A House On “The Country’s Most Despicable Alley”
By: Date: November 15, 2020 Categories: Business,Real Estate,Uncategorized Tags: ,
a-house-on-“the-country’s-most-despicable-alley”

he building was built a by a coal oil salesman about 100 years ago.

The building was built a by a coal oil salesman about 100 years ago. Prior to its renovation, this … [+] building served a variety of industrial purposes over its 100-year history

Photo courtesy of Bennett Frank McCarthy for Downsize: Living Large In a Small House

It is said that Elenor Roosevelt once dubbed Blagden Alley one of the the country’s most despicable alleys. The house is located in the Historic District in Washington, D.C.’s Shaw neighborhood of DC, which has recently become home to restaurants with Michelin starred chefs. It was built by a coal oil salesman over 100 years ago and continued to be used as commercial space until it was bought and renovated by its current owners – Anna and Dan.

But as many things change in time, this area has recently become a hip location with its coffee houses and restaurants. Anna and Dan saw the potential in this rundown commercial building and made it quite special. According to Anna, “Being off the street but so close to downtown is kind of magical.”

With no barrier walls, air and light can flow from the front through the back of the structure.

With no barrier walls, air and light can flow from the front through the back of the structure. The … [+] flooring throughout the first floor is a concrete slab that was merely sealed.

Photo courtesy of Bennett Frank McCarthy for Downsize: Living Large In a Small House

The row house fell into disrepair and was demolished, leaving only a vacant lot with the alley structure at the rear of it. Anna and Dan bought it that way and converted the alley structure into their home. Years later they rebuilt the row house into a three-unit condo, maintaining the original vintage feel of the neighborhood.

For the last 25 years Anna and Dan moved five times in Washington DC.  They say the houses they could afford were always along the edges of neighborhoods, which had suffered from neglect and blight. Anna says that all of their renovations were done because they fell madly in love with the properties that needed some tending to. She and Dan fell in love with the carriage house and  “couldn’t bare the idea that someone else might do something awful to it.”

The second floor porch was retained, although the railing and the roof were replaced.

The second floor porch was retained, although the railing and the roof were replaced.

Photo courtesy of Bennett Frank McCarthy for Downsize: Living Large In a Small House

The design for the home is based on an open concept with fewer larger spaces than several smaller ones;  making the house feel bigger than it would with closed off rooms. The entire ground floor was perceived as the entertaining level (kitchen/dining and lounge) and the entire second floor as the living level (sleeping and living spaces). There is no enclosed bedroom on that floor. Architect Shawn Buehler says the house was designed specifically with open spans from front to back to allow light to come in from both directions. 

All of the exterior walls were kept in tact.

All of the exterior walls were kept in tact. Even the first floor brick walls were left exposed and … [+] they weren’t painted over, so as to showcase the archaeology /history of the structure. Existing bar joists were left exposed, as well as roof beams and support columns.

Photo courtesy of Bennett Frank McCarthy for Downsize: Living Large In a Small House

Existing bar joists were left exposed, as well as roof beams and support columns. The original building had no interior stair so the second floor could only be accessed from the outside, so a new interior stair had to be added.

The owners of this carriage house envisioned a social kitchen and dining area suitable for large meals and gatherings in a setting that celebrates the urban character of their Blagden Alley neighborhood. It’s a conversion of an industrial alley structure into a single-family home.

The first floor is set up to conveniently to be able to host the owners’ dinner parties.

The first floor is set up to conveniently to be able to host the owners’ dinner parties. Open … [+] shelving provides a good deal of storage without blocking the natural brick walls and windows.

Photo courtesy of Bennett Frank McCarthy for Downsize: Living Large In a Small House

The owners use the space as a super club hiring chefs to cook for the parties they throw periodically. They also own an antiques/vintage store, GoodWood, and move different furniture and other items in and out of their own space.

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