710 Mahone Drive, in the Downs at Meadow Branch, is a building lot with one great asset and many problems. The difficulties with the lot stemmed from its small size, its wedge shape, and the thirteen- foot vertical climb from the street to the back of the lot. Situated at the edge of a very dense subdivision, the lot sits at the top of a cul-de-sac. Consequentially, it has a pie shape and a narrow street frontage of 35 feet. There were houses to the left and the right of the lot, each built to the five-foot side setbacks. Development covenants prescribed a limited palette of traditional materials; the clients’ budget required conventional construction techniques and off-the-shelf interior materials. The one asset the lot did have, however, was that it backed up to Glen Burnie, 250 acres of land reserved in perpetuity as a museum, formal gardens, and open pastures. The house uses the lot’s disadvantages in order to exploit its great asset- the hundreds of acres of pastoral land behind it. Within this pie-shaped lot now sits a house designed primarily for two, but which has the flexibility to accommodate visiting children and grandchildren.

The house was conceived of as three gables, splayed out to fit the pie-shaped lot, with a low, curved piece connecting the gables. The house’s pieces were arranged to maximize privacy from the adjacent neighbors, as well as to maximize livable space. The splayed wings of the house are positioned to form a private garden courtyard for the house; this courtyard can be seen from each of the house’s major living spaces.

One enters the house through the low-slung piece situated between the garage and the bedroom wing gables. These two gables and the low-slung piece create a compact, balanced street facade, and an auto court. After entering the house, the low-slung entry piece becomes a curved, glass-walled dining room that reveals the house’s central courtyard. The entry and dining room piece also connects to the third gable, which contains the living and kitchen wing; its 18-foot high ceiling contrasts with the dining room’s low, exposed beam ceiling. The flanking bedroom wing is two stories. It’s punctuated by a spiral stair, and it terminates with a tower.


  • Builder: Terry B. Livermore, Winchester, Virginia
  • Structural Engineer: Painter- Lewis, P.L.C., Winchester, Virginia
  • Photographer: Ron Blunt Photography, Hedgesville, West Virginia
  • Owner: Tom and Julie Keenan