By 1990, the couple had moved into their house at 1835 N. Kirkwood Pl., designed by Maryland architect Berny Hintz.
“We interviewed several architects before we chose Berny, but most of them talked about building the house into the side of the steep hill on the lot,” Buckley said. “I just wanted an open, light-filled house, and their plans meant one side of the house would be totally dark. Plus, I was worried about water issues from building that way.”
Hintz’s plan was to build a five-level house mounted on a concrete foundation and steel columns. The house would have several decks and lots of windows. It would be surrounded by trees.
“The house is built like a treehouse,” Buckley said. “In fact, the original design included a tree in the middle, with the house built around it like a doughnut. I thought it was cool, but I couldn’t sleep worrying about what would happen if the tree died or got struck by lightning and we’d have to take apart the house to get to it.”
A redesign took out the doughnut hole and added interior space.
Another notable feature of the five-level house is the four-flight staircase.
“We’ve lived here for 30 years and raised our two kids here, so when people ask about the staircase, I just tell them that both kids ended up being college athletes,” Buckley said.
Now that the children are married and living in Utah, Buckley and Frederick are ready to leave their beloved treehouse . . . almost.
“It’s hard to leave a place that’s so completely a reflection of our personalities, where we’ve had so many great parties and family moments,” said Buckley, who can still gush about her home. “My favorite thing about the house is all the bright light, especially right now, when the trees are golden, and in the spring when they’re light green. It’s like living in a jewelry box.”
New Year’s Eve, the Kentucky Derby, Halloween and other occasions have given Buckley and Frederick an excuse to open their home to friends and neighbors for sit-down dinners or buffets. The house has outdoor space on every level, and Buckley said it has a perfect corner for a Christmas tree on the main level.
Buckley and Frederick have remodeled the kitchen and bathrooms and replaced a fireplace shared by the living room and dining room, but the “nuts-and-bolts” of the design are the same as the original.
“The whole house feels sculptural, and it has 90 windows, most of which you can open,” Buckley said. “When the weather is nice and you open them, it feels like you’re living outside.”
The entrance foyer, on the ground floor, has stairs leading up to the first level of living space, which has a study and a guest suite with a bedroom, a bathroom, a kitchenette and a porch. Buckley’s mother lived in the suite for several years.
One floor up, the main living level has 12-foot-high ceilings and decks at either end of the open floor plan, which includes a family room, living and dining areas, and a kitchen. This level also has a powder room.
“When we reconfigured the kitchen, which was kind of squared off, we added what I call our ‘swooshing’ wall, which was an opportunity to add curve and color to the space,” Buckley said. The curved wall is covered in purple, yellow and green tiles.
The upper level includes the primary bedroom, which has a private balcony, a walk-in closet and a spalike bathroom with a soaking tub and a separate shower. Several steps lead up from the primary bedroom to a cupola, which Buckley used as an art studio and which offers a private place among the trees.
The upper level has two more bedrooms, another bathroom and a laundry room.
“This house has always attracted a lot of attention since it’s so unusual,” Buckley said. “I remember getting a note in the mailbox from a student who asked if we could give her and her boyfriend a tour as a birthday present to him.”
While Buckley conceded that it would have been smarter to have an engineer take a look before she and her husband bought the lot, she said she hasn’t regretted their moonlight decision for a moment.
Features: The five-story contemporary house has three levels of living space plus a ground-floor entrance foyer and a top-level cupola. It also has four bedrooms, four bathrooms, hardwood floors, a study, multiple decks, a screened porch and a heated driveway.
Approximate square-footage: 3,100
Lot size: One-third acre
Listing agent: Sheri Grant with TTR Sotheby’s International Realty