Behind the Georgetown house, where John and Elizabeth Edwards lived when he was an U.S. Senator, there is a quaint row of small homes. Facing a common walkway, lined with lush container gardens, 10 row homes are painted brick, in ever-so pale shades of blue, cream, green, beige and white. Shutters and traditional-styled lamps hung outside the windows create a truly enchanted block. This row, called Pomander Walk, is quite popular in the small space community and has been featured on such websites as Apartment Therapy, “DC House Tour: Polly’s Pomander Walk House.”
According to Urban Turf D.C., “one-bedroom houses [in Washington D.C.] are a rare niche product of 19th century D.C., built to house workers who needed small, cheap living options. Today, those workers have been replaced by scores of young professionals who aren’t prepared to shell out enough for a large home. Condos are the logical choice, but if given the option for a house that offers no burden of monthly fees, the opportunity may be an attractive alternative.” Philadelphia also has quite a few 18th and 19th century homes with only one or two (tiny) bedrooms. These small treasures not only preserve historic architecture but offer modest-income homeowners a chance to purchase a home in the more exclusive neighborhoods.
As with many historic dwellings, sometimes a dream house does not come in dream house condition. The homeowner is required to look under layers and layers of time to find a treasure. A good imagination, perseverance and lots of energy are prerequisites to purchase. Fortunately, a historic, brick row house is a great starting point for anyone who wants to turn a row house in the city into a cozy and welcoming home.
Caroline Legarde, who lives on Pomander Walk, purchased one of these charming two-story, circa. early 1800s, brick row homes from her great-aunt about a year ago. Her home hasn’t been updated in many years so she immediately planned a renovation that includes a new kitchen and converting the under-sized second bedroom into a spacious walk-in closet. As she progresses with her renovation, Caroline says, “my hope is to update the entire house to a contemporary urban dwelling that is inspired by its history.” During the demolition, Caroline was pleased to discover quite a few original architectural elements including the original heart pine floors, chair-rail molding, exposed ceiling beams and a rustic brick fireplace that should make it easy to realize her vision.
Before Caroline started the renovation, the kitchen was separated from the living space by a partial wall. Although the kitchen was very small, there managed to be a washing machine and hot water heater stuffed into the space, additional to normal-sized kitchen appliances. One appliance of special note was an all-in-one dishwasher, cook-top and stove stacked unit. Aesthetically, the faded yellow floral wallpaper was peeling and the floor tiles were cracked.
Currently, the space is gutted. The new area is one large, fluid space. Caroline plans on installing new cabinets and granite counter tops. Fortunately, the space has high ceilings which will allow for taller cabinets and more storage. She also wants to repair the floors and have the wood match throughout. New lighting will be installed. The huge water heater is being replaced with a tank less water heater that will be relocated to the back of the house. In order to create continuity, she plans on using a Liebherr paneled refrigerator that will match the cabinets. Finally, she is using compact appliances such as an 18″ dishwasher, to maximize the functionality of the space.
Caroline has graciously offered to share her experience with RowHouse and we look forward to seeing her row home as it progresses. Visit Part Two to continue learning more about Caroline’s row home.