REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Enough already: How big is too big?

ADDRESS: 524 Allen Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: Beyond Earlysville

ASKING: $739,500



SIZE: 4,099 fin. sq. ft., 2,000 unfin.

LAND: 3.88 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10 

LISTED BY: Stu Rifkin, Hasbrouck Real Estate, 466-9515

How much is enough? is an interesting question in all sorts of contexts: at the buffet table, in the Human Resources office when it's time for a raise, and when designing a dream house.

Obviously Brady Bunch families need space (although the seven "Waltons" sibs made do with three bedrooms and one bath in 1,469 square feet in Schuyler), but does the typical American family of 2006– mom, dad, and 2.3 kiddies– really need 4,000+ square feet to rattle around in?

Apparently lots of people think so, including the couple (with 1.0 child) who had this place designed and built in 2002. In Dr. Zhivago, a very cross Communist party member hectors the doc, "Ten families could live in your house!"– just before she takes over the villa and moves them in. Ten might be a bit much for this big place off Markwood Road, but clearly it's way more than needed by a nuclear bundle of three.

That's not to say, of course, that these folks are unique. One look at the square footage of the jumbos filling the Hardiplank hamlets hereabouts reveals that apparently Mies van der Rohe's "less is more" philosophy is definitely last century. More is more everywhere– in Albemarle, in Loudoun– even in Greene! So obviously there's a market for this big, big house with its big porch with big columns, big deck, big cathedral-ceiling entry hall, big stairs to big upstairs hall and super-big master bedroom... big, big big!

Inside the front door, the two-story entryway leads directly to the living room stretching across the rear of the house with views of the back yard through three pairs of French doors. To the right is a room currently used as a sitting room/ library; to the left is the dining room, which leads on to the kitchen. Here, de rigeur granite counters and stainless appliances struggle to jazz up ho-hum cabinets, but a bay-window breakfast area and a neat little gas fireplace shared by the living room and the kitchen add some interest. Off the kitchen are a pantry/laundry room and the door to the two-car garage.

Upstairs are five bedrooms, two in a separate "guest wing" with a big connecting bath. Two others in the master bedroom wing also share a connecting bath. All are perfunctory, with those drab Motel-6ish fiberglass showers. The two bedrooms near the master suite are under dormers in the front of the house, and so they have interesting little cubby-like hidey-holes that kids will love. On the guest suite side, the bedroom in the back looks over the sloping backyard, and from that height the view across the yard to the forest beyond is quite something. 

The master suite is reminiscent of one we saw in an equally over-built place years ago in Dunlora– complete with "tray" ceiling and 266 square feet, plus a bay window bay. We've seen some Belmont cottages whose total complement of bedrooms would not fill the space in this one bedroom– and that's before figuring in a "grand" walk-in closet/ dressing area and master bath that together are about the same size as the living room below them. It's a mystery why anyone would want to sleep in– never mind heat– a room the size of a train depot. 

Pull-down stairs lead to an attic for storage. Downtown, underpinning the place is an enormous basement, with yet another bathroom (the fifth) roughed in, and with a large bay window providing views of the backyard. Because of the slope, much of the basement has windows, making it much brighter and move useful than expected. In fact, at 2,000 square feet, the basement alone is larger than many houses currently on the market. What's the point of all this space?

But just when we're shaking our head and clucking over the excess, our thoughts turn to Glenmore, Farmington, and other venerable exercises in overkill. As we've noted, there's clearly a market for this sort of profligacy. Families who can afford not only to buy, but to furnish, heat, cool, and maintain places like this are out there, and the question is only which big bruiser to choose?

Why settle on this one from among so many, with more in the pipeline as far as the eye can see? Well, convenience, for one thing. Without the burden of yearly assessments for community fees, gatehouses, and golf courses, this place has the distinct advantage of being much closer than the established classy subdivisions to Hollymead Town Center and all the shopping Valhallas soon to spring up in Albemarle Place. And not only that, best of all, from the big front porch and sweeping cedar deck out back, it's impossible to see another house.

If you have to have a place as big as all outdoors in the middle of all outdoors, here's one to put on your list.