Architect Michael Finn's work had run the gamut, ranging from stark contemporaries to colonial town houses. Then two clients came to him with a new challenge: a 6,000- square-foot new Victorian .

The clients, who prefer to be anonymous, knew they wanted a Victorian, but beyond that their requirements were rather simple: 3,000 square feet per floor, a two- story living room, master bedroom on the first floor, an office and library and a separate two-car garage. The rest was up to Finn, who pored over Victorian "pattern books" and architectural histories, prowled inside Washington-area Victorian houses and developed a contemporary clapboard castle of dramatic proportions.

The living room is a 25-by-25- foot space with ceilings that climb to the very rafters -- 25 feet up. The original plan for a two-story ceiling was scrapped when Finn and the owners, who found they liked the extra vertical height, decided to forgo the attic and choose instead a three-story space.

To soften the dramatic height and make the room more accessible, balconies were added. True to the Victorian love of whimsy, Finn added two turrets -- one in the living room, complete with a comfy niche for conversations.

Says Finn of his Victorian extravaganza, "The house had to be whimsical -- otherwise, it would be pretentious beyond belief. The carousel-like feeling you get from the wraparound porches, the turrets .. . the whole house is meant to be light, airy -- anything but pretentious."