Friday, November 9, 2001

It’s an unexpected pleasure to find a private woodland retreat within five minutes of the Beltway in Annandale. When the owners of the home at 4312 Holly Lane first saw their future home site, they recognized the challenge ahead in building their personal retreat, but they fell in love with the idea of living in a forest.

One owner, also the architect, immediately began drawing plans for a contemporary house constructed of natural materials that would blend with its forest setting. The sloping site represented a challenge for this fledgling architect, which she resolved by building a four-level tower that rises above the slope, softened by varied rooflines that slope away from the front of the house.

Constructed with cedar siding on the exterior and natural materials inside, the entire house is oriented toward Fairfax County parkland that borders three sides of the house with woods and a stream. Nearly every corner of the structure features windows on either side to provide an almost panoramic view.

In addition to placing the house to maximize the view, the owners created a passive solar structure that is complemented by the wooded site. Large windows were placed on the south and west sides to maximize the view and the sun, while the north and east sides have smaller and fewer windows. In addition, every room was designed for cross-ventilation in the summer, and each includes a ceiling fan.

This custom home, on the market for $979,000, is both architecturally interesting, reflecting the owner’s admiration of Frank Lloyd Wright, and comfortably livable. The owners paid meticulous attention to every detail, including custom-designing bathroom cabinets to hold electric toothbrushes and hair dryers out of sight. Yet the house also was designed for flexibility, to enable families to use rooms in different ways during the changing phases of their lives.

In addition to orienting the house to the trees, the architect wanted to express her interest in Roman-style houses designed around a central courtyard. This home was configured in an L-shape, wrapping around a wood deck. A central triangular mechanical core extends through all four levels, providing space for wiring, plumbing and ducts.

The main level features a dramatic foyer with wide-ranging views. The wooden staircase has been designed to accommodate plants along the railing. At the center of this level is a black, white and gray center-island kitchen that faces several windows overlooking the deck and woods. At one side of the deck is a screened dining porch that can be used in almost any season. At the other is a screened sitting porch with a stone floor, a favorite spot for family members to read and watch the sunset through the trees.

The sleek kitchen has white cabinets with black handles, upgraded appliances, granite tiles on the walls, a center-island cooktop and a custom-designed dining table that matches the counters and fits neatly into a corner of the room. Because this room and most of the others are oriented toward the woods, no window coverings are needed. Each of the four seasons brings its own beauty to be framed by this home’s picture windows.

Adjacent to the kitchen is the family room, a large, sunny space that has wood doors with glass inserts so the room can be closed off if desired. Matching doors lead from the family room and the kitchen to the screened porches.

A massive stone gas fireplace visible from each room defines the living room and dining room. The dining room includes walls of windows on either side and a sleek chandelier of three smooth panels of glass. A soaring cedar cathedral ceiling expands the appearance of space in the living room and includes skylights that complement the windows. Triangular windows just under the ceiling line provide glimpses of the tops of the trees, and track and recessed lighting are used in this room and others to minimize the need for floor and table lamps.

Upstairs, the wood stairs have been embellished with a matching security gate for young children and pets, but it can be removed easily, if desired. A balcony overlooks the lower levels and offers glimpses of the trees. The master suite includes two walk-in closets with open ceilings, allowing light and air to circulate from the windows on either side of the room.

The master bath features green-toned marble throughout and includes a steam shower with seating and two shower heads, a deep whirlpool tub placed beneath a corner of windows, two separate sinks, and a separate compartment with the toilet and bidet. In all bathrooms, extra cabinets have been placed above the toilets for storage, and towel racks have been replaced with hooks so family members don’t need to worry about folding their towels.

Two additional bedrooms on this level share a hall bath, and each has been designed with open space above the closet to heighten the sense of space in the room. Attic storage space is easily accessible from pull-down stairs and could be converted to usable living space if desired. A large laundry room with extra cabinets and space for drying racks has been placed in the center of the upper level.

The lower level, which is fully above ground, features a distinctive entrance foyer with a lighted tray ceiling between the garage entrance to the house and a second exterior door. Glass-block detailing around the door helps define this entrance area and also hides pipes that must come into the home. The owner believes part of the purpose of architecture is to “make the mundane beautiful,” which she has done by creating an interesting entrance for family members arriving through the garage.

This level was designed as a home office that could be separated from the upper levels with a pocket door. The large home-office area holds three desks, a built-in bookcase and plenty of open space for flexible use. This room also could function as a recreation room, family room, home theater or playroom. Walls of windows frame wooded views and fill the room with light.

Nearby is a huge storage pantry off the stairs, next to a kitchenette with cabinets, a built-in microwave and a full refrigerator. Past the kitchenette is a full bath with a door in the middle that allows it to function as a powder room for guests or clients.

Currently in use as an exercise room, the rear space on this level has three sides of picture windows and the potential for myriad uses. If desired, the room could be divided easily into bedroom and sitting space for an in-law or au-pair suite, or it could be kept open as a recreation room.

This level also includes a large unfinished utility closet that provides additional storage space.

The lowest level of the house features one of the owner’s personal favorites, a large wine cellar with a stone floor. Designed to hold 1,100 bottles of wine at the correct temperature, this charming hidden room includes a huge wine barrel in one corner that functions as a table, shelves for candles and decorative art, and a space under the stairs for storing cases of wine.

Beyond the wine cellar is space that once was a deck underneath the living room but has been converted to a woodland guest retreat. Two walls of the room are filled with picture windows framing the tree trunks and offering glimpses of local wildlife traveling along the streambed. Deep green carpet and cedar walls and ceiling create an outdoor feel for this room, which rests in quiet solitude away from the other rooms in the house.

A full bath and closet complete this retreat, which has a sliding glass door that could be used as an outside entrance.

Meticulous attention to detail by the owners has kept this house in perfect condition, with a security system, an intercom system, a central vacuum system, new air conditioning, a new water heater, gas heat, fresh paint and new carpet.

From the minor details to the grand plan for this woodland paradise, the owners have paid attention to all their own needs and allowed for the needs of future owners as well.


Address: 4312 Holly Lane, Annandale, Va. 22003

Community: Annandale

Age: Built 1990

Price: $979,000

Size: About 5,500 finished square feet on site of about 1 acre

Taxes: $6,265 in 2000

Exterior features: Custom-designed contemporary with cedar siding; variety of window shapes and sizes; mature, professionally landscaped, low-maintenance site bordering county parkland on three sides; hidden attached three-car garage

Interior features: Five bedrooms; four full and two half baths; contemporary design with cedar cathedral ceilings, skylights, windows on either side of every corner to capture wooded views; hardwood flooring on main level; stone two-sided fireplace defining living room and dining room; center-island kitchen with upgraded appliances; family room; upper-level laundry room; master suite with two walk-in closets and bath with whirlpool tub and oversize shower with seating and steam-shower capability; home office with separate entrance, kitchenette, adjacent exercise room with full bath; lower-level guest room with wall of windows and private bath.

Amenities: Two screened porches, one with stone flooring; open-air deck; huge wine cellar; contemporary-style light fixtures and plumbing fixtures; gas heat; zoned heating and air conditioning; security and intercom systems.

Close by: Two turns and no lights to Beltway; multiple shopping areas in Annandale and Fairfax.

Schools: Wakefield Elementary, Poe Middle, Annandale High

Open house: By appointment

Contact: Realtor Mike Unruh of Century 21 New Millennium at 703/922-4010, Ext. 368

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