REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Luminhaus: A breath-taking bright box
ADDRESS: 336 Forks of Buffalo Drive
2006 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $87,100
YEAR BUILT: 2005
SIZE: 1,152 fin. sq. ft.
LAND: 6.2 acres
CURB APPEAL: 9 out of 10
LISTED BY: Roger Voisinet of RE/MAX Realty Specialists, 974-1500
Everyone knows there are two sides to every story, at least two ways of looking at any situation. Say your sweetie decamps with the UPS guy. If your buddies want to comfort you, they can remind you how much you despised her mashed potato pie and snapping Double Bubble. If they want to feed your misery, they can reminisce about that trip to Bora Bora she totally funded and mention that fetching string bikini she sported whilst there.
In the same way, some folks driving for 60+ minutes to reach Forks of Buffalo Road 15 miles west of Amherst may gasp in dismay at their first glimpse of what appears to be an aluminum box adrift in the woods.
Others may think they've died and gone to heaven.
We– aficionados of Bora Bora and bikinis– are in the latter camp. While the distance, the boxy first impression, and the location so near the Holy City of Falwellville could be off-putting, once in the door, it's hard to imagine anyone not falling in love with this glowing silver gem.
It recalls many aspects of Phillip Johnson's famous Glass House in the woods of Connecticut, but it began as a kit designed by Rocio Romero (rocioromero.com). It's the location and what happened to the kit after it arrived that make this house unique.
Luminhaus (the name does not convey with the property) is set on 6.2 hillside acres in a community ($275/year fees for road maintenance) with six other houses, many owned by people with apparently similar sensibilities: the first structure beyond the locked gate at the end of the long winding driveway is a concrete/ stucco geodesic dome. Other than that, no sign of neighbors, even in winter, is visible from the heavily wooded lot with its south-facing prospect that provides not only distant mountain views but also copious light.
The house is designed for energy efficiency and sleek, simple beauty. The front door opens to a large room comprising living and dining areas and the kitchen. Romero's original plans called for a half wall between the kitchen and living area, but the current owners nixed that idea so that nothing interferes with the seamless openness. (Romero has since modified her master design to incorporate their change.)
The wing to the left includes two large bedrooms, a small den or nursery, and a small bath with double tiled shower and porcelain counter basin. To reinforce the feeling of flow, Romero designed a dropped plastic room cover that provides privacy in the bathroom without walls reaching to the ceiling. The clear cover also allows maximum light to penetrate the darker north side of the house.
The current owners are artists– he a musician and she a photographer– and their aesthetic sensibilities evident in the furniture and decorations provide an interesting contrast to Romero's emphasis on industrial materials and techniques. Floors are squares of cabinet-grade birch installed with exposed stainless-steel screws. The roof is industrial vinyl of the sort used to line swimming pools. There are no gutters– downspouts in the walls carry water away.
A heat pump provides AC and heat which is transferred to the insulated crawl space to be recycled in what the agent calls a "hybrid geothermal" system. The house is engineered for extremes of weather with six-inch insulation in the walls and an R-50 rating in the roof.
In the kitchen, laminate counters complement stainless-steel tables and appliances that echo the Galvalume fabric of the structure. Narrow windows over the sink provide drama but are almost unnecessary with the quantity of light pouring in from the all-glass front.
Two more interesting bits add to the allure of luminhaus. One is that everything– all furniture, appliances, gee-gaws, rugs, TV– everything except the art work conveys, as do all the outdoor furniture and objets along the several beautiful trails and "meditation areas" that dot the six acres. Also, the buyer of this property can take over a turn-key business– until recently, the owners used the house as a lucrative vacation rental property.
While sharing the joy is always laudable, it seems a shame to allow this treasure to languish as rental property. The combination of "glass house" effect in this beautiful setting was so hypnotic that we never wanted to leave.
Pictures are worth a thousand words, as is evident on the Romero and luminhaus websites. One look at the seductive glow from this captivating silver box under towering maples, oaks, and a reflecting luminous moon would surely make even die-hard traditionalists think twice.
This house offers enough beauty and tranquility to mend even a heart broken by the defection of that bikini-clad gum-snapper.
Photos by Rosalind Warfield-Brown