Unusual Potomac, Md., home in the woods offered for $2.9 million

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Just off River Road in Potomac, Maryland is a magical house in a forest.

Built in 1951 as a modest backpacker, the house has been transformed over the years by various owners. The most significant alteration took place in 1986. Allan and Dixie Barlow, who purchased the house in 1977, hired architect Thomas Walsman to design and Ogden Construction to essentially build a new house. Its unusual shape only indicates what will go inside.

The fireplace sets the tone. The stairs twirl to the left, as if blown by a strong breeze. The stair railing folds with the stairs. Fossilized limestone covers the ground.

Distinguished Homes for Sale in the DC Area

Potomac, Md. home | Built in 1951 as a modest backpacker, the house has been transformed over the years by various owners. The six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 10,400-square-foot home is listed at just under $2.9 million. (Marlon Crutchfield)

The stairs, which lead to a walkway that connects one side of the house to the other, were constructed from oak trees found on the property. A binder that was passed down from the owners records the meticulous work that Ogden went into creating the stairs. The backbone of the staircase is made of thin wooden slats – 34 in total – which have been glued together and then bent to form its shape.

Bill and Anne Charrier, who bought the house in 2001, describe its style as Scandinavian ski lodge meets American Southwest. The southwestern vibe is evident in the living room with its stucco-covered fireplace. The room also has several sets of French doors that open to the front yard.

On the side of the house opposite the living room is the great room with its post and beam construction. The stucco fireplace is the only wood-burning one in the house.

“The post and the beam, which just brought the forest inside the way it was designed,” Anne said.

Next to the great room is a billiard room with children’s doors which open into a long room with a low, steeply sloping ceiling which could be used for storage but would be an ideal place for the refuge of a grandchild. A child would be delighted with the many nooks and crannies of this house.

Beneath the billiard room is the only part of the house on the lowest level. It has a wine cellar and a 2,000 bottle tasting room and a workshop with a door that leads outside to a two bedroom guest house. Above the entrance to the wine cellar, carved in stone, is the Latin phrase meaning “bear with us” written in runic characters.

The attic above the great hall is a library. The previous owners used it as an exercise room. The Charriers added spiral staircases and built-in shelving to create a two-tier wall of books. French doors open onto a balcony. A secret door between the shelves leads to the bedroom wing.

“I always dreamed of designing a house with secret passages and such,” Anne said. “I just wanted to have some sort of secret door.”

The two-level owner’s suite begins on the main level, on the far right of the house. The bedroom has the shape of a pentagon, and the living room with built-in shelves has the shape of a right triangle.

“The shapes of the spaces are truly magical,” Bill said. “Rooms are large, but have a comfortable scale and all have an interesting shape. The only two square rooms, the traditional rooms in the house are the original two bedrooms from when it was a single level hiker.

The doors that lead from the owner’s bedroom to the bathroom and the two-story walk-in closet are salvaged from a church in South America and are believed to be 400 years old. Two sets of French doors open to a private patio with a hot tub. The stairs in the owner’s bedroom go up to an attic which functions as an office. There is also a door to a private balcony.

The upstairs bedrooms are ideal for children or grandchildren. One of the bedrooms has a climbing pole that leads to a loft, another good hideaway for the kids. The long, narrow room opposite the bedrooms can be used for crafts or homework.

For Anne, the best part of this house is that it serves well as a gathering place for the family.

“You can get the whole extended family to sleep,” she said.

Bill likes its functionality.

“It’s a spectacular house to work from home,” he said.

The three-acre lot has a heated swimming pool, a pond and a gazebo that overlooks the forest. The Charriers say they spotted a red fox, a red-tailed hawk and a blue heron in their backyard.

“We have wonderful wildlife,” Anne said. “You really are in the woods.”

Now that the house has become more than they need, they reluctantly part with it. But their good memories will remain.

The six-bedroom, six-bathroom, 10,400-square-foot main house, with a two-bedroom guest house and a three-car garage, is listed at just under $2.9 million.

11601 Springridge Road, Potomac, Maryland.

  • Bedrooms/bathrooms: 6/6 (main house)
  • Approximate area: 10,400 (main house)
  • Lot size: 3 acres
  • Features: Built in 1951 as a modest backpacker, the house has been transformed over the years by various owners. The limestone exterior and copper roof were added in 2000. The house has a geothermal heating and cooling system. In addition to the main house, the property has a two-bedroom guest house, a three-car garage, swimming pool, pond and gazebo.
  • Listing agents: Jody Aucamp and Wendy Banner, Long & Foster

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