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Potomac's Open House

Annual Potomac County House Tour set for Oct. 2-3.

Area residents will, for the 49th time, be able to visit unusual homes in the name of charity during the Potomac Country House Tour. "All the profits go to charities that benefit families," said Carol Jarvis, publicity chair for his year's tour.

That's why at least one of the families putting their house on the tour decided to do it. "I just think it's really important — the money we raise for the outreach program," said Cindy Riordan.

In addition to helping the two dozen or so charities, visitors will be able to get a sense of some of the latest decorating trends. "All of the houses are up-to date with all of the newest trends and colors," Jarvis said.

Trendy designs are about the only thing that the houses have in common, though. "Each year, we try to get houses that are not similar," Jarvis said.

This year's tour includes a house that initially dated to the 1700s, a Mediterranean-style villa, an English-style country home with a thoroughly modern interior and a house decorated in a "southern" style by a nationally recognized decorator.

Judi Behrens thought her house would make an interesting addition to the Potomac Country House tour. "I've gone on the tour for several years," she said.

The design element most likely to be discussed at Villa Behrens is the 26-foot faux banyan tree inside. "I thought, 'this will set our house apart from any other house in the community,’ " Behrens said.

While she had debated the merits of using a species of tree more native to Maryland, she went with a more exotic species. "I love the gnarled roots of the banyan," she said.

"[The tree] is very effective and very dramatic," Jarvis said.

The outside of Villa Behrens is also decorated. "I have literally surrounded the house with waterfalls," Behrens said. The swimming pool, lined with boulders is often mistaken for a natural grotto, she said.

Cindy Riordan's house is completely different. Her mother helped her decorate the house in a southern style. "Our house is a home, and it reflects who we are," said Riordan, a Georgia native.

The house is very colorful, she said. "It would be very warm and inviting," Riordan said. "It's very like our [southern] climate."

"It's loaded with antiques," Jarvis said.

In addition to her southern flair, Riordan tried to incorporate some pieces which reflect her husband's native Massachusetts, such as a painting featuring former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Tip O'Neill (D-Mass.). "But if you look really close, you can see [President] Richard Nixon (R)," Riordan said.

There are also details like a porch rail which is a copy of an ancestor’s porch rail in Georgia. "There are lots of personal things like that," she said.

Additionally, Walnut Grove, a house which dates to the 1700s is on the tour. It has been expanded from its original size, Jarvis said. "Parts you can absolutely see are the old house," she said. “that’s a good house to look at for renovation."

The final house on the tour was built by its owners, who have built several other custom homes as well. “By the time you have built multiple houses, you really have an understanding of what you want," Jarvis said. "The way she has organized the house, she is really a contemporary mom."

The house, which features an office space in the kitchen — replacing the traditional desk ‚ and a basketball court in the basement, maintains a traditional facade, as it was required to do by the builder, Jarvis said. "It is absolutely not traditional inside the house, whatsoever," Jarvis said.