REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Carless and carefree: Get seriously green near downtown

ADDRESS: 1002 Grady Avenue


ASKING: $379,000

CITY ASSESSMENT: $152,000 (2006)


SIZE: 1,816 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 0.1 acres

CURB APPEAL: 10 out of 10

LISTED BY: Owner/Builder Jeff Erkelens of Latitude 38 Design/Construction


Driving downtown keeps people on their proverbial toes (or brakes). Roads designed for far fewer people (and smaller cars) take the full brunt of giant SUVs and the general hurly-burly of a town with a population swelling exponentially. The possibility of that changing any time soon seems remote. One answer: ditch the vehicle and walk. 

From this house, walking everywhere appears not only possible, but the prospect might strike some folks as downright delightful. The brand new two-story, three-bedroom structure fills a tiny lot previously occupied by a 300-square-foot cinderblock number. The most outstanding front feature: colossal trees. Meanwhile, a holly, a cedar, and a magnolia out back all hover protectively. Green year-round, they provide plenty of privacy, but– if properly pruned– can let in light.

Another roadside attraction is the Hardipanel exterior. Made of 90 percent concrete in a baked-on earth-tone color, it blends well. A bonus is that insurance companies love its flame-retardant qualities.

While the exterior soothes the eye, the interior soothes the senses. As soon as we entered, a feeling of calm descended– like walking under a bridge during a thunderstorm. Even though no walls crowd the space, areas are subtly demarcated by varying ceiling heights. Compartmentalizing each area compromises its potential. Even the larger-than-average kitchen with smart Ikea cabinets could sport a center island without slowing down an energetic chef.

The open design creates a wide-open feeling from room to room. From the kitchen, one almost glides down a couple of steps into the largest living area where the layout does not strike one as obvious. There is no developer's heavy-handed hint of where the television or dining table should go. 

Beautiful floors and walls of windows reinforce the serenity. The canopy of mammoth trees makes the nearby neighbors almost disappear. The white ash floors downstairs (poplar upstairs) are from Appalachian Sustainable Development Group, a non-profit organization promoting a sustainable economy among low- and moderate-income people in Southside Virginia and Tennessee. Those floors lead to a back deck with built-in bench seats.

Back inside, an open staircase runs alongside a wall of small terrazzo tile in shades of silvery green that adds both visual and tactile interest as well as a depth and warmth not often found in new-house wall accessories. Upstairs, with three large bedrooms and two full baths, there's been no scrimping on space. The windows– each with bird's eye view– make the whole space feel like a giant treehouse. Insulation between the bedroom walls provides insurance against noise, but it's the use of space and light that seems to extend the house to greater proportions. No odd angles or useless corners block the flow.

Sustainable and environmentally friendly materials have been used throughout, and here they feel more practical than trendy. To live in a "green" house also means to live in a "green" world. Here, that notion is apparent from the front door. Take a walk. The owner, who doesn't own a car, says it best: "I can't imagine a better way to start or end the day."

Photos courtesy of the agent