REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Colorful coastal: Getting a Big Sur feel in North Garden

ADDRESS: 3033 Alberene Church Lane


ASKING: $699,000

2006 COUNTY ASSESSMENT: $208,700 


SIZE: 3,700 fin. sq. ft.

LAND: 4.29 acres

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of 10

LISTED BY: Marina Ringstrom of Real Estate III-North  434-973-8333

Viewing a house on the tail end of winter provides such a different impression from viewing during summer. One must imagine the lush expanses of greenery and the leafed-out trees blocking the neighbors. But anyone who knows Virginia knows that when spring arrives, a transformation occurs. Other people's patio furniture and garden gewgaws vanish behind a veil of verdant growth. And that's when the fun begins.

Down a country road past a local cemetery and a few small undistinguished houses, this house appears, situated  in an open field like a giant pastel yacht crashing through amber waves of grain. Definitely an eye-opener and more Big Sur than southern Albemarle. One wishes for some foliage to soften the edges and make it a little less show-offy.

As we walk in, light bounces off every new surface, raising not a mote of dust or spider web anywhere. Its pristine shiny-penny condition stems from the fact that it has never been occupied.

While the views out the windows are sadly not of the California coast, the views inside more than make up for it. The vast octagonal space of the giant entry room seems designed for entertaining on a grand scale. At one end, the open kitchen with wraparound bar could happily oblige a dozen tipplers.

Building materials as well as appliances all look like they just came out of the box– probably because they did. Every gleaming square inch screams perfection. Areas are demarcated in the main area by changing flooring: tile for the foyer, bamboo for the big room, and cork in the kitchen.

Two medium-sized bedrooms flank the main area, reached by separate hallways. Feng Shui principles dictated both the building location and room placement and provide airiness coupled with privacy. The bathrooms, though, seem like a destination point all on their own. Accustomed to varying shades of beige in houses these days, both inside and out, we were delighted to see aquamarine tile surrounding the tubs and mint green granite countertops.

Behind the kitchen, a steel spiral staircase descends gently to the terrace level. Because the house is built on a slight hill, this floor opens to the outdoors. Wide open with randomly placed support pillars and acid-etched cement floors, the space creates a faint Roman-bath-meets-1950-roller-rink vibe. Either way, it's clearly meant to be party central. Another bedroom with full exquisitely tiled bathroom awaits the partied-out.

Also down here is a 2,000-pound Tulikivi soapstone fireplace, the pride of Finland. Although this item does not convey, one wonders where else it might go. With no chimney yet and seemingly impossible to move easily, it might just stay here as an art piece. 

It's clearly not needed as a heat source. The entire house is heated and cooled by a geothermal system integrated with radiant floor heat and forced air. This system works by absorbing renewable solar thermal energy stored in the ground (aka water) and funneling it through an intricate pipe network below the floor. This allows for the inside air to stay at a constant 55 degrees (like a cave). So when temperatures drop into the teens or soar to the nineties, one only has to heat and cool from the 55 degrees. Apparently, this can reduce utility costs by up to 60 percent.

This house packs a punch, not just visually but also physically. Solid 2x6 exterior walls create greater insulation value. Decking along both front and back is said to be safely forest-harvested Brazilian hardwoods. Positioned for optimal passive solar gain and bermed to the north for efficient temperature control, the house is a veritable cornucopia of groovy green practices.

Someone just needs to plant some real green outside so that when all those parties start happening, the neighbors won't have a bird's eye view.

Photos courtesy of the agent


1 comment

Hello, thanks for the great write up, one thing though, the address is now 3023 and it's tax value is near $725k i believe

thanks again

scott carpenter, designer/builder