It was simple curiosity, along with a career in the housing industry, that brought Cassidy Jones and her family to their unusual home. “We actually lived down the street when this house came on the market,” she explains. “We walked by it from time to time, and since it sits back from the road, I was always very curious.”
Her position as lead designer with Slate Creek Builders almost assures that she has a passion for housing. “I especially gravitate toward unique and distinctive architecture. My first love was Frank Lloyd Wright, mostly his Usonian style houses, and that evolved into a love of mid-century modern designs.” Usonian is a uniquely Wright concept and refers to “a simple, stylish, small house of moderate cost designed especially for the American middle class.”
As an occasional adjunct instructor of Design and American Housing for Virginia Tech, Cassidy uses lots of Blacksburg neighborhoods to drive through, showing students different housing styles. When the “for sale” sign went up on this house, Cassidy asked Jeremy Hart, principal broker at Nest Realty, to get them in for a showing immediately. “It was just to satisfy my own curiosity really,” she relates, “but after one viewing, I told my spouse and Jeremy that we had to buy it! Jeremy definitely had his work cut out helping us make it happen. It feels like our own treehouse because of the amount of glass and gorgeous wood interior details.”
Completed in 1960, the home was designed by Leonard Currie, a well-known, award-winning architect. His personal residence, the “Currie House” is up the street and on the National Register of Historic Places. This house came complete with original sketches, photos while under construction and myriad care and maintenance details. The home was built for a man and his mother, thus, the lower level contains a full apartment.
Cassidy was drawn to the house for its floor plan, architecture and setting. “The floor plan is immensely livable,” she states. “The main level is composed of two squares. One square includes the living room, dining room, kitchen and powder room. The second square houses four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The lower level has a large rec room under the main square, and the apartment and utility spaces are under the bedroom square.”
The architecture is unique, nothing like the Jones family had ever seen. Each square is supported by one structural center post, and the ceiling planes inside the house are lower at the post and higher in the corners. None of the walls is a structural support. The ceiling at the walls is high enough to accommodate a large row of windows around the entire perimeter of the house. Since there is no room in the ceilings for ductwork, radiant heat was originally installed in the ceilings. Heat rises, so that’s not an especially efficient way to heat a house. Another owner installed baseboard heaters. “The house is cold or hot, depending on the season, and never the temperature we want,” Cassidy adds.
A large fireplace and the stairwell are the center anchors of the 3,600-square-foot home. The lot is around ¾ of an acre, large and very private for being in a neighborhood. “The previous owners were apparently hobby horticulturists, so the landscaping is gorgeous.”
The house had been vacant a few years, and there were some things which required attention. They went ahead with some projects, including [but not limited to]:
• Replaced aging galvanized plumbing with
• Covered asbestos kitchen flooring
• Remodeled the powder room
• Took out wall-to-wall carpet to reveal
original hardwood floors
• Painted most of the main level
• Replaced kitchen counters and backsplash
• Cleaned and restored original
• Converted fireplace to gas
• Installed new boiler and hot water heater
Homeownership is a big responsibility, and the Joneses have more work to do on the horizon. Big things like replacing the exterior siding, renovating the master bedroom and converting part of another bedroom, which has no heat or lighting, to a master bath, as the current one is “insanely small and dated.” And little things like Cassidy’s dream of custom metal railings with a great modern detail for the stairwell, since it’s so prominent in the interior of the home.
This house, now loved and adored by the Jones family, won recognition for being a spectacular example of affordable architecture and innovation. The construction cost was less than $50,000, and once finished, it was described as creating “curiosity and consternation.”
So, curiosity has played a unique role in this house since the beginning. And its uncommon style, fascinating construction and enchanting design are sure to lure even more curious and inquisitive house aficionados for decades to come.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson
Photos by Kristie Lea Photography