Lan Cao wanted a home on the water, one that gave her an open and peaceful feel. She also wanted a community with a lot of amenities. She got all that and more when she bought her 8,500 square-foot Mediterranean-style house on a hill overlooking a pond at the residential resort community of Kingsmill on the James.
Lan, an author and a professor at the William & Mary Law School, moved into the Kingsmill home in 2004 with her husband, Bill Van Alstyne, also a law professor, and daughter, Harlan, then two-years-old. Kingsmill’s location just three miles from Colonial Williamsburg and the College of William & Mary was a major attraction to the couple.
“The original owners, who had built the house, were Greek,” said Lan. “The entire first floor has no doors, except for one to the study. Instead, the rooms are separated by rows of arches. It makes the house feel very open and airy.”
In fact, arches are recurring features on both the inside and outside of the 1984 home. Its entrance is covered by an arched, two-story front porch. The 2,700 square feet of gracefully curved decking that wraps around the back of the house includes an arched brick barbeque alcove. Inside, the grand foyer opens to an unusual, double staircase rising to a wide, arched opening on the second floor; on the main level, the foyer has a double archway into the home’s great room. Floor- to- ceiling windows in many of the rooms, including the great room, maximize the gorgeous water views and add to the open feel of the home.
Surprisingly, the 6-bedroom, 6- bath home had several Asian-style features. “Cabinet handles, shades on the outdoor lighting, and some of the drapes had an Asian style,” said Lan.” Since I’m Asian, that fit for me.”
The home’s main floor includes a 28’ x 33’ great room with a nearly 30-foot-high ceiling and a striking, two-story sculptural white stone fireplace. Lan said she does not often use the huge room, but has hosted her law school’s “Supreme Court Preview” dinner for 80-100 academics and other guests there. “It’s a perfect space for entertaining,” she noted.
The main level includes a dining room and a study with a fireplace and full bath. A main floor game room is equipped with a pool table, a ping pong table, and big screen TV. “My daughter likes playing her Wii there,” Lan noted.
The heart of the home is the eat-in kitchen and family room, which open to each other and share a fireplace. “It’s where we hang out as a family,” Lan said. “It’s my favorite spot in the house.”
In the eight years the family has been in the house, they have changed little. “We did take out white flooring in the kitchen to replace it with terra cotta,” Lan said. “The white showed too much dirt.”
The couple also switched the kitchen cook top from electric to gas to accommodate Bill’s needs as the family cook. The kitchen is fully equipped with a Sub Zero refrigerator, double ovens, a beverage chiller, and a large, granite-topped center island. A brick accent wall includes an arched alcove that is home to the cook top.
Although Kingsmill has a beach and full-service marina, the couple added a small boat dock on their 1.44-acre property. The dock allows them to launch their small rowboat and kayak, and provides a convenient place to feed Jim and Ann, the pair of white swans that live on their pond. “The swans come when we call them,’” said Lan, laughing. “And, our standard poodle comes running when we say Jim and Ann are here.”
Kingsmill Pond does get more crowded in the spring, Lan added.”Every year one swan shows up and we worry that something might have happened to the other. Then, the other one reappears with 5 or 6 chicks in tow.”
As she had hoped when she bought the house, Lan finds living on the water very peaceful, at least most of the time. “There is a large eagle or hawk, a predator bird, that sits on a tall, straight tree in our yard. It sits very still and then dives down to catch a fish in the pond,” Lan said. The pond attracts wildlife that is fun to observe, especially from the deck and its ornate gazebo perched right above the water.
Kingsmill has three swimming pools, which the family often use. The gated community also offers 15 tennis courts, a club house with restaurants and a spa, and several playgrounds. Since Lan and her family are not golfers they don’t use the community’s three championship golf courses that recently led Kingsmill to be named one of the 75 Best Golf Resorts in North America by Golf Digest.
The family does enjoy the biking and walking trails that wrap around the community. “The trails are very long, some of them are paved and some not. It could take an hour or two to make the trail’s loop,” Lan said.
Lan and her family are relocating to southern California. They have put their home on the market through John “Mr. Williamsburg” Womeldorf, who was recommended by Lan’s friend after John helped her buy a home.
“Right after the sale, my friend went to Canada,” Lan said. “ She was planning to replace her new home’s very stained carpeting with hardwood floors when she got back, and mentioned to John in a phone call that she couldn’t stand the idea that she’d have to come home and see that stained carpeting. When she returned from Canada, she found that John had gone in on his off hours and taken out all the stained carpeting. This was after the transaction was already done, and John had been paid. It impressed me that John is not only knowledgeable, but also decent and a nice guy.”
It won’t be easy for Lan to leave her Kingsmill Pond home. “We travel a lot and the house is filled with mementos and photos from our trips,” Lan noted. “My daughter grew up in this house and there are memories here of each phase of her life.”
“We’ve enjoyed that this is not a formal house, it’s furnished for daily living,” Lan added. “This is an easy- to-live-in place.”
Read more about Kingsmill here
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