This article was from the December 2003 issue of Greenville Magazine.
Written by: Megan Dunlap
Nearly every child, at one time in his or her life, has been instructed to never “judge a book by its cover.” Aesop even warned in his fables written in 6th century B.C. that “appearances often are deceiving.” Not exactly the characterization one would apply to an individual’s home. That is, of course, unless you are referring to the lake house of Jim and Mary Wilson of Atlanta.
The kitchen sink, imported from France, helps to accentuate the overall European feel of the kitchen. From the front, this lake house appears to be a quaint cottage, housing barely 1,200-1,500 square feet. Cedar shakes, a granite walkway and stairs and copper accents add to the cottage feel.
But, if you wander down to the lakeshore and look back, you’ll soon realize you’ve been duped! This unique 7,000-square-foot, four bedroom lake house is the epitome of deceptive appearances.
“When you see it from the water, it sprawls,” says homeowner Jim Wilson.
Approximately four years ago, the Wilson family decided they needed a weekend getaway, a retreat that was “a million miles away” from the world. There were two requirements for this getaway: it had to be remote and near water. Lake Lanier, located just minutes outside of Atlanta, was too crowded, too commercial, too Atlanta. So, they began their search in the Sunday edition of the Atlanta Constitution. There, hidden among the other listings, was a one-line ad for lots on a lake they’d never heard of – Lake Keowee. “We got on the Internet, typed in Lakekeowee.com and fell in love with what we saw,” says Wilson. “We literally stumbled upon it.” From there, they began to stumble into one lucky break after another. Only one visit to Lake Keowee was required to convince the Wilson’s that they had discovered their remote weekend getaway. They purchased two neighboring lots and began the arduous search for the perfect home design, which they found in a Southern Living Idea House. Stephen Fuller, Inc., an Atlanta-based architectural firm, designed the model, located in the Cuscowilla Golf Community on Lake Oconee. Impressed with the unique boat-shaped design, the Wilsons purchased the plans and hired Stephen Fuller to modify them to fit their needs.
In the original house plans, the Keeping Room was a screened porch. At the suggestion of the Rubio’s, the room was enclosed, and a granite fireplace and large windows that allow a clear view of Lake Keowee were added.
It was through their architect that they stumbled again, this time into Gus and Belinda Rubio. This husband-wife team owns Gabriel Builders, a small, but highly reputable company. Evidence of the Rubio’s expertise in custom-built homes runs throughout the Lake Keowee area. One such home is that of nearby neighbor Tom Glavine. The Rubios came highly recommended, and Wilson says they couldn’t have made a better choice. “They spent our money like it was theirs and built a quality home,” he adds. “We came out of this project with a wonderful new home and two new friends.”
Gabriel Builders, Wilson states, paid great attention to detail and made numer- ous suggestions throughout the construction of their home. The best suggestion, he adds, was the addition of the Keeping Room, located just off the kitchen. A screened porch in the original plans, Rubio suggested widening the hallway, add- ing a double archway and enclosing the porch. The result is a warm and inviting room with a beautiful view of Lake Keowee.
The Wilson’s kitchen invites visitors to congregate around the large island for drinks and casual conversation. The kitchen is filled with natural wood cabinetry, heart of pine floors and granite countertops, not to mention the oversized Euro- pean accents.
In fact, a view of the lake is an integral part of the house’s design. Clearly visible from every room in the house is the shimmering blue water of Lake Keowee. “The water was a big attraction to us,” he says. “The lake is more peaceful than the ocean. And, the house is so well insulated, you can’t even hear boat traffic. Our house in Atlanta is not as well built as this one.”
Another asset of the home, says Wilson, is the open floor plan. The dining and living areas are combined, creating a ca- sual atmosphere for dining and entertaining. Wilson makes special note of the absence of formal rooms, which assists in creating an atmosphere he describes as “calm and relaxing.”
A warm, rustic approach to the interior design accentuates that sense of peace. Highlighting the main floor are vaulted ceilings, exposed beams, custom-made cabinetry, heart of pine floors and rustic light fixtures by Georgia Lighting. The furniture and accessories, provided by Pineapple House Interior Design and Decorating in Atlanta, invite visitors to kick back, relax and enjoy the view.
The casual living theme continues in the home’s lower level, which houses two guest bedrooms, a second smaller kitchen and den. From here, the Wilsons can wander out onto the patio that features a water garden complete with koi. Or, if they are so inclined, they can continue down the hill to the boat dock and pier. Completing the “sprawl” on the back of the house is a screened porch that fea- tures a stone fireplace perfect for those winter weekend visits.
“The house has become an incredible retreat from the pains of the city,” says Wilson. A semi-retired software developer, Wilson, his wife and their 8-year-old daughter enjoy the back-to-nature activities offered in the area. “We enjoy hik- ing and water sports. My daughter enjoys adding to her nature collection. When we’re here, we’re not looking for continuous activity.”
After three years of occupancy, the Wilsons are just as happy today with their retreat. So much so, Wilson says they’ve considered making it their primary residence when their daughter finishes school. “From our perspective, it’s darn near perfect.” And, from all appearances, there’s no deception in that.