Nashville's Hope Garden neighborhood, though suffering from a variety of urban problems, is in the very early stages of revitalization. The neighborhood's first multifamily project, Row 8.9n row houses (the catchy name indicates its location between 8th and 9th on the north side) gets it off to a smashing start.

The two- and three-bedroom row houses are angled for a view of the state capitol building and are compact and inexpensive, designed to attract singles, young professionals, and downtown workers. Despite the small footprint, however, large casement windows, lofty double-height interiors, and open floor plans result in a space that feels big.

As an "affordable" project, 20 percent of the homes are subsidized. Nevertheless, both the market-rate and affordable units feature maple cabinets, stainless steel appliances, and red oak floors. "You are essentially getting the same house," says architect Sheila Dial, adding that "the quality of the finishes is something that you don't normally see in affordable projects."

Because the project is located near industrial enterprises, the architects used exposed steel lintels, steel railings, and concrete blocks to blend in with the overall feel of the neighborhood. "We were going for the look of a traditional row house, but with interesting contemporary elements," says Dial. Such exposed treatment is also evident on the kitchen cabinets, which consist of a simple frame and glass attached with visible fasteners. "Contemporary elements do not have to cost a lot of money," Dial says. The 930- to 1,220-square-foot units range from $130,000 to $172,000.

Tom Gatlin Photography

Category: Townhouse, less than 2,000 square feet; Entrant/Architect/Interior Designer: Everton Oglesby Askew Architects, Nashville, Tenn.; Builder: E. Freeman Construction, Nashville; Kiddway Corp., Nashville; and ICF Builders, Nashville; Developer: The Home Co. of Middle Tennessee, Nashville; Landscape Architect: Hawkins Partners, Nashville

Double Exposure

Wanting to appeal to different tastes, the designers of Row 8.9n looked for ways to use contemporary elements without making the project feel too modern. Exposed elements--such as the lintel, cabinet, and split-faced block--accomplish this by giving the project a little edge, says architect Sheila Dial. Using exposed elements is particularly appropriate in multifamily housing because you can repeat one detail and get great effect from it, she adds.