Sean Ruppert, who grew up on a horse farm in Baltimore County and was an accomplished equestrian in high school and college, has never quite left behind his affinity for horses and barns. So when the opportunity came along to merge his passion for riding with his day job as principal at Opal, a boutique development firm based in Cabin John, he leaped at the chance.

Naylor Court Stables, a three-home development in Shaw, is the result.

“To be able to build a barn in the middle of our nation’s capital is kind of cool,” Ruppert said.

After clearing away a 1920s garage that collapsed during the blizzard of 2009-10, Ruppert had a blank slate to work with. The lot was surrounded by stables and carriage houses built around the turn of the century, and they provided him with his inspiration. Naylor Court is one of the last remaining historically equestrian alleys in the District.

“I was drawn to it instantly,” he said. “I knew what I wanted to do from the minute I drove down [the alley].”

Ruppert called Seattle-based architect Greg Sparhawk, who he had used for past projects. He told Sparhawk he wanted his homes to have the feeling of an old barn.

“We use an architect from Seattle, Washington, on purpose so that our homes really don’t feel so D.C.-ish,” Ruppert said. “If you walk through [Opal homes], they do kind of have a West Coast sensibility.”

The interiors of the four-level homes are a mix of modern and traditional. A beamed ceiling in the living area and the paneling on the stairway are a nod to a more classic period, while the dark windows and glossy kitchen cabinets reflect a more contemporary touch. A skylight floods the open stairwell with natural light from the top level to the kitchen.

The exterior winks playfully at passersby. The arched horse-height windows along the building are tall enough to allow Mr. Ed to stick his head through comfortably. Dark sliding doors mimic an opening to a barn. One of the carriage homes has a hayloft door with a metal beam that juts out from the structure. In a working barn, it would have held a pulley to haul hay up to the loft.

D.C. laws constrained the height of the homes and the carriage houses/garages behind them to no more than the width of the alley, which is why the third floors and roof terraces are recessed and the second level of the carriage houses are a mere five feet tall.

Two of the three homes are available for purchase, priced from $1.675 million. The houses also will be part of the Logan Circle Holiday House Tour on Dec. 8. For tour tickets, go to

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