Susan Bingham and her husband, Ben, bought farmland in Bluemont, Va., 22 years ago and built a Williamsburg-style house. When lightning struck the home in 2004, they decided to rebuild using the same foundation as their previous house, but this time, they wanted a 1930s Georgian Revival.
Having visited many historic homes and pored over a library’s worth of books on houses, the Binghams were attracted to the Georgian Revival’s symmetric proportions.
Retrofitting the style into their previous home’s foundations was no easy task. Fortunately, Ben had been an engineer and had the mathematical mind to figure out complex solutions.
“My husband and I spent several years designing the house,” Susan said. “We designed everything. We designed it for how we were going to use the house.”
The kitchen was central to its planning. The Binghams loved to cook, and they knew this room would be the hub of the home. The problem was the glass cabinets over the sink, which affected the ceiling height. Nine feet was too short, but 10 feet was too tall.
“We just could not get it right at nine feet,” Susan said. “That’s how we came up with 9 [feet] 2 [inches], based on what the cabinets were, where we wanted to have them. It was a mathematical problem that my husband figured out as the engineer.”
Because everything in a Georgian home must be proportional, all the ceilings on the main level are 9 feet 2 inches.
Ben was exacting when it came to the house. He struggled for months over the correct size and placement of the windows. During a trip to Williamsburg, he took out a tape measure and measured the moldings in the Wythe House — much to the consternation of the docent. He wanted to be absolutely sure their moldings were exact replicas of those in the Wythe House.
Ben loved ice cream and a good bottle of wine, which is why the lower level has not only a wine cellar and tasting room, but also an elaborate ice cream parlor. The indoor lap pool connected to the house was a way to work off the ice cream and wine.
Susan prays every day in their small chapel.
“It’s just a very quiet, peaceful little area,” she said.
The Binghams had been living in the home a while when they decided it needed a name. They chose Monte Subasio, after the mountain in Umbria, Italy, because the view of the Blue Ridge Mountains reminded Ben of a similar view in Umbria. Plus, it is where St. Francis of Assisi was given a church. Because he is the patron saint of animals, the name was also a nod to the Binghams’ menagerie of cats, dogs and a donkey.
The landscaping was planned as meticulously as the house. A delightful knot garden greets visitors. Topiaries line a brick pathway. Mature English gardens, majestic mountains, a tranquil pond, walking paths and riding trails add to the surroundings.
While designing the house, the Binghams had some health challenges. In many ways, the project distracted them from their medical issues and kept them going during some rough periods. But when Ben died four years ago at age 67, the house felt cavernous to Susan.
“We designed this house to be comfortable for two people in a room or a hundred people in a room,” Susan said. “Now, all of a sudden by myself, it seems too big.”
The five-bedroom, eight-bathroom 13,130-square-foot house on 25 acres is listed at just under $3 million.
Listing: 18599 Calumet Lane, Bluemont, Va.
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