- The Washington Times - Friday, October 13, 2000

A popular concept today is to "think outside the box." When Ted Canterbury, vice president for land development for the Hazel/Peterson Cos., decided to do that for a project his firm was developing in 1985, he chose to "think inside a circle." A silo, to be exact.

As one of the developers of the planned community of Franklin Farm, Mr. Canterbury was one of the decision-makers interested in converting some of the existing farm structures into functional space. The then-30-year-old grain silo, which at 75 feet high initially seemed to be unusable, was converted over two years with the help of architect Tom Ridgeway of Dewberry & Davis into an unusual residential space.

Now on the market for $850,000, this contemporary residence offers 3,100 finished square feet, which happen to be mostly circular feet.

Working within the silo, Mr. Ridgeway and Mr. Canterbury designed five levels of living space, with curving staircases along the silo's original walls to emphasize the roundness of the home and maximize the open space at the center of the structure. Balcony overlooks and cutouts from room to room allow the rooms to borrow light from each other, and they add drama along with the varied ceiling heights.

The silo dominates the West Ox Road entrance to Franklin Farm, reminding visitors of the community's origins as a dairy farm. Behind the silo is the Franklin family's original farmhouse, which sits on a 5-acre property that is zoned to remain as farmland. Adjacent to the former silo are more original farm structures that have been converted to use as a community day care center.

A two-car attached garage was added to the home, along with a structure resembling a breezeway that has a front porch with columns and dramatic windows. It provides a gracious foyer for greeting guests. This sunlit space has a guest closet, a powder room and access to the garage. At one end is an arched opening to the silo, which provides a view of several circular levels at once.

Through the archway, the curving staircases begin, including one that leads to the first level, where the family room or game room is found. A full bath off this room is also accessible from the bedroom at the front of this level. This bedroom space has been used in the past as a home office, and it gets plenty of sunshine. A glass door leads from the family room to the grassy back yard and the adjacent deck.

The deck was designed as a circular space to echo the silo's lines, and it has a curving privacy fence and a spiral staircase to the second level.

Inside the house, the main living level of the home is one flight up from the foyer. The dining room is open to the state-of-the-art kitchen, which has new appliances and granite counters. An angled pantry has been tucked into one wall of the kitchen, which has cutouts that open the space to the living room. Hardwood flooring on this level has been refinished recently, and all of the carpeting on the other levels is new.

A few steps above the dining room is the semicircular living room, a dramatically high-ceilinged focal point for the home. A bright-red painted metal chimney rises from the gas fireplace through the ceiling, and cutout windows and balcony overlooks are visible from the floors above.

A curving staircase leads one flight up past a circular window and one of the many semicircular wall sconces that provide additional light. On the third level is a bedroom with an interior window overlooking the living room. A full bath on that level has doors to both the bedroom and the hall. A laundry room completes this level.

The spectacular master suite takes up the fourth and fifth levels. The main bedroom area, on the fourth floor, is a semicircular space that features a gas fireplace and windows overlooking the adjacent farm. As in the third-level bedroom, closets are placed along the curving exterior walls, and the master suite includes a built-in dresser.

The master bath has been separated into two rooms, one with a shower and commode, the other a well-lit open room with a deep whirlpool tub and a double vanity. The owners occasionally can see airplanes taking off from Washington Dulles International Airport while lazing in the whirlpool.

The home's fifth level is a large semicircular loft overlooking the bedroom from 10 feet above. The loft space can be used as master-suite sitting area, media room or home office. Above the loft is a pull-down staircase to the attic level, where 30 more feet of the silo tower above. Five levels of livable space are all that are allowed by Fairfax County, which required that the remaining silo space be left unfinished. Plenty of storage space is available in the attic.

The most difficult task in creating a residence from the silo was cutting windows through 3 inches of concrete and the thick steel bands that were designed to withstand the pressure of the grain stored within. Windows were placed strategically to maximize the light and yet minimize their impact on the character of the silo. From the inside, visitors are aware that they are in a structure 30 feet wide and 75 feet tall, yet the spaces are configured with high ceilings and unconventional shapes so as to seem larger.

The silo house received several awards for its architecture, including the Distinctive Residential Architecture award from Washingtonian magazine and the Washington Chapter of the American Institute of Architects in July 1989; the Great American Home Award, presented in December 1989 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation with the Center for Historic Houses and Historic Preservation magazine; and the Grand Award for Adaptive Use in January 1988 by Remodeling magazine.

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