One second you are driving along a well-kept suburban street. The next you're heading down a nearly 200-foot driveway toward a house distinctive in both design and surroundings.
Almost hidden among the trees is 1560 Cathell Road, Baldwin Borough, (MLS No. 959723). Listed at $600,000 with real estate agent Marlene McNaughton of Northwood Realty (412-537-7333 or http://www.northwood.com/), the modern, three-bedroom home sits on nearly 11 acres. The owner, a commercial builder, designed and built the house in 2002 for his parents.
"It is an absolutely unique property within a stone's throw of the city with absolute privacy," said Ms. McNaughton. "Finding 10 acres that close to the city is absolutely unheard of today."
From the driveway, the house is large and imposing, with numerous rooflines creating a series of angles balanced by the circular designs of the landscaping and the courtyard driveway. This is the side seen from the front but it only hints at what lies inside.
The house appears as separate yet connected building blocks. Each room is a combination of angles and heights, windows and doors with natural light as a design element. The exterior, covered by synthetic stucco called Dryzit, has a decorative stone base and a composite shingle roof.
Towering walls of windows climb to the cathedral ceiling in the great room. Double-paned windows offer views of the surrounding woods and provide for efficient heating and cooling in the expansive space.
Shaped like the bow of a ship, the great room measures 21 by 30 feet and has a wood-burning fireplace at its center. Engineered hardwood flooring runs from the living space through the dining room and into the kitchen.
The kitchen has its own sense of space defined by the breakfast bar and lowered ceiling. Above it is the second-floor family room. The kitchen boasts a French-door Viking refrigerator/freezer and large Viking gas stove with extra burners and convection oven. The stainless-steel appliances also include the dishwasher and microwave.
A lavish yet practical detail is the use of dark granite for both the counter tops and backsplash. Dark wood cabinets offer plenty of storage space and there is a walk-in pantry, separate laundry room and powder room off the kitchen.
The breakfast bar with seating to one side and sink on the other means occupants can stay engaged with guests in the great room while preparing a meal.
The first-floor master suite includes a 23- by 12-foot bedroom with high ceilings, a walk-in closet and bathroom. Ms. McNaughton describes the bathroom as "compartmentalized" with the shower and vanity in one area and bathtub in the other. There are French doors in the vanity area that leads to the back patio. Ceramic tile surrounds the sunken, jetted bathtub and a nook cut into the wall provides space for a television.
There are two large bedrooms (23 by 11 feet and 15 by 12 feet) on the second floor with wall-to-wall carpeting and private baths. Connecting the two bedrooms is the family room. Open to the great room like a theater balcony, the family room offers a great view of the backyard and the patio.
Repeating the circular pattern of the driveway courtyard, the rear patio is exposed-aggregate concrete and wraps around the one side of the house. A formal garden is laid out at the "prow" of the great room, with variegated shrubbery in stone planting boxes leading to a wide expanse of lawn banked by mature trees. There is a three-car garage with automatic door openers, central air conditioning, natural gas forced air heating and a security system.
The property's assessment is $392,200 (www2.county.allegheny.pa.us/RealEstate/Default.aspx). Over the last three years, 14 properties have sold on Cathell Road for prices ranging from $10,000 in March 2010 to $271,500 in April 2011 (www.realstats.net).
Size: 5.9 square miles
Population: 19,767 (2010 census)
School district: Baldwin Whitehall (www.bwschools.net)
Average 2013 SAT scores: 484 Verbal, 508 Math, 461 Writing
Annual 2014 property taxes on a house assessed at $100,000: $2,890
Borough: $541 (5.41 mills)
School: $1,961 (19.61 mills)
County: $388(4.73 mills)
They're certified green: This past December, Baldwin Borough joined a handful of communities in the region to become certified through the southwestern Pennsylvania Sustainable Community Essentials Certification program.
Includes the Act 50 Homestead Exclusion, which allows the pwners of their primary residence to reduce the value of their assessment by $18,000.
-- Gretchen McKay
Lizabeth Gray: firstname.lastname@example.org.