Can the commute: If you toil up on 29, treat yourself

ADDRESS: 5598 Flintstone Drive, Lake Saponi

ASKING: $369,000

SIZE: 2371 fin. sq. ft., 1326 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1983

NEIGHBORHOOD: Lake Saponi

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Gail Harvey, Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 960-1366

We've all passed those catchy signs on the walls or fences of subdivisions and apartment complexes alongside busy highways: If you lived here, you'd be home now.

Nowhere is that maxim more apt than applied to this interesting lakeside lodge-style house so far up Route 29 that half of it is in Greene County. If you work at NGIC, GE, or anywhere north of the airport, this could be the retreat you've been seeking.

Everyone else can stop reading now. Even the place's considerable appeal is not worth a commute from town on that terrible highway.

But the charms of the place are considerable for people who have a reason to be up there anyway. After you wend your way down a narrow lane snaking out from a cul-de-sac in the Lake Saponi subdivision, the first thing you notice is a beautiful pond that seems to take up a good part of the nine-acre parcel.

At the end of the driveway up a slight incline sits what appears to be a lodge from camps of your youth a large rectangular wooden building completely surrounded by a wide deck. That deck is a major element of the house every room has access to it through a sliding glass door or doors, a feature which makes the place a clear candidate for Party Central.

Although there's a formal front door facing the road, the layout of the place dictates that visitors cross a large raised platform deck at the back and enter through the '80s-style kitchen with its russet-colored counters and vinyl-tile floor. This room is the only one that begs for modernization, however– with the possible exception of the bathrooms, if you're finicky. (Folks with a fondness for the good old days of pretty tile showers and compact space won't want to bother with the bathrooms at all.)

Most of the floors in the house are beautiful polished oak, in the large living-dining space with fireplace, in the spacious (but clearly unused) entrance hall, and in the three bedrooms on the main level. Downstairs is another bedroom (the only room without a door to the outside), the second full bath, and a large recreation space where the current owners have positioned a woodstove that heats the whole house in winter, thanks to vents in the ceiling.

Every room seems larger than its actual size because there's so much glass: the sliding doors and big windows. The primary feeling is of air and space.

And although it's obviously the reason people buy property, here the house is not the only attraction. In addition to the lake, extensive gardens add to the camp-like feel. The current owners have lavished not only creative energy on the design of a huge flower and vegetable plot (encircled by a striking iron fence), but their considerable engineering skill is evident in an elaborate irrigation system that channels rain water from the roof through piping to all parts of the garden.

Situated unobtrusively some distance from the house are a 4-bay equipment shed and a barn/workshop. The house's metal roof could use a coat of paint, and there are no doubt trifling changes a new owner would want to make to other parts of the house. But all in all, this very private lakeside lodge surprised us.

Cross and snappish after our trip from town, we were not expecting to be so quickly won over. It's clear that having this tranquil hideaway to come home to could go a long way to allaying the stress of traffic and crabby coworkers.

Especially if it were a Friday night, and friends had been invited to head north, kick back, and chill on the made-for-party deck.