Spacey: Inside and out, plenty to spare

ADDRESS: 1620 Far Hills Road

ASKING: $850,000

BUILDING: 3,535 fin. sq. ft., 1700 unfin.

LAND: 2.0 acres



CURB APPEAL: 9 out of 10

LISTED BY: Anita Dunbar, Montague, Miller & Co. 973-5393

The sale of Fred Scott's 1800-acre Bundoran Farm to a preservation-friendly developer made big news last week, in part because the concept seemed so novel– and so welcome.

Around here, we've become numbed to cheek-by-jowl housing developments like Cory Farm and Wayland's Grant, and super-dense shopping hives like Short Pump and Potomac Mills– to the point that news of a developer who intends to leave 80 percent of a large rural tract untouched makes headlines.

However, Qroe (pronounced "crow") Farm Preservation Development, the New England purchasers of Scott's North Garden property, is not the only group building houses with an eye to aesthetics and open land as well as profit.

The Patricia Jones Edgerton Trust, former owners of the 250-acre Far Hills development off Old Ballard Road, blazed the trail with use of Virginia's Open Space Land Act when they decided to open the tracts for development. Just as at Bundoran, over 80 percent of the original tract of this development will never be built on.

For a potential buyer, that means "What you see is what you get." No worry about some design nightmare cropping up across the road– or anywhere else within sight, for that matter. That has to be a relief to someone willing to pay premium prices not only for a huge house, but for views and ambience as well.

So, knowing that the surrounding land will look in the future pretty much as it looks today, what would make someone buy this house as opposed to the 15-20 others in the county currently on the market in the same price range?

For one thing, the size. As we ambled around during a bright Sunday open house, not only did we not hear the voices of other groups of visitors, but we never even crossed their paths. Such spaciousness is a boon in bedrooms, dining rooms, and kitchen/family rooms, where people gather, in other areas– and we find this to be a problem with most new construction– but often there just seems to be space for the sake of space, huge open areas that have to be heated (and cooled) but have no real use.

The upside is that the unusual layout of the house– and lots of windows– contribute to a welcome airiness. In addition to the typical large (and, in this case, gracefully designed) front stairway rising from an enormous entrance hall (there's some useless space), the builders have added a back staircase. From the wide upstairs hall connecting the four bedrooms and a large open sitting or office area (at the top of the stairs, with a loft feel), residents can descend directly to the kitchen just like maids used to do in the old days of live-in help.

Another unusual feature is a sitting area attached to the master suite– with its own fireplace, surrounded by the same beautiful green marble as the main one in the living room. In fact, that marble and the tile (four bathrooms) and granite (counters) in the house are some of the elegant touches that set the place apart from some other high-end subdivision spreads.

Woodwork is another allure. If the sellers need to justify their asking price, they could probably do it with the woodwork alone: chair rails, crown molding, the staircase banisters, hardwood floors in every room (no nasty wall-to-wall upstairs as in so many new places), and a very unusual "tray ceiling" in the master bedroom. The only other place we've seen something like this was in a faux Victorian in Dunlora a couple of years ago. There, the unpainted oak had a depressing, leaden effect, but here high-gloss white paint helps moderate so much wood while accentuating the beauty of the design.

The bathrooms, alas, fall victim to the fiberglass-surround syndrome (except in the master suite, where pretty tiles enclose the shower), but considering the other good things about the house, we'll forgive them this unfortunate economy.

Views from huge windows in the breakfast room, master suite, and dining room are of pine forest which is thin enough in the dead of winter to provide views of two other houses. But lots of shrubs and deciduous trees will surely block those when spring arrives.

Further plusses like a built-in sound system and a first-floor bedroom/bath suite (for visiting grandparents who don't want to climb stairs) are great, but they're just garnish for the real richness of this offering: the guarantee of no more development.