REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Pony up: House/stable offer equine-imity

ADDRESS:12339 Dolley Madison Road


ASKING: $499,000



: 2,600 fin. sq. ft. cottage 1,280 fin., barn 2,200 sq. ft.

3.086 acres

8 out of 10

Owner, Emile Labuschagne 540-672-3025

Several years ago, we had the pleasure of spending a month at a villa in Tuscany. Before we went, visions of classic columns, marble floors, and elaborate wall hangings crowded our dreams, and so imagine our surprise to find the "villa" was, in fact, a huge, three-story stucco house and stable combo.

The living quarters on the second and third level, while not luxurious, were almost elegant (in a rustic way), while the first level was home to the farmer and his family– and several oxen, chickens, dogs, and cats. Every morning we were awakened by the rooster crowing and the oxen snuffling and stamping. Within a few days, living above a farm operation came to seem normal, and within a week or so, it was hard to imagine why anyone would think of exiling the animals to a far-away barn.

The owner of this week's house, a horseman, feels the same way. So when he bought this three-bedroom rambler several years ago, he promptly enlarged an attached two-car garage into a four-stall barn. Now the compound consists of the house, the two garages, and the barn wing comprising four stalls, a tack room, wash bay, and hay storage. Almost as fetching as the Tuscan villa.

So right away it's clear that this property is not for everyone. First, the buyer will need to be comfortable practically living at Montpelier. According to the owner, the house was built in 1961 by Marion DuPont Scott for her veterinarian, Dr. Hughes, on ground that was originally part of the estate. Three enormous shade trees in the front yard hint that another building probably stood on the parcel before this one, but there's no evidence of it in the current house.

The location in Orange County has some benefits, however– a quick one-hour spin to the cultural and gustatory allures of Washington being the foremost. (And Charlottesville, 26 miles south, has some attractions too, accessible in half the time.) Not that the site– on a tranquil one-lane road with a picturesque wooden railroad bridge– doesn't have charms of its own: distant views of lush fields, other cozy homesteads, and the Blue Ridge in the distance.

The house itself is pretty ordinary. Shaded by those big trees, it sits on a little rise that accentuates the pleasant prospect to the southwest. A tidy brick walkway leads to the front door that opens to a very large living room with a seven-window-wide bay, wood-burning fireplace with marble surround, and lots of light.

The kitchen just behind the living room is almost as large and provides views of the courtyard and the menagerie. New stainless appliances (including a wine cooler), birch counters, white Florida floor tile, and white beadboard wainscoting make the room seem breezy and bright. The door here, opening directly to the stable area, is probably used more than the front door, and that contributes to the homey, relaxed feel.

The brightness of these two rooms unfortunately accentuates the dark, gloomy aura of the large dining room. Although it has two windows, they're small and somehow fail to admit much light. The arrangement of these rooms would no doubt work well for an after-the-foxhunt brunch or post-Montpelier steeplechase party, but the kitchen is likely where everyday meals will be taken.

A short hall leads to a full bath, small bedroom/office, and two more bedrooms, one a largish master with half bath. Bi-fold doors front several closets, and there's a laundry/mud room leading back to the stable area.

The house has an oil burner and no air conditioning, but that's probably no loss given the breezy prospect and the trees. There's a wood stove in the kitchen that no doubt keeps the place warm on normal winter days– and residents probably keep pretty warm anyway, doing all that stable mucking. There's no attic and no basement, but the two garages used to be rooms of the house, and so they provide plenty of dry, non-smelly storage for people who don't mind parking the car outside.

One nice amenity is the two-bedroom cottage that Dr. Hughes used as his veterinary office. It has recently been rented and could be again, since it has a good-size kitchen, full bath, a big living room and is currently being spruced up. It's far enough from the house and stable to seem like a completely separate property.

The big thing, obviously, that will determine who buys this place is the attached stable. While the owner has attempted to create what he calls a "European style courtyard" enclosed by a wooden fence just out the back door, it's covered with mulch, not abloom with perennials, and the fact is that the sights, smells, and sounds of a stable are omnipresent. For some folks, that will be a total deal-breaker.

But if your heart is beating faster at the very thought, gallop straight up the Constitution Route with your checkbook in your saddlebag.