Seasonable: Winter adds to house appeal


ADDRESS: 3865 Solaris Drive

ASKING: $335,000

SIZE: 2,653 fin. sq. ft.



CURB APPEAL: 6 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Tom White, Pace Real Estate Associates, 817-7223

We all know that timing is everything, and that's as true about visiting houses as about anything else. Take this week's house, for example.

It's a cedar-sided contemporary set back from the road in a subdivision between Rt. 29 and Stony Point Road that was developed in the mid-'80s by Smith & Robertson Inc., an environment-friendly, energy-conscious group of builders.

Surrounded by snow on the day we visited, the house with its sharp angles had the feel of a ski lodge, and that impression persisted as we toured. It's empty, and so the spaces seemed chillier and a little more impersonal than they probably would have been with evidence of living going on.

Still, the space is informal, with woodstoves in the living room and family room on the terrace level, arty ceiling-level borders of painted herbs and flowers, and strange little yellow duckies marching around the baseboards in the master bath.

Further adding to the alpine feel is a sauna off what might be a small exercise room downstairs, and a large solarium attached to the back of the house complete with heated benches, a floor drain, and watering paraphernalia indications that in the right hands this could be a serious plant propagating site or nursery. The greenhouse sits beside a tiny slate patio under the first-floor deck.

The agent's marketing literature touts the house as "passive solar," but it wasn't immediately clear what that means. A huge brick chimney up the middle of the house conceivably could radiate heat created in the stoves, but the only other passive solar elements we saw were skylights and large casement windows facing south.

The floor plan is a little strange. There's a first-floor guest suite with full bath just to the left of the front door (which opens directly in front of the stairs). The living room– with a huge exposed beam across the middle of the room, further contributing to the lodge vibe has a hardwood floor, but it's the only room that does. Other floors are covered with vinyl or ceramic tile or wall-to-wall carpeting (upstairs).

A fancy island in the kitchen has granite counters and an electric Jenn-aire stove, but inexplicably the rest of the counters in the room are laminate. There's ample cupboard space, all of handsome blond maple, and, situated on the south side of the house, the room offers views of distant mountains.

Down a flight of stairs from the kitchen is a terrace level with a circular layout, a clever idea which makes the place seem more open and airy than it otherwise might be. The flow-through design and more big windows make the space a true "terrace level" instead of just a dark basement.

The third floor has a master suite with the large ducky bathroom (including claw-foot tub and tile shower), but the other rooms are surprisingly small, and the second bedroom up there has no bathroom. It's not clear whether the child or guest in that room is supposed to troop through the master bedroom to share the master bath, or go downstairs. That's one mystery about the design that stumped the agent, too.

The house's four acres slant down a wooded hill, so in the spring and summer it's probably quite sylvan and private. A separate large two-car garage provides much-needed storage space (there's no attic in the house). A standard heat-pump provides forced-air heat and air conditioning, typical for such houses, and the roof is wood shingle.

An overhanging "carport" smack in the front of the house keeps the ski lodge vibe going, but it's one of those things that, considering the two-car garage, we could easily do without. While it's no doubt welcome when the snow's flying, its clunky interruption of the house's clean lines could be very annoying in the bright light of summer.