Rural sanctuary: No need to leave home

ADDRESS: 1930 White Hall Road

ASKING: $528,500

SIZE: 3600 fin., 600 unfin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: Original cabin unknown, additions 1960s, '70s, and '80s.

NEIGHBORHOOD: Crozet

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Bill Ware of Real Estate III-West 979-0174

Crozet, with its unassuming air, managed to stay off developers' radar for a pretty good while. No longer. Sandwiched nicely between Route 250 West and I-64, this rural hotspot offers access aplenty to a variety of locations. Bucolic fields at the base of the mountains are currently being parceled up for non-farming clientele, and, with the closing of the frozen food factory called ConAgra, Crozet has an already established and abundant water source.

All the new houses popping up create the desire to step back into an older home a feeling akin to slipping into well-worn shoes. Nestled between towering pines and a rocky outcropping (some things you definitely won't find in a development), this house sits low and quiet. At first glance, it looks like a bungalow until one notices the residential fact sheet boasting 3,600 square feet behind those louvered windows.

From the entrance, the square feet stretch out into a many-tentacled thing. In the 1960s, construction on the original structure began in earnest, creating both a north "wing" and a south "wing." Although these are impressive improvements, the house lacks a general cohesiveness.

But with all this space, who cares? The north wing contains the living quarters with a great room, galley kitchen, and dining room. They all flow from one to the next allowing for maximum light and viewing of the gardens beyond.

The south wing reaches even farther inland with its amalgam of spaces suited for the different needs of each tenant. During the '70s, the owner of Happy House Interiors lived and worked here. She connected her workroom to the main house. New owners in the '80s continued work in this wing converting it all to "master" status. A colossal bath and dressing room at the end of a long hallway certainly serves those spacious 21st-century needs.

The original cabin doesn't garner much attention, situated as it is in a sort of holding pattern between all the other areas. A small staircase leads to two small bedrooms and a full bath upstairs: obviously a repository for the children.

The U-shape of the house creates a courtyard that can be seen from almost anywhere inside. The sandbox that now commands the space has probably seen plenty of action, but the idea of an inner sanctum (albeit outside) is so universally appealing that it is easy to envision Moroccan dinners served while reclining on large pillows; or perhaps a Zen garden where peaceful raking can take place. The possibilities seem endless.

A blacktop driveway snakes around one side of the house, leading all the way back to a two-and-a-half bay garage with a 660-square-foot apartment above it, which could easily be a rental unit. This might impinge on privacy, though, so it might better be utilized as an office or in-law suite. A small stream runs alongside the two buildings further enhancing the idyllic and natural setting.

In the 1980s, someone decided to install an in-ground pool. The benefits of this seem negligible, although during July and August the desire to cool off without having to drive somewhere can outweigh the unpleasant maintenance requirements. Fully fenced, terraced, and landscaped, it didn't take long for this reporter to weigh the pros and cons of taking a dip herself.

Since it's more compound than house, one could set up shop here for quite some time with all the necessary (and some not so necessary) components of communal living. Because of its unconventional layout, the house might not fit every lifestyle but it's worth a look. For some, that beats certain developers' current vision of one house model fits all.