For 10 years, Babak Arvanaghi and his wife, Ellie Tabar, searched for the perfect waterfront property to become their weekend home. In 2007, the couple, then living in McLean, found what they were looking for: A small Mt. Vernon rambler on 4736 Neptune Drive that overlooked the mouth of the Potomac River.
“It’s on the widest part of the river so it has panoramic views,” said Babak. “You can see down the Potomac as opposed to just across it.”
Babak, a physician, and Ellie, managing director of his medical practice, first planned to do limited remodeling and use the home only on weekends. But the projects grew, and the rambler was essentially razed to build a large new home with unique custom features.
“Once it was finished, we decided it was just too nice to be a second home,” said Ellie. So, after three years of using the home mainly on weekends, the couple made it their primary residence.
The four-bedroom, open-concept home was built by Arcon Design/Build with a lot of input from Babak and Ellie. “We wanted a water view from every room, and no columns or walls that would obstruct the views,” said Babak. “We also wanted a Jacuzzi on a second floor deck.”
Mediterranean and Modern
The home’s styling is a combination of Mediterranean, especially on the exterior, and very modern inside the home, said Ellie.
“We have done away with all the walls on the first floor, but if you put walls up between the living areas it would be a Colonial,” added Babak. “Some contemporary homes are very inefficient, they don’t have a good flow. But a Colonial design is efficient.”
Creating an open main floor with no interior support walls posed structural challenges, Babak said. The couple’s choice of heavy, 3’ x 3’ marble slabs for their flooring, and an eight-person hot tub on the second floor deck added to the challenge.
“Because of the special design with no walls, they had to bring in cranes for the heavy-duty metal needed to support everything,” Babak noted. “We went back and forth several times with the structural engineers.”
The home looks light and airy, due not only to the multitude of windows, but also the couple’s choice of fanciful and delicate wrought ironwork features, and white marble flooring on the main level floors and on the stairs.
“The marble slabs are huge and unique and make the house rich in every sense of the word,” Ellie said. “I like the look of marble, it’s so calming.”
The wrought iron along the gracefully curving main staircase and on some doors—including the doors to the couple’s wine cellar and three-stop elevator—was custom-crafted. The ironwork detailing is also evident on rails in front of the three livingroom French doors that open to the water. “The rails make it feel like a Tuscan balcony,” said Ellie.
The different living areas on the main level are delineated by the use of furniture and floor coverings, Ellie noted. Light-colored walls and furniture reflect the natural light that streams through the many tall windows.
The couple’s cherry kitchen cabinetry is British-made by Clive Christian. All of the high-end appliances are hidden behind cabinets or panels for a more contemporary look.
“When we built the kitchen, the kitchen designer, Rosie of Clive Christian didn’t approve of the quality of the marble countertop and felt it had to go,” notes Babak. “So we had to pay for someone else to come in and do a better job.”
The couple also had a large kitchen table custom-made with a marble top that matches the countertops. Photos of the kitchen have been used in several Home & Design magazine advertisements for Clive Christian, Babak said.
One of Ellie’s favorite features is her master bedroom dressing room, which utilizes cabinetry by Habersham.
“It looks like a 1920s Hollywood style,” said Ellie. “None of the clothes show, they are all in cabinets. It’s truly a dressing room and not a closet.” The master bedroom furniture, which has a similarly ornate styling, is also by Habersham.
The couple enjoys the second-floor deck, which is accessible though a landing that features a cabinet-enclosed chef’s kitchenette.
“From the outside, and even more from the inside, it doesn’t feel like you are in Alexandria, Virginia—it feels like you are in Europe, in a resort,” said Ellie. “The house is big, but small enough so that you can see each other. We use every bit of the house...everything works.”
The couple is down-sizing, now that their son is off to college. The house is for sale for $4,550,000 through Lillian Jorgenson of Long & Foster Real Estate.
What the couple will miss most when they leave is the same thing that brought them to Neptune Drive five years ago—the water.
“The water views here are not boring. In the morning and evening the water color changes, it’s like a painting,” Babak said. “I’ve been here several years and I am still mesmerized by the beauty of this area. And, we have enjoyed it from every area of this house.”