REAL ESTATE- ON THE BLOCK- Up country: Peavine Hollow offers nice pickins'


ADDRESS: 3506 Peavine Hollow


ASKING: $550,000

ASSESSMENT: $300,000


SIZE: 2,192 fin. sq. ft., 400 unfin.

LAND: 20.35 acres

CURB APPEAL: 8 out of 10

LISTED BY: Tim Michel of McLean Faulconer Inc. 960-1124

Peavine Hollow is a name that will appeal to a certain sort of house shopper, will turn others off instantly, and will make still others laugh out loud. Only inveterate city slickers will not be charmed by the combination of winsome "peavine" and hick-ish "hollow," a community tucked away on a hill beyond Free Union.  

One clue about the "hollow" is the fact that the house is just a mile or two beyond the "Berry Patch," a rustic little conglomeration of tables and vines and bushes where people can pick their own blueberries, raspberries, or whatever, a low-key operation that reflects the tone of the whole neighborhood– a sort of later-day hippy commune vibe, but with fancier digs than back-to-earthers dreamed of in the '60s.

This house is up a long, sharply rising gravel driveway off Peavine Hollow Road. That means iffy access in winter, but also incomparable views from the east-facing deck off the living room. The owner describes the house as "HO gauge," by which she means that things are of a compact and manageable scale instead of packed with wasted space and unnecessary status amenities.

The current owners built the house in 1990 to be "earth friendly"– years before Al Gore bolstered the current fixation on all things "green." Here the term means recycled materials– heart pine floors, paneling, and cabinets from the old Farmington Hunt clubhouse on Garth Road (back side showing, with the original green paint hidden), and stones from the property used in landscaping walls and the chimney. 

Despite its compactness, the owners raised four daughters here, and many aspects of the house reflect that history: bookshelves everywhere, a loft bed built into one bedroom, floor-level kitchen cabinets and shelves (none on the walls) to encourage children to help with cooking, cleaning up, and putting-away. 

One fetching element is a playhouse high in a tree up the hill (with even better views than the big house), so well built that a few screens and a pitcher of iced tea could easily turn it into a writer's or artist's summer studio. And another unique kid-friendly bonus is a puppet theater (really access to under-eaves storage) in one of the bedrooms. A child can clamber into the space and put on shows, or post a "doctor is in" sign and pretend to be Lucy van Pelt.

The house has the no-walls design that seems almost de rigeur in places with exposed beams, huge fireplace, hilly location, and pantry full of jam and jelly from the bounty down the road. The front door opens to a combination dining room entryway divided from the kitchen on the left by a chest-high counter. Straight through is the living room with the big fireplace and deck with those spectacular views.

Also on this level is the parents' bedroom and full bath with pretty blue tile, pedestal sink, and shower (no tub). 

Upstairs two of the four medium-sized bedrooms are divided by a non-load-bearing wall to facilitate removal in case a new owner wants to create a larger master suite upstairs and turn the first-floor bedroom into an office. There's only one bath on the second level, and it also contains the washer and dryer, so some new plumbing might be required for a true master "suite."

The full basement is a combination family room/utility space, with the added plus of a good-sized darkroom. Because of its situation against the hillside, the front of the basement has full windows and doors, thus more light than would be expected in a traditional basement.

In addition to the tree/playhouse, there's a large, tidy workshop with storage above (and a galvanized roof), pretty landscaping (primarily mountain laurel and a few perennials), and the gorgeous rock wall encircling the entry. The house is heated by propane (forced air) and cooled by a heat pump, although it's hard to imagine needing air conditioning at an elevation the owner claims is so high that poison ivy and mosquitoes don't dare come near.

Peavine Hollow is apparently a close community, with a thriving book group, a gaggle of every-morning walkers, child-care  sharing, and of course the Berry Patch. People looking for the benefits of a close-knit city neighborhood without the city, or the bonhomie of suburbia without the subdivision, might do well to consider going up the country.

Photos by Rosalind Warfield-Brown