REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Calling J.R.: Lofty luxury on Laurel Ridge

ADDRESS: 5540 Laurel Ridge Road


ASKING: $1,095,000



SIZE: 3,989 fin. sq. ft., 400 unfin.

LAND: 11.70 acres (additional 14 available)

CURB APPEAL: 9 out of 10 

LISTED BY: Loring Woodriff, McLean Faulconer Inc., 293-7377

The day we toured this house, an article in the Daily Progress headlined "Area income ranks in top 20 percent" dropped the big news that a recent government study found the Charlottesville area is home to people "of significant and growing personal wealth."

Who needed the federal government to tell us that? We certainly didn't, especially after a tour through this monument to privilege and prosperity. Situated high on a ridge off Route 29 north looking over Advance Mills toward distant hills, the cedar contemporary built by Shelter Associates is a plutocrat's dream– or a revolutionary's torment.

It's quicker to mention the few prosaic points than to catalogue the surfeit of opulent amenities. For a house of such spectacular excess, the kitchen is surprisingly (and welcomingly) matter-of-fact and homey. 

Counters and back-splash of square white tiles complement plain white cabinets and appliances. Large double casement windows over the sink admit a surprising amount of light considering it's the back side of the house, under a second-level deck and in deep summer shade. Octagonal amber-colored tiles cover this floor as well as the floor in an adjoining "casual dining room" (much larger than a mere breakfast room) and an odd space inside a second front door. 

Perhaps tiring of the almost ceaseless cedar– everywhere on walls, ceilings, beams, and trim– the owners have "pickled" the wood on the walls and floor in a large year-'round sunroom just beyond the formal dining room off the kitchen. And while the white overcoat does brighten the mood (in combination with hugh floor-to-ceiling windows and a skylight), it's a jarring note in the symphony of natural stone, tile, and wood in the rest of the house.

That's about it for the mundane. Everything else is taste, refinement, quality– the world of Daddy Warbucks and J. R. Ewing (if not Scrooge McDuck)– inside and out. Inside, in the living room a massive stone fireplace and cathedral ceiling augment a wall of windows opening to vistas of rolling land and mountains as far as the eye can see. 

The master suite on this level shares the views (and windows), but instead of the high beamed ceiling and walls of dark cedar, the walls and cabinets are kitchen-white, and a plush white carpet replaces the oak flooring in the other rooms on this level. The master bath of travertine marble and more windows and skylights is enormous, with a dressing closet of interesting design: the walls don't reach the ceiling, creating the effect of a dressing-room "box" sitting in a corner of the larger room, with more huge windows above it.

On the ground level ("basement" isn't really accurate), two more bedrooms (one very small, with diagonal paneling this time) and a full bath join a second "great room" the size of the living room above it and with an equally massive wood-burning fireplace. These rooms and the third full bath have the same tiles as the kitchen-dining areas upstairs– a nice unifying element providing continuity and evidence of thoughtful design.

Out back is all decking all the time: a wide one encircles three sides of the house on the main level and leads to what seem like acres of room-size wooden platforms around a large heated pool. All this man-made outdoor abundance flows seamlessly into surrounding landscaping of Japanese maples, dogwoods, and crepe myrtles all the way down to the end of the 11 acres several terraces below.

Also down here, for equestrians or random Mr. and Mrs. Muchbucks whose Swiss accounts are still flush after the original $1 million outlay, the owners are offering an additional 14 level acres suitable for riding stables, rings, jumps, and other trappings of the good life ($395,000). 

The agent suggested the spread may be appealing as a weekend retreat for DC robber barons (not her exact words), being on the right side of town for a quick 90-minute limo ride to the Beltway, and only a short nip over to CHO. She obviously hadn't read the Progress. 

Photos courtesy of the agent