For more than a decade, every time Ken and Judie Elder went to visit their friends in the Seminary Hill neighborhood of Alexandria, Va., they would admire a house across the street. They longed for a chance to see what it looked like inside.
In 1996, a for-sale sign went up. One look and they knew they wanted to buy the house but the price was more than they wanted to pay. For six weeks, they agonized over whether they could afford it. Then one day, Judie made an observation.
“I told him you’ll be grumpy forever if you don’t buy this house,” she said.
The Elders bought the house, and Ken is as giddy about it as the first day they saw it.
“We’ve lived here 20 years, and this house still excites me,” he said.
It is easy to see why the Elders are smitten. Built in 1939, the house was designed by architect Charles Callander for Haven Page, an aircraft company executive. Page sold it in 1949 to Thomas E. Harris, a longtime lawyer with the AFL-CIO and one of the original commissioners of the Federal Election Commission. Harris remained in the house for 47 years. After Harris’s death, the Elders became just the third owners.
Callander was a Frank Lloyd Wright devotee who did not strictly adhere to the celebrated architect’s tenets in his design. There are echoes of Wright in the house’s relationship to its surroundings, its large panes of glass and use of organic materials such as cypress wood. But it doesn’t have the openness of a Wright-designed house. The dining room is separated from the living room. And no Wright house ever had a basement like this one does.
Elaborately designed stairs create visual interest in the entrance hall. Tucked next to the stairs is a telephone nook with a buzzer, to call the maid, that still works.
The living room has curved walls, a fireplace and built-in shelving. The furniture that Callander designed for the room in 1939 is still there, including the curved sofa, end tables and the lamps on the tables. Pella shades are concealed in the walls. A door opens to a covered porch and patio that overlook a spacious lawn and a wooded lot. Among the mature trees is a red maple that is estimated to be 270 years old.
The only significant change the Elders made to the original house was adding a screened porch next to the kitchen. They built it around a sycamore tree that pops through its roof. Wood cutouts of stylized cross sections of the house encircle the room.
The upstairs is split into two wings. In one wing, the master bedroom has wraparound windows. The other wing has two bedrooms. In between the two is a large deck where the orchestra would set up for the Harrises’ larger parties.
The lower level has a bedroom and bathroom. The Elders use another room to store wine.
In 1998, they added a 1,700-square-foot pool house that mimics the style of the main house. Designed by Jone Thurmond, the pool house has two bedrooms, three bathrooms and a sauna. The attached garage can fit three cars. The 20-by-50-foot swimming pool was rebuilt in 2011.
The four-bedroom, four-bathroom, 2,836-square-foot house, on 2.25 acres, is listed at $3.5 million.
Listing: 1201 Key Dr., Alexandria, Va.
Listing agent: Jodie Burns, McEnearney Associates
Previous House of the Week
More Real Estate: