The plan was to find a creative sanctuary no more than 90 minutes from Washington that was near water. This idyllic spot, along the North Fork of the Shenandoah River in Woodstock, Va., happened to be one hour 25 minutes away.
Starting in 1996, Dailey built a retreat for him and his wife, Paula Ballo Dailey, that consists of a main house, a guesthouse and a studio.
“I wanted to do something that provided security and tranquility from the urban lifestyle that we were living,” he said.
Dailey has led an unusual life. After graduating from Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, he worked briefly at an architectural firm. Then he spent more than 20 years working in arms control and international security before returning to his first love, art. His work has been shown around Washington and the world. Last fall, “Brian Dailey: America in Color” was at the Phillips Collection.
Dailey, who designed the property’s three structures, knew he wanted a log house, in part as an homage to his and his wife’s California roots but also because he wanted it to fit into the natural setting.
“I wanted the house to blend into the forest because it was surrounded by an incredible amount of wildlife,” he said. “It was really quite isolated. I wanted to do something that didn’t pop out.”
The hand-hewn logs come from pine trees that were grown in the southwestern tip of Virginia and Tennessee. According to Dailey, if you laid the logs in a line, they would stretch for a mile. Pine was not the only wood used in the houses. The windows are cased in Brazilian cherry. The floors are also Brazilian cherry. The owner’s bathroom has teak.
The woodwork is striking, but the stonework might be even more impressive. Dailey said it took the stonemason 10 years to complete the project.
“I’m from California,” Dailey said. “I was exposed to a lot of stonework in Yosemite. . . . I just love the beauty of the stones.”
Dailey said he received permission to gather some of the stones from the river. The rest came from a farm nearby.
“The farmer said, ‘Take all the stone you want.’ He wanted to get rid of it,” Dailey said. “The stonemason drove up there all the time and brought back truckloads.”
Once the main house was built, Dailey added the guesthouse and garage in 2000. In 2005, he built a nearly 4,000-square-foot studio.
“By 2007, my wife and I thought we were going to live here forever,” Dailey said. “We decided to completely redo the kitchen because we both like to cook. We also built a new library and redid the bathrooms.”
They called the retreat Catspaw.
“We choose Catspaw because of our early experience on the river,” Dailey said. “One of the definitions of Catspaw that we found many years ago was ‘a gentle breeze over a body of water.’ . . . This is the frequent gentle breeze that you experience while sitting on the deck or in the hammock.”
One of Dailey’s favorite things to do is put a canoe in the water and paddle. He said that because most of the houses are hidden behind trees, he feels “like an explorer at times.”
Yet he is just 10 minutes from restaurants, shops and a farmers market.
Catspaw was to be the Daileys’ forever home. But then Paula died in 2016.
“Unfortunately, despite all my good planning and all that, my wife passed away from cancer just a few years ago,” he said. “That’s what changed the whole equation. It’s a little bit too much for one person. It’s got a lot of memories so it’s my reason for wanting to move on.”
The 11-acre property has 1,000 feet of riverfront, a security gate and cameras, and DSL wireless Internet. The 3,250-square-foot main house has two bedrooms and three bathrooms. The guesthouse has one bedroom, two bathrooms, a sauna and an 800-bottle wine cellar. The three-story studio has guest quarters, a fitness room, an office and a kitchen. The three buildings are being sold furnished. The list price is just under $3 million.
Listing: 1737 Artz Rd., Woodstock, Va.
Listing agent: Frances Baroody, TTR Sotheby’s International Realty.
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