Round house: Squares nicely with environs

ADDRESS: 334 Rainbow Ridge Road

ASKING: $198,000

SIZE: 1,200 fin. sq. ft.


NEIGHBORHOOD: Faber, Nelson County

CURB APPEAL: 7 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Owner Lydia Dixon 361-9059

The plethora of housing choices is just one of the reasons many people feel compelled to locate in and around Charlottesville. Forget the endless tracts of plastic siding covering Northern Virginia, and the four varieties of beige governing subdivision color choices– somewhere in Albemarle County one can find something unique, guaranteed. (Of course, for those seeking the beige subdivisions, there are a couple of those here, too.)

So each week's real estate listings inevitably offer a little "stand out." It seemed obvious that the picture of this house– perched atop what looks like a mighty hill– would have been impossible to take without mountains looming somewhere in the background.

Finding this abode, then, amid hilly roads, created another kind of stimulus: horizons stretching away in all directions. Add to the appeal claims that such vistas have been shown to increase the output of natural-occurring serotonin: a perfect antidote to the keyboard and monitor-driven habits of today's workforce.

As the paved roads lead farther into the hills toward Faber (like many old country "towns," "Faber" exists in name only) the first substantial building we spy marks the beginnings of the Monroe Institute. Established in 1985, it caters to a certain section of the population interested in higher awareness and alternative modes of consciousness.

Its visual impact, though, is slight, dwarfed perhaps by the landscape. A few houses dot the hillsides, each different from the next and situated such that privacy remains inviolate.

Easily identifiable– it's the only round house in the vicinity– this structure has small yet perfect proportions. It was designed by Deltec of Asheville, North Carolina, a company that can ship any of its nine models ready to erect. From a Deltec brochure, "The walls and pre-insulated floors are factory assembled into panels that are shipped directly to the building site along with the roof system, decks, exterior trim, and all the hardware needed to construct your shell."

Although the homes are not actually round (this model, the Monterey, has 15 sides), it's the circular design that allows for less exterior wall, thereby saving building costs and increasing energy savings while encompassing the same square footage as a conventional rectangular house.

One of the quandaries of modular home ownership is deciding whether to have interior walls. They're not necessary, so living arrangements can be designed to fit individual needs. But once inside this place, the spectacular use of windows makes one feels less inside than, say, in a tent. As more people show up to take a look during the impromptu open house, we're all drawn to the majesty and proximity of the rolling hills. The one thing lacking is a deck.

The thrust of a round house is its openness: no dark corners or dead space to contend with. The main room, with a cathedral ceiling, encompasses living, dining, and kitchen areas partitioned by furniture placement.

One space-enhancing addition is a large mirror along the kitchen wall. The reflection consists solely of the opposite windows– one literally gets surround-mountain scenery. Better love those hills, because if you purchase this house, you'll see them everywhere.

A large-ish bedroom featuring walk-in closet and full master bath with Jacuzzi tub is a nice nod to the contemporary amenities required by today's fixation on clean living. Another bedroom on the other side of the big room could suit a child, but possibilities include guest/office suite. To round it all off, a small nook leading outside accommodates storage area and stackable washer and dryer (which convey).

Obviously whoever lives here needs to enjoy– in fact, revel in– the great outdoors. An established deer-proof vegetable garden awaits a green thumb. Several outbuildings could have multiple purposes, and for those who need a jumpstart on firewood, a huge pile comes with the property.