Wee-ville: Tiny cottage just right for one

ADDRESS: 1331 Oxford Place

NEIGHBORHOOD: Oxford/ Rugby Road

ASKING: $259,000


SIZE: 819 fin. sq. ft., 484 unfin. (basement) (City estimate is somewhat smaller)

LAND: 0.086 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 of 10

LISTED BY: Cynthia Viejo Montague, Miller & Co. 973-5393

Last week we saw a house in the Fry's Spring neighborhood with little five-foot-high closets out of Alice in Wonderland. Well, this week we've found a whole house that Alice would have loved– that is, after she'd taken the "shrink me" pill.

This miniature stucco cottage sits above street level on a corner lot where Oxford Place winds around to Oxford Road. A steep stairway leads from the yard to the front door, which opens to the main level a story above the street. Inside, one large open space (bearing in mind that "large" is a relative term in a house of 800 square feet) comprises the living room, a galley kitchen across the back, and stairs leading to the former attic.

Imaginative renovation of the attic left exposed beams in the front which cost a bit in floor space up there, but which provide light to the living space below. Across the back of the main room, the galley kitchen is set off by hanging cupboards above an island containing the sink.

That was another thoughtful design decision– to have the sink on the living room side instead of under the kitchen window looking out to the backyard. This way, in the midst of dinner preparations, a host or hostess can face guests gathered around the working wood-burning fireplace instead of yelling over his shoulder while he scrubs the carrots or de-veins the shrimp. (The use of "host or hostess," singular, is deliberate. This is a one-man or -woman space: even the most besotted couples would eventually find the proximity unendurable.)

Next to the kitchen, a yellow-tiled bathroom is undergoing renovations and should be fine when they're done. A small bedroom (no closet) completes the first floor. Oak floors, plaster walls, and surprisingly high ceilings for such a little place testify to the quality workmanship and materials of the 1940s.

Up a flight of oak stairs, the original attic has been transformed into a loft bedroom complete with built-in everything: dresser, closet, shelves– even the bed is built in. Its former life as an attic is evident in the knotty pine covering every inch– the floors are random-width pine planks and the walls and "ceiling" are also pine. Two large skylights on the back in addition to windows at each end of the room contribute to the illusion of space.

The built-ins here are a masterful stroke, obviating the need for furniture, another contribution to the illusion. The bed has storage beneath and shelves on two sides. For safety, a little banister guards the exposed beams.

A short driveway leads from the street to the door of the ground-level utility basement that looks as though it might once have been a garage. However, with the house wedged so snugly on its tiny lot, the basement seems to provide the best hope for future expansion. Because of the incline, it has windows, direct access to the driveway, and a higher ceiling than one would expect in a cinderblock utility room.

The house is heated by the fireplace and by a gas furnace that sends hot air through a vent in the kitchen floor. One AC unit provides all the chill necessary for a place of this size, and tall trees help, too. Renovations are under way not only in the bathroom but in the kitchen.

While the lot is as Lilliputian as the house itself, there is a small deck on the back overlooking some nice plantings and an old rock wall along the property line. Azaleas, hostas, and other perennials provide interest in the yard and keep mowing at a minimum.

Oxford Place itself is a fitting location for this little nugget: a short loop with 14 or so houses off Oxford Road between Rugby Avenue and Dairy Road, it has no traffic, and many of the lots are shaded by huge hardwoods. Sedate tranquility is the feel, making this place ideal for a person (a UVA student, maybe?) who wants convenience with privacy but also the ability to nip up a few streets for some University revelry when necessary.

If that person also happens to be the size of Kate Moss or Woody Allen, so much the better.