Upstairs, downstairs

ASKING: $549,000
SIZE: 3,612 sq. ft.
ADDRESS: 1910 Barracks Road
CURB APPEAL: 4 out of a possible 10
LISTED BY: Sonja Casero of Century 21 * 971-1995

It’s always better to tour a furnished house. Seeing how people have decorated and placed their furniture and the general flow through the space makes a house seem friendlier, more welcoming. Sometimes, though, a house has been designed so thoughtfully that even without furnishings its easy to envision a comfortable home.
Stanislaw John Makielski, one of the first architectural graduates of UVA, designed and built this house in 1932. (Lured away from the engineering school at Notre Dame University by Fitz Kimball, Makielski also taught architecture at UVA and wound up signing his own diploma when he graduated.) It was the original house on what was Old Poor Folks Road (now traffic-clogged Barracks Road), and the closest residence was a working farm that is now the site of the Kmart. The current owner (Makielski’s daughter) remembers riding her pony across many fields to the farm. Well, things change, and architects as well as developers have to build.
The house has a timeless appeal– a perfect blend of colonial and modern. The proportions on the main level allow for comfortable social and private living. There is a small den off the entrance hall: with built-in bookshelves lining all the walls, it would be a perfect study/office/TV area. But the rest of the downstairs opens up from the front hallway into a huge living room. French doors open from the living room to a small balcony overlooking the grounds as well as to the dining room. The living room could easily house several sitting areas, a grand piano, and more end tables than you could possibly need.
The dining room is unremarkable except for an unusual little silver button located discreetly off-center on the floor. The news that this is a bell used to summon the staff from the kitchen puts the house into historical perspective. Each room has a servant-summoning bell, although the rest are located on walls. The kitchen, although unimpressive, seemed more interesting when one imagined the help jumping to attention at the sound of a bell.
The basement with separate entrance duplicates the first floor almost exactly. Makielski used this space to receive clients as well as to play music and paint. With a full bathroom and kitchen, this space could easily be an in-law apartment or rental unit without interfering much with what’s going on upstairs.
Three average-sized bedrooms, all connected, and two full bathrooms round out the second floor. At each end of the full-size attic, accessible only by a pull down staircase, unusual triangular windows flood the space with light.
Outside, though, approached through the dining room, really is the showstopper. Makielski was stationed in Italy during World War I and brought home with him a love of Italian gardens. He must have been in Rome, the city built on seven hills, as he decided to name his first landscaping project Seven Terraces and fill them with classic Virginia plants. Ivy spills over stone archways, and 80-year-old boxwoods carve out paths that meander throughout the two and half acres. Huge oaks dot the sloping backyard, filling it with a cathedral-like silence that seems miles rather than minutes away from the shopping mecca of Barracks Road.
A two-car garage with studio space sits across from a small cement patio; further down the hill, hidden by bushes, is a stone cottage whose original inhabitant was a pony. The place has been refurbished to now house the current owner herself.
Makielski went on to design the two houses next door as well as Memorial Gym, the Thomas Jefferson Unitarian Universalist Church, and many more landmarks around town. Fortunately, those remain, but the days when William Faulkner might walk by and tip his hat in your direction are long gone. Only the house has stayed the same.