Unique Spaces: Old Town General Store Becomes Three-Level Home

by Jennifer Sergent

This article was published in August 2010 as part of UrbanTurf’s Unique Spaces series, where we take a look at properties that could be considered “one-of-a-kind” in the DC area. If you have a home that you think fits the bill, send an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). See all of our past Unique Spaces articles here.


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Exterior of 314 Queen Street. ©Morgan Howarth

It’s not uncommon for people to purchase former commercial properties and transform them into residences while keeping aspects of the property’s original structure intact.

But when April Burke and Dick Flynt bought an abandoned corner store in Old Town, Alexandria, they were somewhat surprised that their architect, Mark McInturff, told them to keep the huge plate-glass windows that look onto Royal and Queen Streets.

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Dining area/kitchen into living room. Photo by Stu Estler.

When their custom-made screens are completely open, passersby are treated to a showpiece: McInturff centered a sleek, shiny Snaidero kitchen in the middle of the Queen Street windows, and painted the rear wall a dramatic shade of aubergine. The modern dining table and chairs makes the scene look like a high-end restaurant. Those passing by on Royal Street, meanwhile, will see the expanse of the adjacent mid-century modern living room.

“My husband loves the whole interplay with the street,” Burke said.

Needless to say, it did not always look this way. The building dates back to 1880, when the couple believes it served as a carriage house to a much larger row house next door. And for most of the 20th century, it served as a general store, selling everything from candy to dry goods. From the 1970s through 2000, it served as a furniture store, and then an antiques shop.

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Living room. Photo by Stu Estler.

But starting at the turn of the 21st century, it lay vacant for several years, until Burke and Flynt spotted it.

“I had always been interested in it,” Burke said. “So when I saw the building was vacant and for sale again, I thought, ‘Let’s do something different.’”

They hired McInturff to redesign the long, narrow building into a 5,000 square-foot three-level residence. He used the nine eight-foot-tall windows on the street level as a design cue for a modern-yet-whimsical interior, filled with bursts of color. In all, there are two bedrooms and four and a half baths. In some areas, McInturff also preserved the 20-foot ceiling heights of the old commercial space.

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Master bedroom. Photo by Stu Estler.

Upstairs, the master bedroom suite takes up half the entire level, with its own private sitting area and fireplace. There is also a small balcony looking out over Royal Street. Burke fondly calls it their Politburo balcony because “it’s the kind of balcony a Russian autocrat would use to stand out and wave to his people.”

On the lower level, the couple compensated for the lack of windows with bright colors, fanciful black-and-white tile, and their collection of 20th-century circus posters. And while they will take their posters with them to their next home, Burke says, there is a pool table down there that they would love for the next owner to keep.

Because the house was once a store, its location places it at the heart of Old Town – three blocks from the Potomac River, two blocks from Market Square on King Street, and right on the route of many parades.

Flynt and Burke have five grown children between them, and while she says the house has been wonderful for them as a couple, they are looking to move to a bigger space with more guest accommodations in anticipation of grandchildren.

314 Queen Street, Old Town, Alexandria (map)

UrbanTurf contributor Jennifer Sergent is the brains behind the DC By Design blog. She was most recently the senior editor at Washington Spaces magazine, and will soon start a new job as the marketing director of the Washington Design Center.

See other articles related to: unique spaces, old town

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/unique_spaces_old_town_general_store_becomes_three-level_home/2381

8 Comments

  1. Betsy said at 8:58 pm on Monday August 16, 2010:

    If I had $2 million….

  1. jag said at 9:49 pm on Monday August 16, 2010:

    Very cool. Except for the giant comb, of course.

    Never thought I’d type that sentence.

  1. Ellis said at 11:42 am on Tuesday August 17, 2010:

    The storefront kitchen/dining room is a little wacky, but overall, an awesome re-use for an old commercial property.

  1. Jennifer Myers said at 4:04 pm on Wednesday August 18, 2010:

    Really beautiful space!  Unique for the DC area!

  1. jag said at 9:51 pm on Monday August 13, 2012:

    No, seriously. What’s with the giant comb?!

  1. GL said at 2:01 pm on Tuesday August 14, 2012:

    FYI, the Burke/Flynts no longer live there (moved a good while ago), so it would be interesting for you to do a follow up and see what the current owners have done.

  1. Curtis Reddehase said at 9:08 am on Wednesday August 15, 2012:

    What a great finish out and such an interesting unique space.

  1. mizark said at 6:29 am on Monday August 20, 2012:

    It was on the market for an overeager $1.75m back in summer 2011 but never sold. It’s very unique space, but not much of it is particularly functional and the kitchen is the coolest part.

    That same summer, tax records show that it was transferred for $0 within the current ownership structure, so who knows.

    http://realestate.alexandriava.gov/detail.php?accountno=12719000

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