Walter and Eleanor Litwin have a new, French chateau-like house in the Rock Creek Hills section of Kensington that is attracting housing voyeurs.
Built on one of the last undeveloped lots in that area, it may be the only house around here sporting a 6-by-6-foot sailing ship over the front door.
"It sort of sets our house apart, wouldn't you agree?" said Litwin of the wire and metal sculpture.
After living nearby in Rock Creek Hills for 27 years, the Litwins, who have seven daughters, decided to build a house as an investment for the future.
"Actually, it's our estate," said Litwin, who is commercial development staff head for the National Association of Home Builders. "If I can work out my plan, I'll sell the house and lease it back for awhile and have the best of all worlds, financially."
Litwin is a wiry chap with a degree in architecture. Formerly in merchandising display with the Hecht Co. here, he has created a house with virtually the same surface inside and out. The exterior masonite panels are reproduced in thinner section for the walls throughout the interior.
"They give us - or the next owner - the flexibility to redecorate as desired by painting, paper-hanging or having murals on the interior walls. Meanwhile, the surfaces are easily cleaned," Litwin said.
The Kensington house has 4,000 square feet on the first and basement levels and an attic waiting to be converted into a studio apartment.There is a skylight in the roof.
But what about that ship over the threshold?
"I had it in my garage for 15 years. It was the gift of a fine artist, Edward Meshekoff, of New York City. We had a business relationship years ago and he gave the ship to me. Somehow it just seemed right to put it out front instead of burying it inside the house. We like it and a lot of people come driving by to take a look."
Litwin, who acted at his own general contractor, said that he built the house for about $30 a square foot, three-forths of what most comparable housing costs today.
The Litwins paid $35,000 for the half-acre lot, which has space for a circular driveway in front and a backyard stretching into parkland trees.
All the rear windows face south, which means a saving in heating - the house uses an electric heat pump - and air conditioning. The sun gets through the trees in winter but not in summer.
The house has four bedrooms and three and a half baths. The Litwin's bedroom, which has a cathedral ceiling, is in the wing to the right of the entrance. The other bedrooms and a utility room are on the lower level. Two planter glass windows with vents flank the entrance.
The center chimney serves a fireplace on the main level. "Our fireplace in the den is equipped with an air circulating device that brings in outside air to be heated and then sends it out into the room," Litwin said.
"It's really a simple house, a 32-by-32-foot box with two wings," he said. "A lot of Masonite interior and exterior board trimmed with rough-sawn cedar - plus a lot of insulation and an open stairway made from railroad ties. That was a challenge for the carpenters just because it was different."