REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Rock on: New Belmont house does builder proud


Address: 720 Rockland Avenue

Neighborhood: Belmont

Asking: $395,000

Assessment: $45,600 (land only; purchased for $110,000 in December 2008)

Year Built: 2009

Size: 1,856 fin. sq. ft. 

Land: 0.14 acres

Agent: Tom Raney, Real Estate III 434-981-2608

Curb Appeal: 8 out of 10

The American construction industry may be in decline, but there's still a market for skilled labor. Just ask Jeff Erkelens. Erkelens came to Charlottesville and worked for Habitat Humanity for several years before securing a loan to build his first house. Since then, he's formed a company, Latitude 38, which has constructed five houses since its inception in 2006, including 1002 Grady Avenue.

Erkelens has always worked within a mile of downtown, as he and his colleagues often bike to work. Environmental consciousness is a big part of Latitude 38's design mojo, "a modern aesthetic rooted in bungalow style." He loves installing built-in features, including a high desk counter in one of the guest bedrooms in this week's house. 

All three bedrooms here are located upstairs where they share maple flooring and large windows. The master bedroom has a triptych of nearly floor-to-ceiling windows looking out towards Carter Mountain, a walk-in closet, and bathroom with blue mosaic tiles in the shower and slate flooring. Washer and dryer hookups are fixed behind a hall closet, and there's a full guest bath with roofing materials on the bottom half of the walls. All three bedrooms have birch plywood sheeting, a motif that continues on the downstairs ceiling, an idea that came from a restaurant. The cement backer board in the half-bath off the entranceway is a restaurant idea as well. 

The position of the kitchen a half-flight downstairs from the entrance creates a dramatic 12' ceiling, but also means that there's no basement. The cool concrete flooring in the kitchen and living room are at the very base of the lot. This may have something to do with the comfortable temperature of the house (on a sunny summer day without AC) and makes the windows in the living room and kitchen higher than normal—about four feet up from the floor, just above the butcher block kitchen countertops. 

Because cabinets would get in the way of the windows, a large pantry with French doors and a huge storage closet (near the office nook) provide storage for for food processors, ice cream makers, and other doo-dads. The kitchen is large, with a gas range, expanses of stainless steel, and a concrete-topped island. Obviously designed to be eat-in (no dining room), the kitchen is large and airy and comfortable, illuminated by lights hanging at varying heights and depths from the birch-paneled ceiling. 

The living room is equally large and no-fuss, with built-in bookshelves, including a spot for that flat-screen TV. A staircase leading up from the living room creates a small balcony leading out to the deck and to a small sloping grassy yard, which will soon house a shed for garden tools, bikes, and other household essentials. (And if the kids need extra space to run around, Belmont Park is just a block away.) The back deck and front porch are built from cumaru, a tropical hardwood that will hold up to weather and a pressure hose. 

Erkelens, who tries to build with sustainable materials, has mixed feelings about using the wood, and is looking for a durable alternative for future projects.  

With a nascent company constructing cool, environmentally conscious urban homes, it looks like the newcomer has found his niche. Let's just hope he's here to stay.



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1 comment

This house has a great view of Carter's mountain yet it substantially diminishes many of the neighbor's views. The house is out of scale and context with most other houses in the neighborhood. Given a little consideration, the mountain views that others have historically had could have been maintained. Overall, there was simply no consideration given to Genius Loci. Sustainability is great, but many builders place infill housing without thinking about the place they are building. It is obvious that while this house may be utilizing practices that help the greater environment the overall design and placement is a little egocentric in that it does not communicate with the surrounding landscape or neighborhood character.