Where We Live

In Palatine, eclectic on a grand scale

By Amy Reinink
Special to The Washington Post
Saturday, January 1, 2011

Judi and Howard Behrens were looking for more than just a lot on which to build a house; they were looking for a canvas on which to build a studio to display Howard's internationally known paintings.

They found both in Palatine, a neighborhood of sprawling, wooded, two-acre lots off Glen and Piney Meetinghouse roads in Potomac.

The white stucco Mediterranean villa they built on their four-acre property in 2002 has a red clay roof, landscaped koi ponds misted by commercial fog machines, and a 26-foot sculpture of a banyan tree in the great room. It is one of the many custom-built mansions on large lots that define Palatine.

"We were drawn to the water, rocks and mature trees on this double lot," said Judi Behrens, managing director for Howard Behrens Studio. "It seemed like the perfect setting. And it's such a diverse neighborhood, with the eclectic mix of unique styles of homes."

The eclectic mix of architectural styles is no accident, said Robert Hillerson, president of Dumont Oaks Corp., which developed the neighborhood. Hillerson said he sought to avoid the pattern that he saw in other neighborhoods being developed nearby: "entire communities with variations on the same house."

"I was trying to replicate some of the older neighborhoods, where every house was unique, with a mixture of contemporary and traditional," said Hillerson, who lives in Palatine with his wife, Arlene.

Hillerson started by preserving the mature trees covering the property and the streams crisscrossing it. He built streets that followed the contours of the land and lined them with sugar maple trees and Washington globe streetlights. All the houses on the neighborhood's 133 two-acre lots were built individually.

"All the houses are different, and all the lots have different characteristics," Hillerson said. "There are several streams that run through the property, so you might have a stream valley in your back yard. Most lots have equestrian easements for horse trails, and forested land is consistent throughout the property."

The houses, which represent a wide variety of architectural styles, have size and grandeur in common. Many feature arched entryways, manicured lawns and long, winding driveways.

"I would say the average house is three levels and maybe 10,000 square feet, with some as large as 20,000 square feet," said Michael Matese, an agent with Long & Foster. "A small house there would be 8,000 square feet."

Hillerson, whose college-age son was 13 when he moved to Palatine, said he also aimed to create a neighborhood with lots of kids, "which isn't always the case in Potomac," he said. To that end, the sales office had a "kid list" with the number of children in each home and their birthdays, so parents had an idea of who their kids' playmates would be.

"In Palatine, you're not always in your car driving your kid to a play date, because your kid's play dates are around the corner," Hillerson said. "I think that's a really unique feature for this area."

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