With an empty nest approaching, Alpharetta residents David and Michele Rowland began to dream about building their forever vacation home. Discovering their slice of Americana in South Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains, the couple decided to lay roots within the exclusive golf community of The Reserve at Lake Keowee. “We’re expecting to use this house for years and years to come. Not only for ourselves, but for our children and, eventually, grandchildren,” says David. He and Michele have two sons, the youngest a senior in high school and the oldest a senior in college.
The outdoors-loving family wanted an ode to the lake lifestyle, without any of the campy or cramped trappings. “We wanted the house to have a cozy cottage feel, but expansive enough to handle having friends and family up here, as well,” says David.
The couple’s vision—a spacious lake house with the feel of a charming English cottage—would require a sharp spatial thinker. Enter Greenville-based architect Brad Wright. His plan involved minimizing scale throughout the rooms and creating Old World charm through the details. “It’s kind of a balancing act between having an open floor plan, but also keeping that cozy feel and not having the scale feel too large a space,” says Wright, who introduced familiar signatures of the storybook English cottage vernacular: a sweeping roofline, wavy-edge siding and elegant copper fixtures. Local stone and rich mahogany doors added luxury to the Old World elements.
Inside, the heart of the house belongs to the great room, a warm space with cathedral ceilings and sliding glass doors that open the room to the great outdoors. “The house faces east, so when you’re sitting in that great room in the morning, it’s just flooded with morning, natural light,” says Wright.
The light-filled lake house is all about ease, so to help the homeowners craft their timeless interiors, Atlanta designer Barbara Westbrook was brought on, quickly pegging her clients’ warm and traditional style. Think black lab (theirs is named Cleo), boat shoes and a fired-up grill at sundown.
Westbrook crafted this ideal by layering antiques with newer elements; chunky upholstery chairs and an overscale coffee table anchor the space while bobbin chairs, pale plaster walls and glass lamps add lightness. “I think the use of furniture in very warm colors and fabrics in different textures really warms up the place,” says Westbrook, who used a mix of check and plaid prints throughout the house.
Flowing from the great room, the charmingly simple kitchen—anchored by a reclaimed wood island—was given a little kick with the addition of antique French cloches over the island. “I like mixing in a little bit of something that’s not quite perfect,” says Westbrook. In the dining room, Windsor chairs and an antique hutch teamed with a new iron chandelier is the perfect example of the designer’s skill for blending old and new. Likewise, her approach to the retreat’s five bedrooms was understated and charming. Iron beds, woven baskets and patinaed accents fulfilled this ethos, as did the dark-painted trim. “It’s a mountain house where they go to relax,” says Westbrook, “so the decor was simply done.”
Indeed, the Rowlands found bliss in their lake home. “The colors, the materials and the fabrics she picked are really soothing,” says David of the designer’s masterful touch. “You just relax when you walk in the house.”
Designer Barbara Westbrook’s Style Secrets
What are the essentials for any lake house? Rocking chairs are a must. Everyone loves a rocking chair to sit in and soak in the lake view.
What’s your design principle? Make it pretty! I love it when I see people’s faces light up when they walk into one of our rooms. Beauty is always appreciated.
I can’t live with… discord.
I can’t live without… my family and friends.
No home is complete without… a little furry critter underfoot. I cannot imagine my home without a kitty or dog. They give unconditional love and could care less what your hair looks like!
How do you beat the heat and stay cool? With Atlanta’s hot and humid summers, it is tough to stay cool. You either have to be in a pool or in an air-conditioned house.
How do you define bliss? Sunshine and 70 degrees.
What does luxury mean to you? The ultimate luxury is to have an entire 24-hour day to myself without a single appointment or plan.
What are your favorite blooms during springtime? Hydrangeas.
What is your idea of the perfect vacation? Italy always seems like the perfect vacation spot. I would love to go back to Florence and soak up all the gorgeous architecture. However, a trip to the Outerbanks with my extended family is always a favorite.
Do you collect anything? Photography. I love the way black-and-white photography looks in my little country clapboard house. It gives it a little bit of a modern edge in contrast to the antiques.