Photography by Haley Lamb
Some folks just know where they belong. Count Joel Ferrara of Evans as one of those people.
When he was growing up, he used to spend his summers at Clarks Hill Lake with a friend whose parents had a small lake cabin in Lincolnton. “We would go back home for a day and mow about 30 yards,” he recalls.
Fast forward a few years, and Joel, who lives in Jones Creek, still uses the lake as an escape. He bought a house at Clarks Hill last year, but he makes sure that his homes have separate functions.
“I work from home, so I don’t want the lake house to become just another office,” says Joel, who owns Bonsai Produce & Distribution. “I just want to come up here and relax.”
He looked for a house at the lake for a long time, but he couldn’t find what he wanted. In fact, he had looked at his Keg Creek house once but decided he wasn’t interested.
“I didn’t want to get into a big renovation,” he says. “But after looking at every house on Clarks Hill, it was either renovate or build.”
After a second look, he decided he liked the house’s large lot and proximity to town. Sold. Before the house was ready for full-time R & R, however, there was work to be done. The house underwent extensive remodeling to convert it into a modern, yet rustic, cabin.
Point of View
The changes begin at the road. The wrought iron gates that open onto the driveway have been replaced with gates that feature an iron bonsai tree – a common feature in the house in honor of Joel’s business – in the design. The formerly red brick columns are now a natural color.
The house, which previously had a green exterior and a small front porch, has undergone a transformation inside and out. The new façade features natural-colored siding; a covered porch with rough-sawn posts and a metal roof that stretches across the front of the house; wood shutters, including a pair of Bermuda-style shutters made of rough-sawn cedar; a wooden bridge to the front porch and stacked stone on an addition to the house. A pair of white cedar rockers, which came from Helen, Georgia, set the tone for the rustic décor inside.
A window occupies the spot where the original front door opened into a small, closed area, and the stairs have been moved from their initial location right inside the front door. The locations of the kitchen and the billiards room were flipped as well.
Joel knew he wanted a two-story vaulted wood ceiling, a big fireplace, a nice entry, a spacious kitchen and a large master bedroom. He turned to Brittany Wallace of Brittany Wallace Interiors, who had helped him with his house in Jones Creek, for her expertise.
“He called me one day and asked, ‘Do you want another project?’” Brittany says. “We walked through the house and figured out the plan. The house needed to be warm, rustic and masculine, but comfortable with modern touches.”
Of course, the house needed to take advantage of the spectacular view of the water as well.
“It’s probably one of the best lots on the lake,” says Joel. “We have a big view. We’re not on the main channel, but we still get big water and a big view because the lot doesn’t have too many trees.”
The original house had 8-foot ceilings, but the vaulted, two-story pine ceiling in the great room, which overlooks the water, gives the room an open, airy feeling. The room also features reclaimed heart pine flooring, a stacked stone wood-burning fireplace with a cedar mantel, two ceiling fans, a chandelier and a flat-screen TV.
A pair of one-of-kind teak root chairs occupies the space in front of the windows on either side of the fireplace. The coffee table features a rustic metal top.
A large Peter Lik photograph, which Joel got in a Las Vegas gallery, hangs on one wall in the great room. Sconce lights on the wall above the frame highlight the picture. “It makes it look like sunset and sunrise when you turn the lights down or bring them up,” says Joel.
The photo hangs above a chest that is made of old railroad ties. Two round tables by the couch in the great room, along with a table on the porch, also are made of railroad ties.
The billiard room/bar area, where the original kitchen was located, is adjacent to the great room. Although the view of the lake was obstructed in the original kitchen, the area now overlooks the lake and a covered porch outside.
“The pool table was the only thing that stayed from the previous owners,” says Joel. “I’m not a big pool player, but I like to have people around. So why throw it away?”
The bar in the corner of the room features distressed wood cabinets, and the granite countertop, which has lots of color and variation, includes a brushed finish. Tucked in another corner of the room, a Jack Daniels barrel serves as a table and iron chairs are modeled after old tractor seats. Old pulleys hang on the wall above the table, and an iron bonsai tree occupies another wall.
A three-quarter bath is adjacent to the billiard room. “This is the one that everyone sees, so it had to be cool,” Brittany says.
Strips of tile run from a porcelain wall, which matches the floor and the shower, to the center of the floor and line up with the center of the shower to create a waterfall effect. The vanity features a sandstone vessel sink, distressed wood and a granite countertop. A set of knobs on the vanity cabinet and on the linen closet doors features a compass design.
Keeping in Step
During one of many renovations to the original house, the floor stepped down to an addition. That step-down is gone, but the house now includes a step-down to the kitchen because of its a low ceiling. The tile flooring in the kitchen contrasts with the heart pine flooring in the great room to call attention to the step-down.
The kitchen island, which is painted pale green with a glaze, features the same granite – with lots of color variation – as the countertop on the wet bar. The solid black perimeter countertops with a brushed finish don’t clash with the rest of the kitchen features, and the deep, single-basin, granite composite sink blends in with the countertops.
Three light fixtures above the kitchen window give the room soft lighting and the feel of a rustic, old farmhouse. The kitchen also features a stacked stone backsplash and stainless steel appliances. The wood, custom-made hood above the stove serves as a focal point in the room.
Joel added two guest bedrooms to the house, which are connected by a Jack-and-Jill bath with brushed granite countertops and rustic fixtures.
The master bedroom takes advantage of the lake view. “The sunlight in here is minimal, so we decided to leave the windows wide open,” says Joel. The trees outside offer privacy, and another bonsai tree makes an appearance in the room in the form of an iron base to an oval glass-topped table.
The master bath features tile flooring and pebble mosaic under the free-standing tub and on the shower floor. The space includes contemporary fixtures with channel faucets, and more Peter Lik photos hang on the walls.
The renovations to the house, which features taupe trim throughout, took seven months to complete. However, Joel says he spends 90 percent of his time on the covered porch in the rear. “I haven’t even laid on that giant sofa in the great room,” he says.
Joel and his fiancé, Toni Snoddy, like to entertain friends at the lake, and a bead board ceiling tops an outdoor kitchen that adjoins the porch.
The covered porch includes a pine ceiling, a one-piece picnic table and benches made of cedar slabs, a stacked stone fireplace with a cedar mantel, flat-screen TV, pine decking and a railing around the porch. He recently added curtains to the space, and a table in the sitting area features a weathered wood base and a copper top.
“I like to build a fire, relax and watch TV outside,” he says.
However, this will be the first summer that he has been able to enjoy his lake house, so he expects his habits to change. “I imagine I’ll be in the water most of the summer,” he says.
By Betsy Gilliland
Photography by Haley Lamb