Ten years ago, auto dealership owner Mike Jennings was hunting for land to build a new home. He wanted a property that offered more privacy than his 3,000 square-foot, waterfront townhome in Old Town, and that was also on the water. During his search, Mike discovered something he didn’t expect: “I was shocked when I realized there was property in Fairfax County with a sandy beach.”
That property — which Mike soon purchased — was nearly seven acres of woodland on the Mason Neck peninsula that included a 190-foot sandy beach along the Potomac River. “It’s a very rare property. I’m 10 to 15 minutes from Springfield, but Mason Neck Park is across the street, and there’s an 800-acre horse farm nearby,” Mike said. “The amount of parkland [around the property] is phenomenal.”
Mike designed his dream home there on Gunston Road, a classic Georgian-style Colonial that he felt worked well with the natural setting. The all-brick home with a two-story, white-columned entrance and an iron-fenced, rooftop deck with sweeping views of the Potomac , was finished in 2003. The walk-out lower level was completed in 2012.
When Mike built the house, he planned for a future that could have included his mother moving in with him and his wife. He installed an elevator, and included two waterfront master bedroom suites, one on the main level and the other —potentially for mom — on the second floor. The second-floor suite has a private balcony overlooking the river, a facial room, and a large dressing room/walk-in closet. It adjoins an exercise room with sauna.
The house, which now totals 18,000 square feet, and includes a catering kitchen and three laundry rooms, was also designed for entertaining family or hosting large-scale events. Mike has often had Thanksgiving dinners at his house for 30 or more guests.
Some of Mike’s choices for interior finishes were impacted by his decision to use walnut flooring through much of the home. “We took a lot of walnut trees down from the property [during construction],” Mike explained. “A contractor took those trees to be milled, but since walnut was so much a part of the property, we wanted to have walnut in the house.”
Finishes such as the chocolate and cream marble tiles used in the foyer, were chosen to enhance the walnut floors. Mike selected cream-colored limestone for fireplaces in the family room and the first-floor master bedroom suite, also providing an attractive contrast with the dark flooring.
Many of the rooms have custom faux painting on the walls or ceilings, ranging from a compass on the library ceiling to whimsical wall murals of poker-playing dogs — Mike’s dogs are included — in the second-floor billiard room. The custom painting was done by Twin Diamond Studios
Rooms for Recreation
The billiard room is only one of the rooms created for fun and games. On the lower level, Mike recently added an eight-seat home theater. “It’s fantastic,” he said. “It has tiered seating and its own HVAC system so it’s very quiet.”
Mike also converted a large part of one garage (there are two) into a workshop to indulge his woodworking hobby. “I enjoy working with wood,” Mike noted. “When I spend time in the workshop I don’t think about anything else. It’s a great way to unwind.”
Another place for Mike to relax is the estate’s slate terrace, which includes a built-in Viking grill. The terrace runs the length of the house and overlooks the beach and the 230-foot dock, where Mike once kept a boat for bass fishing. The drive-down dock has electricity and water, and deep-water channel access.
Sounds of Music
On the main level, a 24-foot long great hall leads from the foyer to a music/reception room with French doors to the terrace and river views. The music room includes a grand piano that Mike’s wife plays. “We got the last member of the Steinway family [in the piano business] to sign it,” Mike pointed out.
Another main level highlight is an 18’ x 16’ mahogany-paneled library that is also home to a late-1800s classical bass. Mike, who once considered being a musician, has played that bass for many years.
Mike installed a whole house sound system, including built in speakers on the terrace.
Post-construction, Mike made some changes to the estate’s exterior. One was to modify the circular driveway and front entrance by adding a lighted, three-tiered stone fountain with a stone surround and benches. “Before, it was just landscaped and that didn’t fit the scale of the house,” Mike said. “The fountain completes the look.”
Mike also removed the home’s original gutters to install copper ones. “I was always upset that we didn’t put in copper gutters originally,” Mike noted. “The total look of the house changed when we put them in.”
While the estate boasts an array of amenities, in the end, a primary allure is the land itself. “From my kitchen I see a tree that, most years, has eagles perching in it,” Mike said. “Now there’s an osprey nest. How could you not love nature when you live here?”