Jungle fever: Greenery creates an Eden

ADDRESS: 2519 Fall Fields Drive

ASKING: $675,000

SIZE: 3,691 fin. sq. ft., 840 unfin.

YEAR BUILT: 1989

NEIGHBORHOOD: Proffit Road

CURB APPEAL: 9 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Megan Sacco, Stevens & Company 466-2463

A foolish consistency, it's said, is the hobgoblin of little minds. Not to impugn the cerebral capacity of the designer of this appealing contemporary, but... there is the white faux marble ceramic tile on every floor that isn't carpeted, and there is the mauve and gray color scheme played out on every surface, including counters, bathroom tiles, miniblinds, and curtains.

However, these elements (which are not so bad per se, it's just the unrelieved consistency that oppresses) are more than offset by the rest of the interesting house. The first striking element is the setting. Just a minute or two off Proffit Road, its five acres are situated amid the 400-plus-acre Glen Echo Farm, much of which has been placed in conservation easements, according to the agent.

Immediately around the house is understated yet elegant landscaping that carries through to two tiny Japanese gardens tucked neatly into glass-enclosed cul-de-sacs off the dining room and master suite. And while the approach to the house is all manicured beds and mature specimen trees, the sweep of greenery beyond the huge deck is almost jungle-like. The effect is luxuriant rather than sultry and oozy, however– although, obviously, mid-August visitors might sing a different tune.

Speaking of jungle, there's one element of the house that trumps every other place we've visited: The entire basement ("terrace level") is a bird cage.

Now it's true that we once rode in an elevator in the "Miller's house" in the Inglecress neighborhood that was painted to look like a birdcage, and it's true that we've seen other houses with traditional wire contraptions for docile little parakeets and canaries. And of course all the trapezes and swings in this huge room are removable and will leave when the owner takes the scarlet macaw away. But the fact remains that the d├ęcor in this room accentuates the effect of primal lushness.

As in other houses of this vintage, the entire back of the house is a wall of windows leading to the deck and forest beyond. The living room, a step down from the entry space (it's not exactly a hall and not exactly a room) has a marble fireplace and probably some other charms, but the dazzling effect of all those windows and several skylights eclipses all other impressions.

The wing to the right contains a large dining room as well as a breakfast room off the (mauve and gray) kitchen, a laundry room, and a three-car garage with lots of storage. Beyond the breakfast room is space now being used as a sunroom, but which– once the (gray) carpet is removed– could easily become a solarium or greenhouse.

Left from the entrance hall leads to the bedroom wing with master suite, unusual because the attached dressing/closet area is as big as the bedrooms in many houses, and because the master bath opens directly to the bedroom– no doors, no dividers, just the tub, sink, etc., at one end of the room.

While it's a bit unconventional, somehow it fits with the open vibe of the whole place. There's also a second bedroom and full bath in this wing.

A loft over the living room is now being used as a sleeping area but, with its built-in book shelves and ample space, it could easily become an office or library. The light maple of the stairway leading up to the loft and down to the terrace level is unpainted. Realizing we may be accused of a foolish inconsistency, we found ourselves wishing for a coat of mauve or gray to diminish the jarring effect of the awkward structure dominating the entryway.

The gray cedar shingles and shake roof help the house blend into its glorious green surroundings. A wood-fired furnace that augments the dual heat pump system means that even in the winter when Eden is looking more like Siberia residents can stay snug and comfy.

This quirky house is not for everyone, but when the right Tarzan and Jane find it– whether accompanied by avian companions or not– we predict they will be consistently happy with their choice.

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