When Justin and Emily Ellis started looking for their first condo unit to purchase, they focused on their neighborhood, Kalorama in Northwest Washington, as well as nearby Adams Morgan and Dupont Circle.

They love the walkability of those neighborhoods but were unable to find anything affordable that met their needs.

Then they decided to broaden their search.

“I looked at Petworth and thought it had a lot of the same character and beautiful buildings as Kalorama, especially once you get off Georgia Avenue,” Emily Ellis said. “My husband drove around there one day and realized it had the parks, trees and open space we love along with nice rowhouses. Plus, we’re foodies, and we’re excited to try all the new restaurants in that neighborhood.”

The Ellises bought one of the three units in a new building at 817 Varnum St. NW, a half-mile from the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station.

“It’s important for buyers to be open to other neighborhoods and types of properties,” said David Shotwell, a realty agent with Compass in Washington and the buyers’ agent for the Ellises. “They may have their heart set on a single-family home or to live in a specific neighborhood, but in a competitive real estate market, their budget may not afford that. Being flexible allows buyers to have more options.”


The units have an open floor plan. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

Many of his buyers are recognizing the benefit of looking at Petworth and other neighborhoods just outside downtown Washington, Shotwell said.

“Petworth offers more space for the money, compared to neighborhoods like Logan and Dupont circles, and you still have a great neighborhood feel and access to amenities like Metro, restaurants, bars, grocery stores and coffee shops,” Shotwell said. The building at “817 Varnum offers new condos with larger, open space and high-end finishes in a convenient location.”

‘Waterfall-style’ counter: Amit Vora, a principal of Sunrise Group DC, developer of 817 Varnum, said he was careful to build a condominium in keeping with the character of the street and complementary to nearby homes.

“We found a single-family home that had been built in 1905 that was in very poor condition, so we took it down to the foundation and built a boutique condo with Hardi plank cement siding that fits in with the rest of the street,” Vora said.

Each two-bedroom, two-bath unit has a private balcony or terrace and a designated parking space.

Two of the three units (Nos. 1 and 2) have two levels of living space; the penthouse is on one level. The Ellises bought Unit 2, which has about 1,420 square feet.

“We love getting more space for the money,” Emily Ellis said. “We like to entertain out-of-town guests, so having our second bedroom on a separate level from the master bedroom is really nice. We feel like we have room to grow in this home.”


The front bedroom in the model is shown. (Benjamin C Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

The largest unit, No. 1, has about 1,720 square feet and is priced at $649,900. It has an open floor plan with a living room at the front with a bay window and French doors that open onto a balcony. The dining area is open to the living area and to the kitchen and breakfast area, which has a bay window and a center island with a quartz “waterfall-style” counter. This level also has a coat closet, a pantry and a powder room. On the lower level are the master suite, which has a walk-in closet, and a luxury bathroom with dual-vessel sinks and an oversize shower. The second bedroom has a bay window, a walk-in closet and a private full bath. This level also has a laundry room with a stacked washer-and-dryer.

The penthouse unit, No. 3, has about 1,215 square feet and is priced at $574,000. This one-level residence has an open living and dining room with a bay window and a balcony with two sets of French doors. The master bedroom, at the back of the unit, has windows on two sides, a walk-in closet and a luxury bathroom. The second bedroom has a double-door closet and a full bath across the hall.


The bathroom in the second bedroom of the model has a double-sink vanity. (Benjamin C. Tankersley/For The Washington Post)

What’s nearby: “Lots of young couples are looking at homes in Petworth because they want a starter home near plenty of restaurants and neighborhood spots,” said Jill Patel, a realty agent with the Alex Venditti Group at Compass.

Upshur Street Books, around the corner from 817 Varnum, received unusual attention recently when President Obama visited on Small Business Saturday.

Next door is Petworth Citizen and Reading Room, a bar and cafe with space for frequent author readings and poetry evenings.

Nearby restaurants such as Chez Billy, Crane and Turtle and Domku bring in foodies from all over the city, and the Petworth Library and the Upshur Street outdoor swimming pool provide neighbors with places to meet. The library even offers free yoga classes. The Petworth Farmers Market is open every Saturday from May through November, providing fresh produce, music and entertainment.

Schools: Barnard Elementary, Raymond Education Campus, Roosevelt High.

Transit: The building is in walking distance of the Georgia Avenue-Petworth Metro station, for Green and Yellow line service. Numerous bus routes, including 60, 62, 63, 64 and 70, serve the community.

Michele Lerner is a freelance writer.

817 Varnum St.

817 Varnum St. NW, Washington

The two available units cost $574,000 and $649,900.

Builder: Sunrise Group DC

Features: Each residence has espresso hardwood flooring, recessed lighting, walls of windows, high ceilings, an open floor plan, crown molding, a washer and dryer and a private balcony. Each unit has a parking space.

Bedrooms/bathrooms: 2 / 2 or 3

Square footage: About 1,215 and 1,720 square feet

Condominium association fees: $203 and $275 a month

View models: Open by appointment

Contact: Realty agent Jill Patel with the Alex Venditti Group at Compass at 202-302-3797 or https://vimeo.com/143396757.