This past weekend Wendy and I took a little break from our HVAC attic work to get cleaned up and venture out into the sunlight. The weather was nice and the open house market was bubbling with a few new properties. Far be it of us to miss a good open house.

The home we visited, located at 325 S. Pitt St., is one we've passed many times before and often wondered what the interior of the home looks like. The house sits in a short row of several Victorian homes which have significantly elevated first floors and rather grand entry vestibules. 

This particular home was built around 1890 according to both the city records and the real estate listing, but this isn't always spot on. It seems that 1890 is a generic listing of age when the house was built sometime before 1900 but after 1870. After we looked around the house I wouldn't be surprised if it was actually built about 1885, similar to our home.

From the exterior, the house has several very unique characteristics beyond the very elevated first floor. The windows have a very intricate and arched top, the mansard roof with small window is not very typical of a smaller home in our area, and the entry transom that mimics the tops of the windows is uncommon in our area.

Walking up the several cement steps on the outside of the house you may expect a somewhat traditionally decorated home, but as soon as you walk into the entry vestibule and up the four additional steps, the walls and light fixture visible in the entry hall let you know this home has something a little different about its decor.

Like many homes of its era, the floor plan has you walk into an entry hall with a parlor immediately inside to the left. This parlor is configured as the home's living room amd seems like a very bright and welcoming area with tall ceilings and a large single window. While many of the original molding and detail elements are fully intact, the current owner's style is completely apparent and non-traditional.

Yes, that's a cow hide on the floor. Yes that's a giant orb light fixture. Yes, this is the most eclectically decorated home that remains in good taste of all of the open houses we've seen. Note: I said "that remains in good taste." We've seem some really bad ones. 

The dining room is just beyond the front parlor and houses many different built in book cases and shelving units. One thing that is for sure about this home, it makes extremely efficient use of the space it has available. There seemed to be nooks and shelves all over the place. As you may know from our obsessive attempts to maximize space, this is very important in a home like this.

The main staircase of the house is located in the center of the home just off of the dining room, which presents some furniture challenges but also adds a lot of visual interest and openness to this room. The staircase is light and bright, and as Wendy would call it, a perfect "Christmas staircase" where she would hang garlands and decor for the holidays. (Are you sick of hearing about Wendy's desire for a Christmas staircase yet? I don't blame you if you are.)

The house is really only three rooms deep with the front parlor, dining room, and kitchen as the primary rooms, but the stairs and a small powder room sit between the dining room and kitchen. The kitchen, while clean and updated, is extremely tight. Though the mirrored backsplash fools the eye into thinking there's more room, I can't picture having more than one person in here at a time without constantly bumping into one another. 

When upstairs, if you head to the front of the home you find the master bedroom. It's a generous sized room with two small closets, two beautiful windows, and soaring ceilings. Wendy also happened to be in love with the current owners' decor choices, especially the orange side tables. 

Also on the second floor is a small but charming bedroom, currently in use as a nursery... 

...As well as one full bathroom. It's a nicely sized and updated bathroom with beautiful ming green marble mosaic tile on the floor. 

Another feature of the home that we really enjoyed is the unexpected third floor. We often pine for a third floor in our home, and are routinely jealous of homes that have them. In this case the third floor would be a wonderful space for a home office. 

There is a hidden bit of storage beyond the front of the third floor, and the views of Old Town out of the front windows are really quite nice. Just look at how far you're able to see. I'm always fascinated by all of the unique roof lines and church steeples you can see from the taller homes around Old Town.

I wish we had our wide angle lens for this photo, as my iPhone just can't capture how cool it is.

Back down the stairs, all of the way into the basement, there is a bit more of a surprise. The finished basement space offers a full bathroom.

And though the ceiling is low, it's an area you can easily use as a guest suite.

The door off the front of the basement exits right at ground level (remember how high the first floor is).

One of the drawbacks to this home is the small lot that it sits on. The block is completely full of homes and there really is very little outdoor space to speak of. There is a small deck that is large enough to entertain a few people, but you are completely enclosed and it doesn't really feel like you are outdoors.

In all, it's a unique and interesting home that has some cool nooks and crannies, a relatively functional layout, and makes very efficient use of space. The three beds and two and a half baths are nicely sized, and the openness of the first floor while maintaining the original floor plan is appealing. However, the back yard is small and there is no reserved parking. But at least it has some good hardware.

If you're interested in more details, be sure to check out the home's listing.

And now for our game...

Would You Trade

Alex: I'm going to go with a "no" here. I do love the original details as well as the layout of the house with a third floor, and I'm totally obsessed with the views from the front windows. But the lack of outdoor space is sort of a deal breaker for me. The home has a ton of potential, and it's been somewhat recently updated where important, however the amount of outdoor space is fixed. So no matter how amazing we could potentially make the interior of the home, we still can't do much (short of a roof deck...which would be hella awesome) to fix that. Hrm, roof deck. A roof deck might make me reconsider, but as of now without a roof deck, still a "no."

Wendy: As much as I love the curb appeal of this home, the interesting windows, the staircase perfect for holiday garlands, and the general quirkiness, no, I wouldn't trade. I also liked the fact that it had a walk out basement. Despite these positive features, I wouldn't be willing to give up parking, our ample outdoor entertaining space, a first floor family room, or having an en suite bathroom. The kitchen also was a little too small and closed off from the rest of the house. 

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.

Photo Credits: Listing agent, McEnearney Associates Inc., and Ann Duff where "2012 MRIS" is noted in the photo watermark.

Comments 11


3/7/2012 at 12:44 PM
I hope to god that is a mistake. $848K for that house is a little aggressive in my opinion; Then again, I don't like in old town anymore.

Love the blog!

Nope, not a mistake, sadly. You know the real kicker, it was on the market for only seven days and it already has a contract on it. Must have been priced to move. ;-)
3/7/2012 at 12:45 PM
* live.

...I don't live in old town anymore...
3/7/2012 at 12:55 PM
Unbelievable... For such a transient area, I'm surprised someone would lay roots down like that. Don't get me wrong Old Town is beautiful, but for an area where people come as frequently as they go, I couldn't imagine paying so much just to turn around and have to sell it.
threadbndr (Karla)
3/7/2012 at 3:05 PM
You know my stance on parking. No parking, no deal. And damn, I'm glad I don't have to pay east coast prices!

On the other hand, love the window details and the walk out basement!
I think the windows are actually my favorite part of the whole house.
3/7/2012 at 7:15 PM
Yes, the no-yard is a no-deal. The house is OK but I'm distracted by the decorating, which I mostly like, especially the LR orb (which doesn't convey), everything about the DR, MBR wallpapered ceiling, and the tile choices. In general I'm not crazy about dark kitchen cabinets and they really don't work for me in that small of a space.

As always, thanks for sharing. You do a great job of pointing out the highs and lows.
3/8/2012 at 9:21 AM
What a pleasant surprise! Decor was very unexpected in such a traditional space. Very cool.
Exactly! I liked it, if for no other reason, because it was unlike anything I had seen in an open house before.
3/8/2012 at 4:30 PM
This one was interesting. You don't see Second Empire architecture very much in Virginia. We agree that 1890 sounds a little late for its construction - Second Empire was at its peak around the mid 1870s and started to wane by about 1880 or so.

I can't believe they would get $800K + for a house with so many sloppy treatments!
You're absolutely right on the Second Empire in this area. It's actually my favorite period of antique furniture, but I wish there was a bit more in the way of architecture.

It's funny, the DC area is a bit of an anomaly. In Old Town it seems styles are maybe 5-10 years behind. So something built in 1900 looks like 1890-1895. But in DC, it's about 15-20 years off. So something built in 1900 looks like 1880-1885. I'm not sure why, I just chalk it up to the influx and growth of the Recomstirction era buildings when old school builders came to the area to meet the demand. Any other ideas? I'd love to hear.

As for prices, it's a rough one in this area. We've been here 12 years and still aren't used to it. Knowing local prices, and seeing the house, I actually think the buys got a (dare I say it?) good deal. The home seemed solid and pretty intact, had good space, and looked well cared for. Aside from what you noted, it is a good find in a good area. We're actually a little excited for the buyers so that we can watch what changes they make.
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