REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Quirky: City house offers privacy, convenience


ADDRESS: 110 Warren Lane

NEIGHBORHOOD:  Meadowbrook in Charlottesville

ASKING:  $499,000

ASSESSMENT:  $495,300


SIZE:  3,626 fin. sq. ft. 

LAND:  0.95 acres

CURB APPEAL:  7.5 out of 10

AGENT:  Tim Michel, McLean Faulconer Inc. 295-1131 

This Cape Cod cottage sits off a cul-de-sac at the end of a narrow city side street on a one-acre hilltop lot. With added wings– a family room on one end and garage on the other– it consciously imitates the older estates dotting Western Albemarle, but it's too small and too urban for the option of the lucrative County tax shelter known as "land use." Pity!

Around here, nothing eases the guilt of financial success like being considered a friend of the environment– and being paid for the privilege. However, there's ample room– and grazing– in the lea here for a token alpaca or two. Stone walls and hedges, azaleas and dogwoods, and a meadow of grass and clover surround the house.

Strolling the tranquil grounds, it's easy to forget we're in the city and less than a mile from the 250 Bypass. There's even a small stream. Completing the bucolic theme, an outhouse sits near the back yard, but it appears– like the wishing well and concrete chickens nearby– more decorative than practical. (However, we didn't look or sniff too closely.)

A screened porch and deck overlook the back yard, resplendent with the spring blooms and nary a house in sight. Not many parcels in the city relieve privacy-craving residents of the obligatory twice-a-day "Hello, how ya' doing?" to neighbors. But in this area such privacy is the norm rather than the exception. We also suspect a framed PhD graces the office wall of every third house in the Greenbrier and Rugby neighborhoods. For us, these tours drive home that Mr. Jefferson's University is a massive local employer.

This house is true to form: while we didn't see the actual degree, built-in shelves in the ground-floor office of the current owner, a former UVA professor and author, still brim with books and papers. Accessible from the one-car garage, it's big enough to be converted to a fourth (and possibly master) bedroom. Knotty pine in the first-floor guest room is dated but cozy. In the family room at the opposite end of the original house, a brick wall identifies it as a later addition with a picture window and one side of a double fireplace.

Overall, the inside may strike some as kitschy and in need of updating. As with many houses we tour, the trade-off for solid postwar construction is that not much has changed. Here, the wooden framed windows, faux brick tile in the foyer and downstairs hall, and drop ceilings in the guest room and basement all date to the time when, as Billy Joel sang, "Cold War kids were hard to kill, under their desks in an air raid drill."

Although the wooden kitchen cabinets appear to have gone in during the East-West standoff, they're more Reagan than Ike. Détente between a Yeltsin-era tile backsplash and Nixon's Formica countertops teach us that two very different systems can coexist peacefully. Although we'd really like to mention Rocky IV, there's alas no metaphor to link that classic time capsule of Cold War drama to the fairly modern appliances, or anything else in the kitchen. So we end our reverie, amazed that we almost pine for that simpler, bipolar world.

Upstairs, two bedrooms with dormers and curved stucco walls and ceilings share a full bath.

The basement is also dated and oddly laid out, but it has a legal apartment with walkout access on the side and in the rear. On the owner's side, a family room doubles as a laundry room with a high-efficiency washer and dryer.

House hunters seeking a balance between privacy and a short commute should take a look here. While the alpacas are optional, a doctorate– with its commensurate professor's salary– is probably a must.



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