Good advice: Highland house made over right


ADDRESS: 2306 Highland Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD: JPA/ Johnson Village

ASKING: $455,000


SIZE: 2,900 fin. sq. ft., 150 unfin.

LAND: 0.17 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Trish Owens, Montague Miller & Co. 951-7164

This is the first house that has provided On the Block with the chance to write a before-and-after review. We're happy to say right away that the buyers took all the good advice we offered in our May 8, 2003 column ("High lands: You can see for miles and miles") and have created the house we saw yearning to escape from the bare-bones bachelor pad the original owner was selling.

Which is to say, they've transformed what we called then a "craftsman style house that needs a humanizing touch" into a swanky chalet-style residence that would be right at home at Wintergreen or Snowshoe.

The first thing they did was open up the wall between the cramped room of undetermined use to the right of the front door and the large den/living room across the back. That one change not only provided the dark entryway– formerly overpowered by huge exposed oak beams– with desperately needed light, but also created the room-to-room flow that any modern family wants– and created a big dining room in the process.

The grim kitchen needed the most work, and the new owners– the husband is a restaurateur– have outdone themselves here: a sturdy hard-rock maple island delineates the completely redone kitchen from the adjacent open living space. A commercial gas stove and industrial-strength vent hint of great dinner parties. New maple cabinets and countertops and big ceramic tiles on the wall accentuate the exposed oak beams overhead and the new heart pine mantle from Mountain Lumber atop the living room's gas log fireplace. (The weird little square window is still there, drawing a visitor irresistibly to it.)

The house was thoughtfully designed originally to capitalize on what seems to be one of the highest peaks between Cherry Avenue and JPA – and the two upper floors are the places where that design pays off. The second level is pretty much the same as before, with the important addition of warm paint colors in the large master bedroom (with deck providing mountain views), small office, and two full baths (one with the great old claw-foot tub we're happy to see was not jettisoned in the makeover).

The tall third-floor, formerly just an attic, is now the primo bedroom, even more alluring than the master, with privacy, soft new wall-to-wall carpet everywhere, and distant vistas from front and back windows.

The basement apartment, at best rudimentary before, has been updated and now provides a cozy and private place for a Darden student who wants to convey– a big plus in this city of rental property glut. The big plus for the tenant is that the site of the house on a steep-ish slope means three walls of windows and absolutely no basement feel whatsoever.

Everyone here owns dogs, so fencing encloses the whole place– necessary in the back, but unfortunately intrusive in the front. Since our good advice in 2003 had such great results, we suggest the next owners resign themselves to keeping the dogs out back and dispose of the front fence to open the unusual chalet facade to the admiring glances of passersby.

Other perks: The block-deep lot makes possible a hidden gate out back that provides access from Center Street– a boon in a parking-starved neighborhood. The standing-seam metal roof is virtually maintenance-free. And since the house is less than 10 years old, looming repair of major systems shouldn't be a worry.

Anyone who hankers for slope-side vibes year 'round should slip by Highland Avenue for a look.