront farm house feel we immediately fell in love with. From a distance it was lovely, but upon closer inspection, the exterior paint on the wood siding was a little worn and tired, the roof more green than we would have chosen, and the porch floor color and lighting choices were very different than what we wanted for the house.

This summer we’ve been focusing on improving the curb appeal/making updates more to our taste for our home through a three step approach.

  1. Improving the existing garden/beds around the house
  2. Addressing exterior paint issues
  3. Overall porch projects and paint

After working through the first two major steps, our home is really starting to look great. The fresh paint is clean and crisp, the new roof color on our metal roof is much darker gray and less green, and the garden has really been coming into its own this summer.

With the first two steps complete, we turned our attention to our home’s front porch. More specifically, we wanted to finish up some work that we started shortly after we bought the house, and make our front porch a welcoming sight for visitors.

When we started work the front door was home to two oversized brass light fixtures that were installed in the early 1990s. They were badly weathered from the salt air, were far too large for their location, and just didn’t go with our general design aesthetic.

As a result, the brass fixtures were retired in favor of two more traditional farmhouse lights for either side of our door.

With the lighting starting to look the part, I wanted to add some casual seating to set the tone for the porch. I started looking for a nice set of chairs that would look at home in this location and I happened upon the perfect pair when our neighbors offered us a pair of vintage chairs they’d found that weren’t going to work for their yard. They needed some clean up, so to seal in the wonderful patina an afternoon of work to sand off the rust and grime and apply a coat of sealer made them ready for their new home outside.

The stairs leading up to the porch, as well as the porch floor, had also see better days. Peeling paint, splintered treads, rotten railings and floor boards, and missing sections of stairs required some pretty extensive fixes to make everything sound again. We repaired, removed, sealed, and corrected several issues before we could give it a fresh coat of paint. As usual, Lulu was largely bored by this whole process.

As we mentioned in our prior post about our paint color selection for the exterior of the house, we made a major misstep with our initial porch flooring color selection. The first color we chose, Sherwin Williams Chatroom, was just too gray green for the floor. Don’t get me wrong, it was wonderful to get a coat of paint on this floor that I’ve disliked since day one, but the color was just a little bit off.

After licking my wounds from our incorrect color choice, I swallowed my pride, bought a gallon of Sherwin Williams Dorian Gray, and began correcting our mistake.

The new color was much more what we were hoping for. It’s a true gray and one that will make the porch a much more calming space.

This color gray is far more in keeping with the general style of “casual waterfront farmhouse” that I’m going for with our new color palette.

With the porch repair and floor paint complete, it was time to start accessorizing this wonderful space. To add some color and life to the porch I wanted to add two potted plants to either side of the front door. On a trip to HomeGoods I found two large ceramic planters that I really liked.

Keeping with the accessories finds theme, I also found a great deal on a couple clearance lanterns at Target.

No porch makeover is complete without a welcome mat. As luck would have it, this Target doormat was not only on sale, but it also truly embodies the sentiment I’d like to embrace for all visitors to our home.

A subsequent trip to HomeGoods turned up these adorable outdoor pillows (and a new boat print that will find a home somewhere inside). I loved the pattern as well as the tie in of the green and aqua.

With my accessories purchased, I excitedly started on the “fun” part of the front porch makeover. My excitement quickly waned when I realized the scale of the pillows was WAY off for the size of the chairs. It looks like the pillows tried to eat the chairs as if they were giant anacondas going after their next meal, and given my intense fear/dislike of snakes, anything that makes me think of these creatures is a no-go in my book. So back to HomeGoods they went.

With my disappointment aside, I kept moving forward though, planting two new sedums in moisture max soil. My hope is that the right soil will help bridge the gap between waterings when we’re at the house, but time will tell. I set them on either side of the door along with the chairs, mat, and lanterns. The gardening boots and four legged sidekick sure do look cute in the photos, but were also there to assist me in my efforts.

I grabbed a throw pillow from inside to get a better idea of the size pillow I’ll need for the chairs, and think a small lumbar pillow will work much better than the 22″x22″ pillows I tried on the first attempt.

It’s amazing how a few accessories can transform a space. I didn’t realize how much warmer and inviting the porch would feel, especially with the addition of the plants.

I was also thinking ahead when it came to the lanterns. While I plan on moving them inside when not in use (to keep them clean, dry, and bug free), I also know how hot this porch gets in the afternoon sun. I didn’t want wax candles to melt, so I purchased plastic LED flickering “candles” which will achieve the same look, be better suited to the hot temperatures, and will be safer to have than a lit candle on a staircase.

The final item we have yet to install is this new door knocker.

We’ll have to be a bit creative in hanging it as we don’t want to drill more holes in the metal door, but Alex is working through a few solutions to that challenge.

While the look is on the simple side, that was intentional. I tried to be restrained as we didn’t want the porch to look cluttered, and fewer items means fewer items to clean and maintain!

Overall, I had a great time making over this small space. It’s easy to get bogged down in the details of a larger scale renovation, and these are the types of projects that keep me energized and excited about what’s to come!

The Scoop on Alexandria’s 12 Walkable Ice Cream Shops – A Detailed Review

On a warm summer evening, there are few things more enjoyable than a cold frozen treat to beat the heat. But with so many options for a scoop in Alexandria, where should you go? As a part of our neighborhood guide series, we’d like to help you find your way.

Alexandria, Virginia is known for many things, not the least of which is its vast array of delectable restaurants. Beyond traditional eateries, Old Town’s concentration of ice cream shops is plentiful enough to please anyone’s palate. Some might even argue that we actually have too many options, but those people obviously have something against ice cream and are simply crazy.

Within a short five minute walk from our home in the heart of Old Town we have no fewer than nine different ice cream establishments. Add in the nearby neighborhoods of Del Ray and Belle Haven (all within about 1.5 miles), and we take that number to an astounding 12 different places within walking distance where we can grab an ice cold sweet treat!

If you’ve ever talked to a local, everyone tends to have their favorite suggestion on where they like to go for a scoop or two. But the question of “which ice cream place is really the best?” is one that’s not easily answered. Now that we’re in the midst of summer, we felt it was high time we fulfilled the very difficult task of reviewing each of these 12 stores to share our first hand experiences and opinion on which ice cream store reigns supreme.

We hatched this plan with our friend, Dan, a fellow Old Town resident who is known to regularly frequent many of these stores. Our goal was simple: try all 12 different ice cream stores and provide our opinion. In each case we had a clear objective: experience the store as if it were our first time, then judge our overall experience from service, to atmosphere, to the ice cream we selected. What follows is a recount of our lactose laden adventure around Alexandria.

If you’d like, you can skip ahead to our top five rankings, use the menu below to jump to a specific review, or you can enjoy a review of each and every one of our twelve neighborhood ice cream locations below. Hey, we’re nothing if not verbose!

Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream

Pop’s sits in the often packed lower King Street at 109, and is a favorite throwback among locals and tourists alike. The flavor list is extensive with three full cases of ice cream. Their nostalgic decor is reminiscent of an old fashioned ice cream parlor and the staff dresses the part to boot. They offer homemade scoops of ice cream along with options for sundaes and milkshakes. It’s not uncommon for the line to snake out the door on a hot weekend evening, but it tends to move fast due to the interior setup that prefers standing room over seating areas. Most people tend to grab their ice cream and go, heading to the waterfront pier to enjoy their treat. Pop’s is truly an institution in Old Town, and something people from all over often make a trip to enjoy.

Alex: Just walking into Pop’s sets the stage that works so well on the historic streets of Old Town Alexandria. The staff at Pop’s is dressed in classic soda jerk style uniforms, and they are all extremely helpful and happy to offer free tastes. When it came our turn, I stared at case after case of the homemade ice cream that beckoned, and I went with what looked great in the moment, the “Big Papa.” It’s vanilla with big chocolate chip cookie dough and fudge chunks, and it’s delicious. Another really nice touch at Pop’s is the cooler of water at the end of the counter with small cups, which is welcome given the very sweet nature of their ice cream.

Dan: This was a rare summer day in Old Town, NO line @ POP’S! We walked right in; granted we went at an odd time of day and most people are not eating ice cream as an appetizer to dinner on a Friday, late afternoon. Such a great display of homemade ice creams and so many original flavors. I wanted to go out of my normal ice cream flavor profile and had a small scoop of peanut butter, swirl of chocolate and pretzels. The peanut butter ice cream had nice peanut flavor but i really would have liked a bit more chocolate and pretzels; I will chalk that up to a small scoop and I was the first scoop of the batch.

Pop’s is one of the most iconic ice cream stores in Old Town and there is a good reason why the lines are normally out the door.

Dolci Gelati

Dolci is a somewhat recent addition to Old Town’s ice cream scene. It’s located at 107 N. Fairfax Street, right across from Old Town’s Market Square. This spot makes it an ideal location to grab some ice cream and either head out to the fountain to enjoy, or sit inside and plan your time in Old Town. Dolci is a local DC business started in 2006 by a pastry chef, and specializes in their all natural Italian style gelato and sorbets. Their ingredients are sourced from local dairy farms and a sustainable farm in Ecuador. They’ve received rave reviews from area publications, and you can almost always find dozens of people enjoying their gelato around the Market Square fountain.

Alex: The staff at Dolci were extremely friendly and immediately offered taste tests of any flavors we wanted to try. After sampling the Nutella Banana, I ended up ordering a small with two flavors, Sea Salt Caramel and Peanut Butter Cup. The small is $5 and allows for one or two flavors. We chatted a little with the staff as they served up our heaping helpings. This “small” was much closer to a medium from the other shops, so they certainly don’t skimp on the scoops.

The gelato itself was quite good. It was soft, smooth, and full of the intended flavors. We grabbed our cups and sat in the back portion of the store where there tends to be ample seating space.

Dan: Dolci is on a busy corner in Old Town and we timed it well since we had four gelato clerks offering to help us… love that! It is gelato so I went for my go-to flavor of pistachio and added dark chocolate to match it. Chocolate covered pistachio equals heaven! I would have really liked a bolder pistachio flavor but the dark chocolate absolutely made up for the flavor and was delicious. They had about 20 different gelatos and a few sorbets; it is always a good ice cream day when you have the opportunity to mix and match so many different flavors!

The Dairy Godmother

Del Ray’s custard institution is located at 2310 Mt. Vernon Ave, or “The Avenue” as locals know it. People have been visiting this locally owned small business for years and raving about the selection of homemade custard and sorbet. Anyone who loves our area likely loves Dairy Godmother. Hey, they even have an “Obama sat here” chair from his visit while in office. The owner of Dairy Godmother, Liz Davis, toyed with the idea of closing shop for good last year, but thankfully reopened after a tremendous number of public pleas to do so. She was looking to sell the business, and that finally happened just a short time ago when the new owner, Russell Gravatt, took over the shop while Liz will stay on for the time being as a consultant and the visionary behind the the store. Liz will be retiring soon, so there’s no time to waste if you want to try this shop in its original form (though it seems Russell plans to keep the classic nature just as it is). And if you have a pup that’s a fan of ice cream, bring them along as Dairy Godmother offers up Puppy Pops, a favorite of Lulu’s.

Alex: Over the last year the question as to whether The Dairy Godmother would reopen has been on the top of many Alexandria residents’ minds. We’re so happy that we’re able to include this stop on the list, both for your benefit, and for the fact that the custard is awesome (and still available). The price at Dairy Godmother is great, the staff is efficient and helpful, and the custard machines with their thick ribbon of creamy custard on display builds excitement. The Tollhouse Cookie was the flavor of our choice of the three that’s available daily, and it was excellent. Though it’s a little bit of a longer walk from our house than some of the other places, it’s definitely one of our top five locations.

Dan: The Dairy Godmother is an institution and a “must have” ice cream in Del Ray. Alex and I went on a Thursday, early evening, and the place was jam packed! They only serve three flavors of custard per day (vanilla, chocolate and flavor of the day). The day we visited the flavor of the day was tollhouse cookie and I went for it! Small cup was only $3.25. I should have went with a double but more ice cream tasting was on the agenda. It was creamy, delicious and a nice amount of tollhouse cookie – a perfect custard! Stella (my dog) tells me that they also have some of the most fantastic doggie ice cream; she always asks for more!

The Custard Shack (DRP Belle Haven)

This small custard stand attached to the Belle Haven location of DRP (or Del Ray Pizzeria), truly packs a custard punch. Though it’s only open from April through October, that only improves the ambiance. The walk up window, packed parking lot, and nearby picnic tables for enjoying your custard or sorbet is classically nostalgic of a neighborhood ice cream stand of prior generations.

The Custard Shack’s custard and sorbet flavors of the day change every few days, so it’s best to check their Facebook page or website for their flavor calendar. Beyond the custard and sorbet there are options for shakes, floats, Sundaes (with so many toppings), puppy pops for the four-legged fans, and even pints or quarts of their offerings to go. Though it’s a decent hike from the middle of Old Town, walking South on the Mount Vernon Trail puts you so close that it would probably be a shame if you didn’t take the slight detour for a cup, cone, or maybe even a root beer float.

Alex: We went on a Sea Salt Caramel custard day and it was absolutely delicious. At just $3.45 for a small it’s one of the most reasonably priced options in the area, but the price has nothing to do with the size or flavor. My custard was delicious, and plenty for a single serving. Looking at their various flavors for the month, as well as the other options beyond a cup of custard, I’m excited to head back often, definitely next time with Lulu.

Dan: Well I definitely didn’t expect it, but I was WOWed by their Sea Salt Caramel custard. It was excellent; creamy and a really nice amount of gooey caramel. If i wanted to be very picky it could have used a sprinkle of sea salt on the top. I think I would have really loved that. The custard shack was really no frills; order at one window and pick up at the other window. The people were nice and price for a small was on point. Nothing but great things to say about DRP custard shack. I will absolutely be back! (Ok, confession time, I already went back and brought Stella along for the puppy pops….and she approved! I had the root beer float with vanilla custard and it was another winner.)

Casa Rosada Artisinal Gelato

Situated less than a block from King Street within a row of colorful historic row houses, the artisanal gelato store at 111 S. Payne Street offers a taste of Argentinian-style gelato. When you visit Casa Rosada, or “Pink House” (it’s the only pink house on the block), you’ll typically find one of the store’s owners behind the counter serving up your gelato.

The flavor choices are limited to a handful each day, each advertised on boards on the back wall, are always changing, and tend to be extremely creative. The interior is small, as to be expected by their small historic building, but the ordering and serving/cashier area work well. This is the epitome of a small business in Alexandria that locals have come to love, and is a wonderful addition to our area.

Alex: I love this shop for its ambiance, the family run nature, its historic location, and all of its unexpected flavors. I gave the Sambayon (Port & Masala) and Cinnamon a try in a small cup and really enjoyed both of them. Wendy tried the Sambayon and didn’t much care for it, but did like the Cinnamon. This is why it’s great when you’re able to try samples of the ice cream or gelato, since not everything is everyone’s favorite.

Speaking of favorites, Lulu got to try out their puppy ice cream offering, and she seemed to really enjoy it. From the presentation, with a little bone on the top, to the ice cream itself, Lulu really couldn’t get enough.

Dan: Casa Rosada is a small but wonderful gelateria. They had a nice selection of gelatos and sorbets. Today I went with two familiar flavors (cinnamon and pistachio). The cinnamon was creamy, full of cinnamon flavor but not overpowering that it negatively affected the other flavor. As I mentioned in other reviews, pistachio is my go-to gelato flavor and Casa Rosada did not disappoint. The gelato had tiny pieces of pistachio and an exceptional flavor. Casa Rosada tries to surprise you with some very interesting flavors including sweet corn, rice pudding, port and walnuts as well as my winter favorite – the best peppermint gelato. Their small cups are $4.99 including tax and well worth every penny.

Kilwins

Kilwins, at 212 King Street, is one of the newcomer ice cream shops to open on King Street. It’s ironic they’re a recent addition, as they’re nationally known as a favorite of many and recently celebrated their 70th anniversary. Their interior is a classic design of an old fashioned ice create and sweets parlor, and they’re known to be generous with their portions. After ordering at the counter, you can grab your cone or sundae and sit in their outdoor seating area.

Alex: Kilwins is a classic sweets factory from the moment you walk in the door, and they’re eager to satisfy your sweet tooth. They quickly offer samples, have several cases of ice cream flavors, and love serving up heaping helpings with multiple flavors even in their “small” cups. I picked up half cake batter and half double peanut butter pie. Talk about my ideal flavor combo. The serving size is substantial, so splitting a small is completely reasonable. The ice cream is fresh and very good, and taking your cup or cone out on the bench on the sidewalk in front of the store is a great way to enjoy your ice cream (or fudge, or chocolates, or caramel apple, etc).

Dan: Walking into Kilwins is fantastic! Chocolates, fudge, candies and caramel covered apples. It is awesome but I was there for ice cream. A very nice selection however I found out that my favorite flavor, lemon meringue pie, was discontinued. How could that be? It was my go-to all last summer. Oh well, I guess it is time to try some new flavors. I went with a small scoop (which is really two large scoops). I tried the salted caramel (nice amount of caramel and I loved the salt flavor) and toasted coconut (tons of pieces of toasted coconut). Both flavors were very tasty; not sure if either will take over as the flavor of the summer, but would absolutely have them both in the future. One thing to note, Kilwins has the most expensive small cup but it is also by far the largest amount of ice cream. Easily two people could share a small scoop.

Nicecream

Nicecream, at 726 King Street is the newest addition to Old Town’s ice cream offerings, and is tucked in a small storefront between Eamonn’s Dublin Chipper, and the Geranio Restaurant. Nicecream’s hand crafted approach to ice cream uses fresh local ingredients to create their custom flavor mixes, then freezes that mix in front of you using liquid nitrogen and electric mixers.

A few quick turns of the mixing paddle and your ice cream emerges from the cold steam. Their flavors are eclectic and the presentation is certainly interesting (but that’s part of the whole show). The interior of the store is nicely designed, and there are a few interior seats where you can sit and enjoy your scoops.

Alex: A trip to Nicecream is certainly a show. As clouds of liquid nitrogen steam spill from the mixers where your ice cream is being freshly prepared, it’s as much an experience as a way to get your ice cream fix. I tried their June flavor of the month, Strawberry Basil, and it was absolutely delicious. The basil was a refreshing and very nice addition to the creamy and very flavorful strawberry. As I understand it, the quick freeze of the liquid nitrogen allows Nicecream to leverage some fresher ingredients that wouldn’t work quite as well if the ice cream was made in a traditional manner. Though the shop is small, there’s plenty of seating inside, and the fresh approach to ice cream is a welcome addition to middle King Street.

Dan: WOW FACTOR! We walked in and i saw liquid nitrogen steam in the air. Very cool and definitely adds some excitement to ordering ice cream. I started with a taste of Nutella ice cream and it was very good. I was in the mood for pistachio and Nicecream did NOT disappoint. The purely pistachio is ice cream with homemade pistachio butter and bits of pistachio and I really enjoyed it. Per the norm, I ordered a small but it has two decent sized scoops (it looked smaller that it actually was). The store is a bit small and on a busy day can be a tight squeeze while waiting in line but absolutely worth it. Nicecream is the newest ice cream shop on King Street but is quickly making a name for themselves!

Dolce and Bean

Dolce and Bean is far more than just gelato (though that’s the reason for our visit). They’re known as an artisanal confectionery shop and are located in the heart of Del Ray at 2300 Mt. Vernon Avenue. Though their beautiful cases full of chocolates, pastries, and their signature macarons greet you when you arrive, their case of homemade gelato beckons from the rear of the counter.

Their Italian-style gelato favors milk over additional cream, leading to a smoother and more dense gelato that also happens to be a little healthier for you than traditional ice cream. Their case consists of 12 flavors of gelato from traditional (such as strawberry or lemon) to more creative (such as peanut butter or vanilla bourbon).

Alex: Though I had to force myself to stay on task rather than pick up a box of macarons, I sampled the vanilla bourbon but ultimately went with my favorite flavor of all time, peanut butter. The gelato was very dense and smooth, and the peanut butter smell and flavor was substantial. Had we been able to go with two flavors in a small I would have surely added strawberry (think PB&J ice cream). My favorite part of our visit to this shop was the staff’s friendly and interested interaction with us. They were talking with us about other ice cream offerings in Alexandria and even suggested specific flavors of other places we should certainly try. This tells me they really like what they’re doing and like to know their competition.

Dan: Dolce and Bean is a brand new addition to the Alexandria ice cream scene and I was excited to check it out. Bright store, nice people working behind the counter, and the store had a good amount of sweets (macaroons, chocolates and baked goods). They all looked delicious but yet again I am here to eat ice cream. They offered ~10 different flavors of gelato. I started off with a taste of peanut butter gelato and it had a really nice peanut butter flavor. Since it was gelato I went with my standard; small pistachio. It was a vibrant green color. I would have loved some pieces of pistachio or some stronger flavor. It was a standard price ~$5 plus tax for a small. I really would have loved the ability to mix and match flavors (they offered the mix and match only with larger sizes).

YoLove

Old Town’s lone remaining option for self serve pay by weight frozen yogurt is located at 100 N. Union, within the Torpedo Factory’s walkway toward the waterfront. Whether you’re in the mood for something tangy or sweet, you can grab a cup, dole out the amount you want, then add some toppings from the fruit, candy, and sweet sauces bar. Best of all, if you’re in the mood for something a little lighter, frozen yogurt tends to be a healthier option than some of the other stores’ offerings.

Alex: Sometimes I’m just in the mood for some frozen yogurt, and when that happens, YoLove is where we head. Wendy and I split a mixture of their tangy Oreo and chocolate flavor with a few Reeses peanut butter cups as topping. That’s the thing about YoLove, you can pick and choose what you like, and get as much as you do or don’t want. That’s also the problem, my eyes always seem to be bigger than my stomach at self serve locations, so I let Wendy work the portion control.

Dan: Full disclosure. Frozen yogurt is not my first choice when eating ice cream, but my wife loves it. So I brought her along for taste testing (I did try it as well). She went with oreo and vanilla. If you like a smooth tart frozen yogurt; then YoLove is the place for you They had six flavors and I love that you can mix and match all of them so that you can get exactly the combination you want. In addition they offer 20+ toppings. At $.55 an ounce, it was the most cost effective ice cream in Old Town.

The Creamery

The Creamery at 110 King Street has a classic exterior ice cream parlor view. From the painted stenciled letters on the window, to the animatronic bears eating ice cream in the front window, this is your basic small town ice cream parlor. Their offerings range from real vanilla or chocolate custard, ice cream flavors by the scoop, or sundaes. There’s a small seating section in the brightly lit interior, but more people grab their order and head outside to listen to nearby musicians on the sidewalk.

Alex: Walking in we were immediately asked what we’d like to order. I ordered a small vanilla custard in a cake cone, which was $5 including tax. They’re known for their custard so I figured that was a good way to assess their ice cream. Overall, it was tasty and true custard, not the type of soft serve you’d get at McDonald’s. Beyond the ice cream, the interior of the store is fairly typical of what you’d expect from an ice cream shop in a touristy part of town. I’d likely recommend The Creamery to anyone looking for real custard that wants to stay in Old Town, or if they’re looking for a quick option and the line across the street at Pop’s is just too long.

Dan: A nice hello from the ice cream clerk; I asked what is the best flavor today and she told me everything is wonderful. Ok, sure I believe her, so I went with homemade mango ice cream in a cup. It wasn’t going to be my first choice but who doesn’t love mangoes? It was sweet and creamy, and I would have really enjoyed some chunks of fresh mango. They offered 6% discount for cash ($5 for a small);  I don’t like carrying coins, so that was perfect. I will definitely go back to try the custard next time.

Ben & Jerry’s

The Old Town location of Ben & Jerry’s is located at 111 S. Union Street and has been a staple in Old Town for over 20 years. The shop is a standard Ben & Jerry’s store nestled within an historic row house. There’s not a lot of space inside to sit and enjoy your cone, but it’s not cramped either. This is Ben & Jerry’s, so you pretty much know what you’re getting, but most summer evenings tend to have a lot of people visiting. However, no day is more busy than on annual Free Cone Day, where the line often snakes down Union Street and up King Street.

Alex: We’ve been occasionally visiting this location for 17 years now, and it always seems to be well trafficked. I picked up a small in one of their newest celebrity flavors, Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Dough.” I must say, as a fan of cookie dough, the flavor was pretty awesome. And there is something magical about grabbing an ice cream and walking around lower King Street that just can’t be beat. If you’re looking for something you know you like, Ben & Jerry’s might be the perfect place for you.

Dan: It is Old Town, so when walking into Ben & Jerry’s you have to walk thru the bubbles. Nice touch and I love it! The Ben & Jerry’s smells like freshly made waffle cones and that smell is great. I went with my favorite flavor, Chocolate Therapy. Man, it is good and chocolatey! You really can’t go wrong with Ben & Jerry’s. It is familiar, taste good, nice variety of flavors and three people working so the line moves quickly.

Killer E.S.P.

Espresso, Sorbetto, and Pie is what the people at 1012 King Street do! Initially opened as a Bocatto Gelato location in 2011, they have expanded their menu to reflect their name change. (Or did the new menu come first? It’s a chicken and egg cream scenario if I’ve ever seen one.) Today they offer fresh brewed coffee and sweet and savory pies from Dangerously Delicious Pies, but their sorbetto selections are still front and center when you walk in. Order up front, pay at the register, then optionally enjoy your sorbet in the indoor or outdoor seating they offer.

The sad and out of order freezer.

Alex: We tried to sample the ESP offerings on 4 separate occasions, but their freezer has been on the brink so no gelato of theirs was to be had. However, both Dan and I are familiar with their offerings. Their case is front and center when you walk in and their gelato always looks thick and inviting. We even delayed this blog post in hopes it could be fixed. Sadly, it’s still broken.

Dan: As Alex mentioned, we walked by four times and I called; the new gelato freezer will be up and running soon… unfortunately, we can not wait for ever and the ice cream review has to get out to the world. I really enjoy the overall concept of Killer ESP. It is a local favorite and normally a line to the door during all four seasons of the year.

Our Top 5 Ranked

Dan

  1. Custard Shack: I was blown away by the Sea Salt Caramel, love the price, puppy pops and no frills approach. They are a “cannot miss” for custard and worth the walk or quick drive down GW Parkway.
  2. Kilwins: A very nice selection of flavors and the small dish is more than enough for two people (and you can mix & match flavors). Yes, it is a chain with ~75 stores around the US but it feels like a small hometown Ice Cream shop.
  3. Nicecream: The newest ice cream shop to Old Town Alexandria and I absolutely loved the purely pistachio. So good! Getting your ice cream at Nicecream is an experience! Fantastic!
  4. The Dairy Godmother: It is iconic within the Del Ray area of Alexandria and good reason because their custard is so delicious. I also recommend custard on top of their homemade baked pies – it is a summer delight! Also, Stella told me that they have the best puppy ice cream in town.
  5. Casa Rosada: I love gelato and Casa Rosada hits it on all marks. Standard flavors are fantastic, very nice portion that you can mix and match, price that hits the mark perfectly and they always offer some non-standard flavors that intrigue your tastebuds. Stella also gives Casa Rosada two paws up.

Alex

  1. Custard Shack: Though it’s a little further away than some of the others, the custard here is excellent. A walk down the Mt. Vernon trail is a perfect excuse to stop by, and I love that it feels so much like the classic, no-frills ice cream stands I grew up begging my parents to take me to after little league. I really also like the fact the flavors are limited and different, which forces me to leave my comfort zone.
  2. The Dairy Godmother: Whether in Del Ray for dinner, Art on the Avenue, or just because we’re out for a walk, The Dairy Godmother is always worth a stop when we’re in the mood for custard. It’s the quintessential local small business that we love to support and one of those places where you’re sure to see many area locals. Their custard is very tasty and they certainly don’t over complicate a good thing, and their prices are some of the best in all of the places we reviewed.
  3. Pop’s Old Fashioned Ice Cream: It’s an Old Town institution and has some of my favorite local ice cream flavors. Though the line can be long, there’s nothing quite like grabbing a cone or cup from Pop’s and walking the waterfront pier while you enjoy it. The ambiance is great and the building it’s in is so very cool.
  4. Dolci Gelati: I fell in love with gelato when I went to Italy right after college. No joke, I ate it three and sometimes four times a day when I was in Rome and Venice. Dolci is the place that really reminds me of those great cups of gelato I experienced years ago. Their flavors are delicious and the staff is so friendly that it makes going to the store a real delight. Even better, you can enjoy your gelato by the Market Square fountain located right across the street.
  5. Nicecream: What can I say, I like the show! It’ll be even better around Halloween when it makes the ice cream look spooky. I also really like how creamy the resulting ice cream is and their flavor selections. I’m a big fan of the strawberry basil and can’t wait to try the next flavor of the month. The decor is great, and it’s also nice and close to our house (but most of them are). I think this will be one of our frequent stops when we’re craving a cone.

Lulu

Though Lulu only has a few options for doggie ice cream, she can certainly weigh in on her favorites.

  1. Killer E.S.P.: Though their freezer was broken at the time of review, but their dog friendliness ranks tops among the shops. Lulu is always happy to stop by.
  2. The Custard Shack: Yes, they have pup pops too! What dog wouldn’t love a long walk on Mt. Vernon trail with a midway stop at the Custard Shack for a treat to cool down?
  3. Casa Rosada: Though she was a little unsure at first, she was sold after the first few licks. The benches out front are the perfect place to lick the bowl clean.
  4. The Dairy Godmother: A whole freezer dedicated to flavors that she enjoys any time of day, any day of the year is reason enough for this to be her #1.

As you can see from this massive list, we are fortunate to enough to have quite the impressive selection of ice cream options when it comes to the immediate and nearby neighborhoods of Old Town Alexandria. Whether we’re in the mood for classic ice cream, custard, gelato, yogurt, or even doggie treats, the decision we have to make isn’t about whether or not to go out, it’s more about where we should go. The fact that most of the shops are in beautiful old historic buildings only adds to the charm and enjoyment of the experience. So whether you’re a local or just visiting, we hope this guide is helpful when it comes to planning how to best satisfy your sweet tooth.