House of the Week | Alexandria contemporary for $1.69M

Stephanie Baker had pretty much resigned herself to the type of house she would live in when she married her husband, Ted Baker, a career naval officer.

“I thought, ‘Well, it’s a two-story Colonial for me forever,’” she said.

But Ted surprised her. Just before retiring from the Navy and going to work at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, he told her he “adored” this 1979 contemporary in Alexandria. And for the past 20 years, they’ve lived in the brick and glass rectangle home.

“When we first saw it, we were just amazed that it existed,” she said.

Nestled into a wooded, architecturally eclectic neighborhood, the copper-roofed house was designed by Randall Vosbeck, the former president of the American Institute of Architects and partner in Alexandria-based Vosbeck, Vosbeck, Kendrick & Redinger, for his personal residence.

Because its energy-efficient features were ahead of their time, the house was profiled in a 1980 Washington Star Home Life section cover story. According to the article, Vosbeck wanted a “simple structure, a mass with no corner or projecting elements to add to the costs of heating and cooling.”

“It’s such a simple design,” Stephanie said, “but you know how complex simplicity can be.”

Every inch of the south-facing dwelling is well thought out. It has three distinct heating zones, which allow for better temperature control. Heat floats easily over the second-floor balcony and into the bedrooms in the winter. The 20-foot fireplace hearth has air intake vents that draw cool air in, warm it and then send it back into the room. Windows are well placed for cross ventilation.

But more than energy efficiency makes this house special. Large panes of glass and skylights flood the home with natural light. Demi-lune double doors at the entrance are in sympathy with the broad, sweeping spiral staircase. Reclaimed antique teak and oak floors add warmth to the main living areas.

In the open layout, the more formal spaces are to the right and the informal rooms are to the left. The sunken living room offers sweeping panoramas of the trees. Sliding glass doors in the formal dining area open to a wood deck. Another outdoor space, a brick patio, is just off the family room. The rift white oak cabinets give the kitchen a sleek, modern look.

The master suite is in its own separate wing on the first floor, with a sauna and a whirlpool tub in the master bathroom. Two additional bedrooms and a guest suite are upstairs.

A two-car garage is connected to the house by a breezeway.

The four-bedroom, five-bathroom house on a one-acre lot is listed at $1.69 million. An open house is scheduled for Sunday from 1:30 to 4 p.m.

Listing: 820 Rapidan Ct., Alexandria

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Kathy Orton is a reporter and Web editor for the Real Estate section. She covers the Washington metropolitan area housing market.
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