REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Come on in: Ignore the boring exterior

ADDRESS: 444 Ednam Drive


ASKING: $999,000



SIZE: 3,200 fin. sq. ft., 1,000 unfin.

LAND: 1.55 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Jim Duncan, Century 21 Manley Associates 977-7300 (cell: 242-7140)

Ready to party? Own a four-wheel drive SUV? Flush with cash? Then this is the place for you!

The agent warns that this property "isn't a drive-by," and while that phrase always makes us worry about random shootings, he's right in this case. The boxy house sits below the road down a relatively steep hill, which means it's virtually impossible to see. And once down the sloping driveway, visitors are smack up against the front facade, an almost monolithic expanse of wood siding broken only by a few windows, a heavy cedar-shake roof, and a large glass-surrounded front door. Not a propitious introduction.

First views of the place are thus decidedly off-putting– which is unfortunate, because the house itself is a gem of restraint and good taste, an understated elegant setting for comfortable family living or upscale partying.

This is technically a split-foyer design, which means that the big double front door leads to an open landing (with sky-lit cathedral ceiling) and stairs leading up and down. But any images that arise of a cornball late-'60s brick rancher with wall-to-wall tacked to the stairs should be immediately banished. 

The large living room to the right of the slate entry– with more skylights, casement windows, raised wood-burning fireplace and built-in shelves– creates an almost Zen-like impression of serenity. Huge expanses of beautiful wood– on floors (birds-eye maple, Brazilian cherry), in woodwork (walnut), and kitchen cabinets (oak)– contribute to the feeling of tranquility. There's no fussiness anywhere. 

Up one level is the master suite, two other large bedrooms, and space that could serve as a fourth bedroom but is better used as a study or library because it opens to the living room below, another element contributing to the impression of seamless flow. The master suite with large skylights, painted a muted eggshell with an almost-brown maroon trim, looks over the flat backyard (unusual in hilly Ednam Forest), and includes a big master bath and dressing area. The separate shower is fully tiled, and the tub sits beneath more skylights and casement windows with the same private view of trees and sky. There's a second bath on this level, pretty in dove-gray.

The stairs from the entryway lead down to a large dining room with cherry floors and large doors opening to a wide wrap-around deck where custom-made railings with cable accents provide a safety barrier without blocking views of the woods. The cable motif continues in the custom wooden railings on interior stairs, an interesting touch that adds elegance as well as design continuity.

The kitchen is on this level, a large recently updated room with stainless appliances, maroon-red tile floor, and "sillstone" counters which, although they look like a cross between soapstone and granite, the agent describes as better than granite because the material is non-porous, kinder to fragile china and glassware, and "antimocribial." A down-draft JennAir stove is in a center island.

Another unusual design touch is a built-in desk/work station for mom overlooking the family room below, making it possible  for her to simultaneously keep an eye on simmering pots in the kitchen and kiddies at play in the room below, and at the same time pay bills, research a recipe, or gulp a martini. The family room is floored in large Indian tiles that pick up the maroon theme without overdoing it; it features another wood-burning fireplace and a window-seat/storage cabinet.

Off the family room is a large laundry area with chute delivering dirty linens and whatnot from above, as well as a half bath. Another indication of the attention to all details is that this little bathroom, seemingly almost an after-thought, is beautifully decorated with a pretty modern "floating" bowl sink. 

A two-car garage and heated workroom are accessed from the dining room. A attic (pull-down stairs) on the bedroom level provides room for storage. Apart from the interior design and amenities– think details like custom wooden heat-vent covers– the outside has been upgraded to ease fears of flooding from the below-grade location of the place. Poured aggregate surrounds the house and drains water to the backyard, overside copper gutters do their part to shuttle water away, and a new asphalt berm has been poured around the driveway. Large rocks on the hillside in front anchor earth, as do the property's many hardwood trees.

It's hard to imagine that this delightful living space lies behind such an uninspired facade. Shelter Associates built the house, which speaks to its quality and taste, but whoever was responsible for the exterior design needs a refresher course. Buyers looking for a place to live– and entertain– comfortably, and who are happy with up-hill-and-down-dale geography of Ednam, should get past the front door and see what they can make of this interesting contemporary house.

Photos courtesy of the owner