Ultimate Carpenter's Challenge

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We received a unique phone call to start this project. Jack Levy called our office and started off the conversation -- "You don't know me, but I know you." Jack and his wife Nancy had visited our "Modernizing a Modern" home in McLean on Baron Rd. They fell in love with the timber details and design, found out who the architect was, and by the time they called they had spoken to prior clients, and spent a great deal of time on our website. Jack's second statement was that he wanted to hire the builder that built "Carpenter's Challenge", a project he had fallen in love with on our website.

We then found the land in McLean, brought Gerald Staley Builders onto the team to participate in planning meetings, and worked in a team to plan out what Gerry would explain to his workers is more like a giant piece of furniture than a house. Early planning efforts relied on a good engineer in RC Fields to help us to solve the river literally running through the site during storms. We worked in a team with them and Everett Garden Designs to turn a problem site into a beautiful backyard oasis, complete with a fire pit, pergola, built-in grill, deck, and patios. With a complex drainage system, we solved the water problems of the site and succeeded in creating a special place to spend time outside. Also a special place for Brownie, the Levy's chocolate lab.

Mr. Levy is an attorney specializing in trade and one of his clients is the Cedar Association. Additionally, Ms. Levy is from Paraguay and their combined travel and heritage gave them a huge appreciation for wood and fine woodworking details. After looking at sources for high-quality cedar, Mr. Levy purchased the highest quality cedar one can find from his clients and actually went up to the Canadian border to escort his cedar into the US.

We were challenged to create two main special spaces with a focus on the wood and timbers with this special cedar-- the stair tower, and the great room. The stair tower uses custom 8x8 cedar timbers, timber stringers, and iron railings and is capped by an octagon timber frame designed by us and provided by Streamline Timberworks in Floyd, Virginia. The great room hammer trusses were modeled after those seen in homes of the gilded age, with some added brackets and carvings.

Originally planned to be installed by the fabricator, Streamline Timberworks in Floyd, Virginia, in the end, Gerry Staley and his staff took on the task and did an amazing job. Though these are the main spaces, this truly unique home was detailed by our office with top choice details starting with the foundation, and carrying on to the top quality Loewen windows, insulation package, zip wall sheathing, and top quality heating and cooling systems and plumbing design. The trim package features special details with panelized bay windows inside and out, layers of crown, special trim details in the two-layer foyer, ceiling cove details throughout the house, walnut mudroom, and custom tile and vanity details in every bath. The kitchen features a special one-of-a-kind granite, custom glazed beaded inset Cabico Unique cabinets by Montgomery Kitchen and Bath with special Ballard Mensua details throughout and features a large expansive window behind the sink with views of the backyard oasis and views into the great room.

The exterior is designed in a Japanese-influenced arts and crafts style, and features many more custom cedar details, with corbels, posts, and brackets.

We were grateful from the beginning that the Levy's didn't even interview other architects and then afterwards as you can read on Houzz and Angie's List, Mr. Levy wrote the best review we have ever received. It was a lot of hard work for us and for the challenged carpenters, but it was worth it for all of us and if we could rate clients on a website, the Levy's would get 5 stars as they were such a delight to work with.


McLean, VA

Project Type

custom homes


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