Go figure: Mill House- why, oh why?

ASKING: $1,075,000

SQUARE FEET: 5,000 sq. ft. finished


ADDRESS: 1500 London Road


CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Sharon Heptinstall of Roy Wheeler Realty Co.

951-5160, 540-406-1307

Here a mill, there a mill, everywhere a mill mill: In town there's Cochran's Mill, and on Avon Street, Mill Creek. Walker's Mill is out toward Keswick, the Boar's Head Inn has an Old Mill Room, and Nelson County's Woodson's Mill grinds flour. Advance Mills and Yancey Mills. You'd think the number of actual mills (or mill remnants) in the county and environs would be enough to make fabricating faux mills an exercise in excess.

Which is exactly what you can call this house by builder Judi Simpson and Vienna (NoVa) architect Karl E. Kohler. Among the many, many "whys" that spring to mind when you come for a tour, the first and most puzzling one is "Why is this place called a mill house?"

Whatever the reason, here it sits: The Mill House at Inglecress. To be sure, it's near a little rivulet Ivy Creek runs around the back yard. And, sloping as it does toward the little stream, the lot at the end of a cul de sac in this upscale subdivision off Garth Road lends itself to a tall narrowish structure. (Are all mills tall and narrow?)

Inside, rooms on the four levels are built around an open center stairway which created a "cruciform" layout. The house's corners are cut out, allowing vast amounts of natural light to stream in from all directions. The effect is stunning.

The ground level (not quite a basement, but not the entry level) contains a two-car garage, a rec room, and a "gardening room" which opens to a stone-walled patio.

A word or two about the stone wall: it's mighty tall. The agent explains that "three thousand square feet of stone from pre-Civil War fences in Pennsylvania" surround the entire lower level, including the raised patio, and also supports the deck– in the motif of a typical historic mill foundation.

To enter the second level, the main living space, one crosses a bridge over a faux "mill race" which, despite the wettest winter in recent memory, was bone dry for our visit. I know, I hear you– another plaintive "why?" Design coherence, one supposes.

Having crossed the bridge, you find yourself facing a grand pair of solid front doors, with a view straight through the stairway to a sweeping room across the back of the house. Ostensibly, that's the dining room, because it's right off the kitchen, but it will undoubtedly become the living space of the family of the first miller who plunks down the cool million-plus asking price.

Also on this level is a nondescript living room and an anything-but-nondescript elevator it's painted to look like a birdcage. If you want to experience, albeit momentarily, the life of a toucan, head out to Inglecress and ask for a ride in the Mill House elevator. There's also a half bath right inside the front door with trompe l'oeil bunny rabbits peeking out from beneath the vanity. (What's that you say? Pourquoi?)

The whole third level is the master suite, with more built-ins than we've ever seen in any house anywhere, and another view of the winding creek. A nice touch here is a wet bar in the sitting area with the great views it's so easy to imagine lolling around on a summer evening with a gin and tonic waiting for the miller to get home.

Finally, up in the treetops of the fourth level are two good-size bedrooms and two full baths. Children would be in heaven here, two full flights away from the grown-up activity on the first floor, like little eaglets in their nest among the topmost branches of the large beautiful trees around the place. Unfortunately for them– or for grandma and grandpa if the rooms turn into guest suites– the elevator does not come this far. It would have been fun to think of the bird cage delivering the fledglings to their aerie.

So what's the final word on the Mill House? Above all else, an impression of light– but also of excess. In addition to the Civil War stone walls and the "top grade redwood" siding and stairs, the literature explains, "Wide wood flooring is newly milled from 200-year-old pine trees from an old plantation in Georgia. Beams rescued from the demolition of a circa 1750 tavern in Farmville add visual interest to the ceiling of the kitchen."

Fine. Top-drawer and first rate and so on. But, one more time, all together now: Whhhhhy?