Potomac builders tend to be specialists in large, traditional houses on large lots. Some, like Clarence (Bud) Gosnell and Crowell-Baker, build a dozen or more houses a year. Others, including Patrick Cullinane and Steven Kokes, build even larger, more expensive houses at a pace of one or two a year.
Jean Melkin, who recently completed a large formal home on Piney Glen Court that was sold to an Iranian gynecologist for $330,000, is in the house-a-year group. Now she's starting another on a next-door site. It will be "really big," with more than 7,000 square feet of living area, a two-story foyer, French colonial styling and a total of 11 bathrooms.
"My goal is to bring it so it can be sold for no more than $425,000," she said.
Melkin likes arched windows, Austrian crystal chandeliers, crown moldings and double 1, recessed doors. One of her earlier houses was contemporary but now she seems comfortable in the Potomac Estate styling that indludes brick exteriors in a manor idiom.
"I sketch out the plans and have Tom O'Reilly do the working drawings," she said. "Right now I've got three more on my drawing board but these big houses really require almost full attention and devotion as you get going."
Melkin has come a long way from her first business venture in a millinery shop. She grew up in the Bronx but didn't ever take a hand in construction until the family lived in Louisville. She remodeled one house and then built another for the family.
The birth of her fourth child 13 years ago postponed Jean Melkin's building activity in Washington. But she's been active as an entrepreneur in custom houses for several years. She built one house in Bethesda and then jumped into the Potomac area, along with other frustrated builders, when the sewer service shortage hit Montgomery County in the early 1970s.
With two-acre lots now in the $50,000-up range in the unsewered areas of Potomac, Melkin yields to the temptation to build larger and larger houses.
"I guess you could say that I like to design a dwelling for a large family that has the money to live roomly and graciously," she said, almost enviously.
She and her husband and two of their children in a comfortable, traditional subdivision house in the Falls Road area of Potomac, where she also has her office.
Her dream is to get everything possible into one house and she may do it one day. Meanwhile, she keeps creeping up on Patrick Culliane and Joseph Berlin, who have million-dollar houses being readied for the Washington market.