Great clients don't guarantee great architecture, but they certainly smooth the path. The owners of this new house came with all the critical ingredients: an ample budget, a prime site, and a deep appreciation for contemporary architecture. “He grew up playing in the Farnsworth house,” says architect David Jameson of the husband, whose father knew the owner of the iconic Ludwig Mies van der Rohe building. “He grew up loving architecture.” As a result, “It was one of those commissions where the client lets you do whatever you want and craft every little thing.” In the opinion of our judges, Jameson took full advantage of the opportunity.

Jameson's plan echoes the pinch-waisted shape of the site. Two inward-bending wings, stone clad at the ground floor and glass above, bracket a glass-walled central pavilion. The north wing contains entry, public, and guest spaces; the south wing, the owners' private realm. Jameson calls the central pavilion “sort of a courtyard for living.” Here he located the home's core functions of kitchen, dining, and living in a volume whose angular geometry suggests the growth of crystals.

The building's exterior wears a museum-grade shell of stone, bronze, and glass. Stone, bronze, and mahogany dominate the interior, which features such bravura moves as a stair of cantilevered cherry slabs, whose stainless steel railing frames a gleaming tangle of aluminum ribbons. Especially intriguing is the ceiling of the living pavilion, which comprises hundreds of 100-millimeter mahogany blocks milled in an acoustic pattern. “This house has a really fresh aesthetic,” concluded one judge. “It doesn't come from anywhere else.” Another judge, an architect, offered perhaps the highest possible praise: “I love looking at houses and thinking, I never could have come up with that.' It's so different, but it's so good.”

Project Credits
David Jameson Architect, Alexandria, Va.
Builder: Accent General Contracting, Rockville, Md.
Living space: 9,000 square feet
Site: .5 acre
Construction cost: $175 a square foot
Photographer: Paul Warchol

Resources: Bathroom plumbing fittings: Dornbracht; Dishwasher: Asko; Entry doors/interior doors/interior paneling/trimwork/windows: RKI; Garage doors: Wayne Dalton; Garbage disposer: In-SinkErator; Hardware: Modrian; HVAC equipment: Water Furnace; Insulation: Icynene; Kitchen plumbing fittings: Blanco; Kitchen plumbing fixtures: KWC; Lighting fixtures: Iris; Oven: Wolf; Paints: Lukinson & Co.; Refrigerator: Sub-Zero; Security system: InterAmerican Security.