Lakeside Luxe

Robert Brown and architectural firm Spitzmiller & Norris balance rustic comfort with modern sophistication for the interior designer’s personal Lake Hartwell retreat.

Lake Hartwell has been a near-constant presence in the lives of interior designer Robert Brown and his family. Not only was Brown’s wife was born and raised there, but the couple once lived at the lake full time before settling in Atlanta. Feeling a longing to reestablish a presence in the area, Brown decided to build a lakefront getaway, one that would serve as a weekend escape from the business of running both his design firm and his retail shop, Townhouse. With the help of architectural firm Spitzmiller & Norris, the designer has created a retreat that exudes both comfort and style.

“This house was my attempt to do something casual, laid-back and easy,” says Brown. Furniture is arranged for maximum comfort, with chairs and sofas placed within easy reach of coffee and end tables—or, huddled close to a fireplace, as in the living room. Brown also employed texture, most notably in the form of whitewashed pine-plank walls, to emphasize the rustic setting, while carefree cotton and linen fabrics further impart an easygoing sensibility. The home’s neutral color palette was chosen with relaxation in mind, affording the designer a departure from his workaday tools of the trade: namely, color and pattern.

And yet, for all of its relaxed touches, Brown’s lake house is imbued with more than a whiff of sophistication. “This is as rustic as Bob Brown can go,” the designer admits. “It’s casual, but it still has personality.” Metal furniture, such as the sunroom’s chrome and deer-hide stools, strikes an urbane note, as do black-and-white photographs and contemporary accessories, all of which act as a counterbalance to the home’s more traditional furnishings. “I couldn’t do all traditional in this house,” Brown explains. “I needed a few modern pieces.”

It’s the sentimental pieces, though, that ultimately provide the most comfort. Brown’s childhood dining table (minus a few of its leaves) now serves as an end table in the sunroom, while a toy sailboat that once belonged to his now 27-year-old son holds pride of place in an upstairs sitting room. “It makes you feel good to have those old things around you,” Brown says. “Hopefully we’ll pass these pieces on to our children.”