REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Esta casa su casa? Sunny Southwest comes East

ADDRESS: 108 Harris Road


ASKING: $325,000

ASSESSMENT: $215,800


SIZE: 1,384 in. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.14 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8.5 out of 10 

LISTED BY: Courteney Sargent of Roy Wheeler Realty Co., 951-5123

We were recently advised to sign up for the Southwest Airlines email list so that when that quirky carrier offers one of its famed Santa Fe, Sedona, or El Paso fare specials we can hop right on it.

An alternative would be to buy this fun little adobe cottage right here in town. We could enjoy the hip desert vibe without having to wait in line to take off our shoes and have our luggage savaged and our person scanned with a wand (or a hand).

Rumor has it that there are four or five houses in Charlottesville of this design, but we know of only two: one on Northwood Avenue and one on Evergreen. The Northwood house is a dead-ringer, but the one on Evergreen is iffy because it's painted white instead of cream with "adobe" red trim, and it has been nudged in the direction of a '50s, southern California aesthetic by a little black curlicue railing around the entryway. (It also lacks the flat roof.)  

The location of the other two is a mystery. 

Not much about this house is a mystery, however. The small structure sits on a slightly elevated lot with a low stone wall separating it from Harris Road that runs between JPA and Ridge (that's an important detail since there is also a local Harris Street and a Harris Avenue). A small tile-floor entry porch leads to a large bright living room with gas fireplace.  

Inside, almost all rooms have arched doorways that open the space so much that from the front door, the unimpeded view through the living room, dining room, and kitchen to a bright sunporch on the back makes the whole first floor seem almost like one big open space.

Two bedrooms, the bathroom, and a small office on the right side of the house have doors, of course, but the bedrooms and bath are recessed off a small hall and are thus not visible from the entry. The big arches create a pleasant effect, serene and minimalist.

The rooms are of reasonable size, but they seem larger than they actually are not only because of the lack of doors but also because the ceilings are unusually high– the agent estimated nine feet– also probably a conscious design element to help the space stay cool in the hot desert. Gleaming oak floors throughout (except kitchen and bathroom floor tiles matching the exterior stucco) contribute both to the openness and the tranquility.

The single bathroom has an old-fashioned footed tub (no claws in evidence) as well as a separate enclosed tiled shower. In the compact hall off the bath and bedrooms, a small linen closet and another tiny closet hide behind understated louver doors. The smaller of the two bedrooms has low built-in bookshelves, making the room ideal for a child.

The third bedroom (now used as an office) to the right of the front door was paneled for some inexplicable reason, but the current owners have disguised it behind white paint so that it almost passes as wainscoting. All the rooms have large double windows that let in as much light as "picture" windows– without the '50s baggage attached to those poor relics of split-level ranchers.

The kitchen at the rear of the house is open and airy, with butcher-block counters and large beige floor tiles, more reinforcement of the southwest feel. A back porch just off the kitchen has been enclosed to create a very bright, window- and bookcase-filled sunroom and laundry room separated by a disappearing pocket door.

Gas fuels the forced-air furnace, and ceiling fans in most rooms probably mean that AC use can be minimal. In fact, on the muggy, damp day we visited, the place seemed unusually dry and comfortable. The flat roof is made of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene terpolymer), a single-ply, low-maintenance rubber membrane typically employed in commercial buildings.

Outside, the small lot is nicely landscaped with boxwoods and a few perennials. The adjoining lot is also for sale, with the right of first refusal offered now only to the buyer of this house (for $100,000). That provides the possibility of expansion or elaborate landscaping– or perhaps just protection. (Caveat emptor: if the buyer of the house doesn't also buy the lot, there's the scary threat of some monstrosity springing up next door.)

People who don't mind living in an anomaly– a desert house in the verdant Virginia Piedmont– will find this an interesting option: an unusual house in a convenient location near the University and I-64, in what appears to be A-1 shape. And all without having to drive to BWI.