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Taste for Space Is Spawning Mansions Fit for a Commoner

Debra King, of Waterford Custom Homes, and husband Michael Iacovacci built their 14,000-square-foot home near Loudoun County to show to clients, believing it would represent the high end of what they wanted. They were wrong.
Debra King, of Waterford Custom Homes, and husband Michael Iacovacci built their 14,000-square-foot home near Loudoun County to show to clients, believing it would represent the high end of what they wanted. They were wrong. (By Jahi Chikwendiu -- The Washington Post)

As in many large houses, some of Skinner's rooms are still empty, while others have essentially become playrooms: The windowed conservatory is an empire of pink toys for her daughter. And on a recent weekday, the family room was strewed with plastic shapes in primary colors.

"Mommy!" said a small voice from somewhere.

Skinner, sitting at the 10-foot granite kitchen island, looked up.

"Where are you?" she called to her daughter.

It is difficult, she said, to make the house feel cozy. And yet, having lived there a while, Skinner has begun to imagine rooms she'd like to add.

"Next, I want a huge laundry, a mudroom, an activity room with linoleum floors so if the kids spill the paint, it won't matter," she said. She wants a pool house with a bathroom, and another garage for the mower, the Barbie Jeep and the giant Slip 'n Slide.

"Me and my friends joke about this, but I think Pottery Barn is responsible," Skinner said. "You get the catalogue showing playrooms, then there's a craft room, and you're like, 'Yeah, I need a craft room.'

"The irony is, the bigger the house, the more junk you buy. Then you have nowhere to put it, so you want more storage."

Although figures from the National Association of Home Builders, a trade group, suggest that after 50 years, the average square footage of U.S. homes may be leveling off, some of the nation's production home builders, including Toll Brothers, say that their biggest models are only getting bigger.

Meanwhile, in Dranesville, Waterford Custom Homes has found a niche building what sales director Debra King, 47, calls "affordable mansions for regular people" in the $2 million-to-$4 million range.

To advertise, King and her husband, Michael Iacovacci II, built their own 14,000-square-foot home on Route 7 near the Loudoun County border, a formidable cultured-stone mansion with turrets and fountains and iron gates with roaring black lions.

Inside, the foyer soars three stories to a small dome that is being painted with cherubs but is now just chubby heads floating in a cloud of blue.


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