Sandwiched retreat: Split personality on Winston

ADDRESS: 1821 Winston Road

ASKING: $474,000

SIZE: 2,769 fin. sq. ft. / 119 unfin.



CURB APPEAL: 5 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Anthony McGhee, Assist-to-Sell 979-1223; 996-8788

Everyone's had the experience of having to make a sandwich out of the last slice of bread and the heel. You can do it, but the result isn't what you were expecting. And you typically put it on the plate heel-side down, to keep the illusion of matching sides.

This Winston Road two-story is like that. To make the most of a quarter-acre city lot with a fairly steep incline, a creative architect located the primary entrance and living spaces on the top floor where an impressive central room with fireplace is flanked by the kitchen, dining room and balcony-style decking along the rear. A bedroom with adjoining office and full bath, plus access to another small deck and the yard below, makes the top level just about complete unto itself.

Downstairs, the plan is somewhat repeated: another central living space with fireplace, another kitchen, another bedroom, another full bath. The dining room upstairs is a second bedroom on the lower level, and instead of a front entrance, there are glass doors to the back yard.

But the downstairs is definitely the heel of this sandwich. It feels almost like it came from a different loaf of bread entirely. While the upstairs is elegant and inviting, the downstairs is best described as functional. While it's billed as a possible "in-law apartment," new owners would want to think carefully about the nature of their relationship with mom and pop before setting them up in such a contrasting environment.

Where the upstairs features a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams in the living room, nicely complemented by a hardwood floors and warm butternut paneling, the downstairs flooring is thin carpet and brick-patterned vinyl. The upper kitchen has Italian tile kitchen counters, the lower kitchen, Formica.

The fireplace upstairs features a soapstone hearth; brick surrounds the lower fireplace. The intimate deck off the master bedroom above turns a window in the bedroom below into something completely superfluous. In fact, natural lighting below is everywhere compromised by the overhead decking from the level above. But that's not to say that if a couple wanted to live primarily upstairs and keep their-­ dirty laundry, teen-agers, pets, exercise bicycle, pool table, in-laws (pick one)-­ downstairs, the illusion of elegant living in this nearly half-million dollar house would remain intact.

Indeed, traffic flow at upstairs parties has been anticipated, with several looping routes possible for guests. After dropping their coats off at the free-standing coat closet in the foyer, they can choose to meander through the dining room, stopping to sample something delectable from a marble-topped serving counter, and then exit onto the deck, compliment the host in the kitchen, or re-enter the main party in the fireplace room.

All kinds of imaginings are easy because the house is more or less empty. The departing owner sadly notes that the location of the house at the top of a hill means he has reluctantly left behind "the best sleigh-riding spot" in town.

No sleigh-rider would get far inside this home's own backyard confines, that's for sure. The yard has enjoyed the attention of professional landscapers in the past, and a variety of plantings, described variously as low-maintenance and Japanese-garden, covers the area, all surrounded by a high privacy fence. A 1990 survey of the property shows there even used to be a swimming pool in the yard, but all signs of it are gone now, leaving a most private backyard behind despite the relative closeness of next-door neighbors.

This property offers a wealth of possibilities. One family could move in– or two. Take it as a party house, or secluded retreat. And while nothing about this one screams "fixer-upper," that's not to say some creative handywork downstairs wouldn't give the sandwich two matching halves again and no doubt add considerably to the property value in a neighborhood that knows few upper limits.