Truly Tuley: Let the light shine in

ADDRESS: 2969 Catlett Road

ASKING: $1,495,000.

SIZE: 4,360 fin. sq. ft.

YEAR BUILT: 1976

NEIGHBORHOOD: Garth Road in Western Albemarle

CURB APPEAL: 9 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Jim Bonner of Roy Wheeler Realty Co. 951-5155

When this house was built 25 years ago, Garth Road was still untouched by the McMansions that sprouted during the 1990s. This must have been the boondocks, with nothing but a dirt trail through the woods.

However, someone did find this spot, chose James Tuley as the architect, and erected a contemporary ode not just to privacy but also to the outdoors.

As described by the realtor, it is indeed a "stunning contemporary," and its 35 acres still mean a total lack of neighbors, as it sits proudly atop an expanse of grass.

Or mostly proudly. Because of the architectural angles, the entrance alongside a single-car garage barely registers as interesting.

Once you're through a small vestibule and up a spiral staircase, the house opens into a light-infused spectacle. An entire wall of uninterrupted glass stretches along the living area and draws one to it like the proverbial moth.

Trees and mountains appear so close that they seem part of the d├ęcor. The kitchen, with a narrower, yet continuous band of glass, looks over the parking area.

Tuley worked closely with his clients, noting individual needs and adapting accordingly. Walter Hauser, Professor Emeritus of History at UVA, knew Tuley personally as well as professionally and says Tuley was "more site-specific" than any architect he knew. Hauser didn't commission this place, but he knows the drill.

"It was specifically designed to meet my needs as an academic and so I could see the woods and mountains," Hauser says of his own Tuley-designed house.

Tinted sliding glass doors are the only partition between living/dining areas and the master bedroom. Sort of an odd arrangement until one gets to the bathroom.

Straight out of Architectural Digest, the sunken bathtub is situated so that its focus is another entire wall of exterior glass. This isn't for everybody, but why not? There's nothing to look at but trees and sky and, as if on cue, a few deer meander into the picture.

The rest of the house is not Tuley designed, but you'd never know it. The house flows like a stream into the new addition.– with the same unobstructed views and soaring ceiling angles. Built as an almost mirror image of the preceding floor plan, the duplicate living space could house in-laws or itinerant family members. An elevator has been installed, but it's located behind a door and looks to the casual observer just like a closet.

Downstairs, the ground level– which can be accessed by the elevator or down the spiral steps– contains more large rooms but with less splash than upstairs. The current owners added 17 windows and opened up a hallway making it seem much more open than originally intended. Two bedrooms, laundry room, wine cellar, and an office are the current configurations and keep the daily flotsam out of the way of the majesty upstairs.

The two bedrooms share a colossal deck, and stepping onto it makes you feel as if you're on the prow of an aircraft carrier plowing through the waves. Of course, here it's just you and the tree-covered hills of central Virginia.

Tuley knew what he was doing. His style, as modern as it appears on paper, fits the landscape. There's a level of comfort created by precise design. Hauser says he spoke to many architects when deciding on building but none of them, he says, responded to the site as well as Tuley.

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