House of the Week | Off-beat NW DC home for $1.25M

When architect Pierre Charles L’Enfant was laying out the District in 1791, he draped diagonal avenues on a rectangular grid of streets. The result created many small, triangle-shaped plots of land. Commonly known as flatirons because of their resemblance to a clothes iron, they can be challenging to put into productive use.

Jeff Speck, a city planner and urban designer who was the director of design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 to 2007, was smitten by these wedges and searched the city for one on which to build a home. He found a spot near the U Street corridor in Northwest, where he erected this idiosyncratic house.

In a 2008 cover story in The Washington Post Magazine, Speck described the glass-and-brick structure, which he and architect Brie Husted designed, as “a wood rectangle dropped into a brick triangle.” But for all the sharp angles on the exterior, the home is relatively orthodox on the interior.


(Photo by HomeVisit) Living room

It was intentionally designed to be compact — each of the floors is no more than 500 square feet — and no space is wasted. Although the prow makes a dramatic statement from the street, its functionality is limited. On the first floor, Speck turned the space into extra storage. On the main living level, it is a nook for a European-style wood-burning stove that is so efficient that a single log can heat the entire home.

The cantilevered panes of glass that jut out of the brick drench the home in natural light. Radiant heat in the bamboo floors offers added warmth. The house also has photovoltaic cells on the roof to provide solar power.

One of the more dramatic features inside the home is the black steel staircase, weighing nearly five tons and spiraling through each level.


(Photo by HomeVisit) dining area and kitchen

The sleek kitchen with its black cabinetry and concrete countertops contrasts nicely with the bright, white living room.

The master bedroom and a second bedroom are on the top level. The Washington Monument can be seen from the floating balcony off the master bedroom.

A raised and gated rear patio is secluded from the street by a privet hedge.

The four-bedroom, two-bathroom home is listed at $1.25 million.

Listing: 990 Florida Ave. NW

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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