Home Tour: A Stunning R Street Victorian
by susan sheehan
The 1905 mansion in Kalorama has been transformed into a spacious, 21st-century residence
|A tiger oak mantel surrounds a gas fireplace in the basement, adjacent to the open media room and wet bar|
|A custom bath with a modern version of a claw-foot tub links the house’s past and present|
|A builder option is to create a temporary structure by installing tempered glass for outdoor entertaining|
Every so often, a one-of-a-kind residence comes on the market. Here to affirm that axiom is 2126 R Street Northwest, a four-story, 5,600-squarefoot, tan-brick Victorian house on the corner of Florida and R Streets, in Kalorama. Originally built as a mansion in 1905, it was subsequently used for decades as a boarding house. After changing hands a number of times, the building went into foreclosure—a fate that befalls very few properties in this lively section of Washington, near Dupont Circle. Then along came a group of young venture capitalists, who bought it from a bank this past spring and gave it a top-to-bottom interior and exterior overhaul. At an open house in January, a man who had rented a room there during his student days—he had shared a bath and the communal kitchen with other lodgers—couldn’t believe the transformation.
From the street, the dowager’s looks have improved with the removal of its 20th-century fire escapes. The interior has been gutted for a 21st-century incarnation: Five spacious bedrooms, including a master suite on the second floor, have replaced a warren of small bedrooms. The house has one original fireplace, two gas and two electric fireplaces—with one electric fireplace interestingly situated halfway up a bedroom wall—and five and a half 21stcentury baths, one with a modern take on a claw-foot tub, sitting in a three-windowed bay. The kitchen is outfitted with deluxe-brand appliances, including a pair of wine and beverage coolers.
Through 2126 R’s 67 windows streams ample light, perfect for the four levels’ worth of open floor plans—from the English basement to the third floor. All can be reached by a newly installed elevator, or by four equally new flights of wide-plank Brazilian tigerwood stairs, the flooring of choice throughout. A wrought-iron spiral staircase leads to the roof.
Despite this attention to detail, the house is still fully customizable: A builder’s upgrade list will be available for purchase to the buyers, to change the home to suit their preferences. As Robin McKibbon Waugh, one of two real estate agents listing the house on behalf of TTR Sotheby’s International Realty (1206 30th St. NW, 703-917-0515), says, “They believe the buyers will want to outfit the bedroom closets to their specific needs and customize the shower enclosures, so an allowance is provided for adding these and other finishing touches.”
The lower level currently features an exercise room and a sauna, but the buyer can use the builder’s options to remove the sauna and configure the space as an office—or a twobedroom rental apartment. Also available for upgrade is an audiovisual system with a video security system, surround sound, and flat-screen television sets throughout the house, accessible from a variety of wireless devices inside and outside the home. Should the new owners want eight security cameras, for instance, they can have them.
The house has been staged by Red House, with chic yet comfortable furniture, art, and area rugs, and painted throughout in a warm taupe gray. The buyers may purchase some, all, or none of the stage set. Options may also be applied to repainting, the installation of a caterer’s kitchen below the stairs (the site of the 1905 kitchen), or a premium wine cellar. It isn’t often that a new old house offers such myriad ways to make it your own.
For decades the Washington metropolitan area has expanded ever farther, ever faster into Maryland and Virginia. Suburbs replaced farms. Traffic increased. Commutes lengthened. As in New York, young residents are now opting to live within city limits rather than in exurbia. The neighborhood surrounding Florida Avenue (originally named Boundary Street, because it formed the northern boundary of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the Federal City) at R Street has been one of the beneficiaries of this influx: A few blocks from 2126, a condo recently sold for just under $4 million, and up the street, a former embassy is being converted into a 7,000-square-foot residence.
Also advantageous to 2126 R Street is its “walk score” of 89/100 (based on an algorithm that takes into account walking distances to a diverse set of amenities such as grocery stores, restaurants, and coffee shops). The house sits kitty-corner from Restaurant Nora; a short distance from two Starbucks and several additional coffee shops; near a supermarket, a few other markets, and a deli; and close to the Phillips Collection, the Cosmos Club, and R Street’s gallery row. Its proximity to the Dupont Circle Metro station and assorted bus lines also gives it an excellent transit score. But although the area demonstrates little need for a car, 2126 R has a driveway that can fit two vehicles.
Leaving behind the suburbs for the city, however, means trading wide-open landscapes for a congested urban scene. Literally rising above this potential pitfall, 2126 R will feature a rooftop deck, rimmed by tempered glass, with a 360-degree vista of the cityscape—including a glimpse of the tip of the Washington Monument. It’s a dandy place from which to watch the Fourth of July fireworks without having to leave home.
photography by greg powers
Celebrating the White House Correspondents’ Association’s annual dinner at Carnegie Library.