Zen den: Living the Zoloft life

ADDRESS: 106 Vincennes Court


ASKING: $349,900


SIZE: 2,932 fin. sq. ft., 628 unfin.

LAND: 1.978 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of a possible 10

LISTED BY: Judy Campbell, McLean Faulconer Inc., 295-1131

When you've lived in a house for 30 years, you know its workings pretty well. You know the cabinet door that sticks, the way the gutters on the back fill up with pine needles two days after you've had them all cleaned, and how to put just the right twist on the gas knob to get that left front stove burner to catch.

That's why it was surprising to hear the owner of this '70s redwood "contemporary" say, "There's not one thing about this house I would change."

Once we were inside, it was obvious what she meant. The no-nonsense (but dramatic) style of the house– a "pre-cut" Kingsbury model that was American Home Magazine's "House of the Year " in 1972– creates a feeling of soothing reassurance that everything is all right. We could almost hear Stevie Wonder crooning 1973's #5 song, "You Are the Sunshine of My Life."

The house will delight folks with a penchant for clean lines, order, and simplicity. The recessed entry door opens to a small raised "hall" beside which the living room drops down a foot. Technically, it's a "sunken" living room, but there's nary a plush-pillows-on-leather surround sofa in sight.

The first-floor plan is open: with the three large front windows at your back, you look straight through to the dining area and out into the back garden. Between the two rooms, a wood-burning fireplace and soaring two-story white chimney provide a breathtaking focal point.

The agent calls the second-level windows high above the living room a "vaulted ceiling," but, like "sunken living room," the image the term conjures– most recently, of immense wasted space in overdone new subdivision mansions– does not do justice to the lovely effect of this design. On the day we visited, the slanted afternoon light softened the stark white of the living room and chimney, making it less austere.

The small kitchen off the dining room is functional, everything within easy reach, another feature the current owner praises. Beyond the kitchen, sliding doors across the back of the family room lead to a large deck. There's a half bath in addition to the full ceramic tile bath (with whirlpool) off the master bedroom.

The open stairs to the second level provide a startling view of the first floor, revealing the kitchen as a "box" in the middle of what– with the removal of only three walls– could be a totally open main level. Fun to think about, even if the remaining kitchen would have no cabinets!

Upstairs in the two bedrooms and bath, the owner has indulged her passion for color sublimated in the pristine monochrome of white downstairs. Here, bold red and blue paint and busy patterned wallpaper make it clear that the space is reserved for children.

The large basement (with unfortunate plywood paneling that probably could be easily removed and replaced) provides a fourth bedroom, third full bath, and storage, as well as exit to the driveway and separate two-car garage.

A contiguous 0.65-acre lot adds to the appeal of the property, although it's not buildable, part of it being crossed by a stream. Annual membership in the Key West community association is $15, and all the roads are state maintained, a real plus considering the large assessments levied on some subdivisions for road maintenance and upgrades. The Key West club offers all recreation facilities, including the de rigueur swim team.

Touring what seems in some ways almost like a relic of simpler, more innocent times has a curious effect on a visitor. One wonders what it would be like to live in 1972's House of the Year. Would we be tempted to leave our Mac disconnected, our Cuisinart in the box, return our iPod for a credit?

Probably not, but it's a pleasant diversion to think about how much living in calm, understated, manageable surroundings might change one's whole world view.