James and Marjorie Weber, who already are the parents of two preteenage children, now have a new addition to their Northern Virginia family -- a highly contemporary house that they hope someone will "adopt" for about $375,000.
"We've got all our eggs in this one basket, and we are watching it very carefully," said Weber, 43, who learned construction with W. C. and A. N. Miller before becoming vice president for construction at Ward Corp., a Rockville-based firm that manufactures housing components and builds its own houses in this area.
Not unlike other building executives, Weber dreamed of building a house independently into which he could incorporate many of his own ideas. He didn't go it alone completely. His wife Marjorie, a native of Arlington, became his partner in their own firm, which they called Verve. "That is what she adds," he explained.
The first Verve house, on a one-third acre lot in Chain Bridge Woods in north Arlington, was built from their own ideas, which were put to paper by draftsman Randy Henderson. "We decided to build something that would be as unique as possible -- far from the typical brick box with a hip roof," Weber said.
What they built comes up as a rectangular box with a "silo" in front. Jim and Marjorie stained the exterior redwood siding, putting together darker and lighter siding pieces in an irregular vertical pattern that gives the appearance of a wooden mosaic.
The "silo" -- which adds an interesting feature to what otherwise would have been a flat facade -- also houses a stairway topped by a skylight. To the right of the "silo," a top-to-bottom glass panel including the front door creates a look-through feature with the glassed back wall of the house.
Two of the house's five skylights are unusual.
One panel of reflective skylights is set at a 45-degree angle on the right side of the house to illuminate the recreation room on the lower level. The one-way glass admits light but not visibility. Another similarly angled bank of reflected skylights is placed at upper left for a room that could be a bedroom, a studio "or whatever the buyer wants it to be," Weber said.
Altogether the Webers' first creation has 3,800 square feet of living area plus a two-car garage in the full basement that includes the recreation room. The house has four rooms on the second level and on the first floor the "great," or living room, dining room, library and kitchen.
There are three fireplaces, two of them equipped with fans and ducts to spread heat out into the great room and rec room. The other fireplace is in the master bedroom, which has a cantilevered deck in back.
The house was begun last September, and it's nearly finished. "I have to install a dumbwaiter that will enable the owner to send his groceries up to the kitchen from the basement garage," Weber said. "Meanwhile, Majorie and I are doing the interior painting." The couple's children, Matthew, 9, and Jennifer, 13, help on weekends, cleaning up an puttying holes.
Weber doesn't claim to have built the house entirely by himself. He subcontracted the flat roof, which slopes to the back to avoid the presence of gutters and drains in front. Subcontractors also installed the two-zone heat pump system, the plumbing, electricity, drywalls, floors, foundation and fireplaces.
How does a man who builds his first "speculative" house go about pricing it? "First you add up your costs. Then you estimate the amount of time and effort you put into it, and you get a price. You also hope to make a profit for putting it all together. The lot now is worth $100,000, but I didn't pay that much for it," Weber said.
Visible from roads in the Chain Bridge Woods area, the Weber contemporary "stands out like a big strawberry," he says, adding that few drive by without stopping to look. It could be ready for a buyer to occupy it within 30 days, although the landscaping remains to be done.
The Webers are showing the house at 1403 Grady Randall Ct. themselves. It is reached via Glebe Road, River Street and Highwood. CAPTION: Picture, James and Marjorie Weber built this house in Chain Bridge Woods themselves and have put it on the market for $375,000. By Lucian Perkins -- The Washington Post