Go with the flow: Inside, outside, all around the house

 ASKING: $469,000

SIZE: 3,864 fin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: 1989

ADDRESS: 1512 Buck Mountain Road

NEIGHBORHOOD: Free Union

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Cynthia Viejo of Montague, Miller, and Co. Realtors, 973-5393

Free Union seems to be stuck in time, perhaps around 1950.

The one-horse town, with its ramshackle buildings and hippie feel, doesn't look like a place that is one of the most sought-after addresses in western Albemarle County. Developments are virtually non-existent, and each house is loaded with individuality. Grand dames sit next to brick ranchers, and 100-acre estates butt up against two-acre farmettes. Visual delights abound for curious house-shoppers.

This house sits somewhere in between with enough land to ensure privacy but not enough house to appear elitist. Built on a brick foundation, the main body of the house is encased in deep mahogany-stained cedar siding. The circular gravel driveway could accommodate multiple guests, with a hidden section for residents who wish to park in the double garage attached to the house. The front door is unobtrusive and probably not the most-used entrance. With large trees and the dark stain, the house has an impenetrable feel.

As we enter through the front door, though, light pours in from several well-positioned windows. Their geometric design offers relief from the usual standard rectangles.

This two-story entrance foyer with its ceramic tile floor has an airy, spacious feel. One could conduct all kinds of business here without ever moving into the rest of the house. Still, to the right there's a formal living room with brick fireplace, and to the left, a massive family room with two walls of built-ins that one imagines quickly filing up with books, games, wide screens, computer, and so on. A bathroom with walls of exquisitely painted koi amid swirls of blue makes one want to sit down and enjoy the view. The hallway past a fully equipped laundry room leads directly into the garage.

The kitchen and dining room, extending across the back of the house, have a Tony Soprano presence complemented by a Sub Zero fridge and Jenn Air range. You could stand around in your bathrobe here, whipping up a little veal piccata, with kids coming and going and the telephone ringing, and all the while conducting "family" business. A full deck floats off the back, doubling the usable space. Upstairs, two regular-sized kid bedrooms and one large master suite scream functional until we learn that the current owners, prior to relocating, home-schooled their five children here. We feel claustrophobic just thinking about it.

The basement, at ground level, extends the usable space. An entire wall of sliding glass doors and a separate suite with a walk-in closet big enough for a bedroom could hold the in-laws, a teenage romper room, tenants, or serve as just a grand private area.

Outside increases the living space, with stone paths leading through lavishly landscaped small glades. Each direction guides one to something interesting, be it a marble meditation bench, vegetable garden, pre-school-sized playground (with extra long swings), or one of two interconnected goldfish ponds with a waterfall and a wooden bridge. The plantings are well established and inviting and while they're slightly bushy at this point, someone with just a modicum of gardening talent could easily trim them into a green retreat.

Beyond the back porch, a panoramic vista of these eight meadowed acres is marred only by a neighbor's well-trodden pasture that seems a little too close for comfort, but which nonetheless delineates a nice path down to the pond. Water access is a boon to any abode, but having it at a distance keeps pesky mosquitoes at bay. A small craft that looked like it could provide many leisurely moments of repose lazily bobbed offshore. Another boon.

There is definitely peace in this neck of the woods. The house and land have every requirement for gracious living– not architecturally distinct enough to warrant many passing glances, but eminently liveable.