Photography by Sally Kolar
Seeing Clarks Hill Lake from their homes is mandatory for an extended Keg Creek family – and so is taking advantage of all the water sports the lake has to offer.
As self-described “water people,” members of the Hensley family knew they wanted a house with a view when they bought lakefront property on Keg Creek in 2010. For them, however, one of the best things about having an unobstructed view of Clarks Hill Lake is the means to share it.
And they take that sharing quite literally. After all, the property is home to not one, but two, Hensley families.
Brenda and Kent Hensley built a retirement home on the lakefront property in 2011. Their son, Daniel, and his wife, Sarah, built a home for themselves and their two children, Raymond and Janie, on the same site in 2012. The two houses are connected by an oversized carport that doubles as an entertainment venue with four ceiling fans, three hanging chairs, a bead board ceiling and plenty of space for friends and family to gather.
“Our goal was for every room to have a view of the lake,” says Brenda. “If you’re going to live at the lake, it’s all about the view. That’s what drew us to the property.”
Something About the Water
Brenda and Kent, who met at Richmond Academy before she was “old enough to date” and have been married for 45 years, have four children and 11 grandchildren. And lake life is a longstanding family tradition.
“I grew up on the lake. My parents had a house on Ridge Road,” says Brenda. “I learned to waterski before I learned to swim.”
The Hensleys’ lake house is a place for their grandchildren to enjoy the water as much as Brenda did when she was a young girl.
“My goal when children come here to play is to have them so tired that they’re asleep before they get off of Keg Creek Drive. And they usually are,” she says. “Something about the water makes you eat more and sleep more.”
To take advantage of the view of their liquid playground, a sunroom overlooking the lake has full-length windows that stretch across the back of the room.
“The house looks tiny with three windows in the front. The rest of the windows are across the back. It’s all about the view,” says Kent. “The first thing I do in the mornings is open the curtains. I like the natural light to come in, and I like to see the water from wherever I’m standing or sitting.”
The sunroom also features tile flooring, furniture with durable Sunbrella upholstery, tropical ceiling fans and two birdfeeders outside. Brenda’s favorite spot in the house is a chair in the sunroom.
“I can see the birdfeeders and the lake, and I can see who’s going out and who’s coming in,” she says. “We see headlights from the road and the lake.”
The trio of German antique glass windows in the custom-built-mahogany front door also were situated so that Brenda can see outside.
Sliding glass doors connect the sunroom to the master bedroom. The space also includes a trey ceiling, and Kent made the headboard for the bed out of a pallet.
“My wife suggested it, and then I found examples – where else? – on Pinterest,” he says. “She’s the idea person, and I’m the doer.”
With the open floorplan in the house, the lake view is visible from the kitchen and adjoining dining area as well.
The galley kitchen features a granite-topped peninsula beneath a hanging pot rack with lights, lots of drawer space, spice rack pullouts on each side of the oven, a tile backsplash, custom-built cabinets and a walk-in pantry.
“The countertop is a solid piece of granite with no seams,” says Brenda.
While the Hensleys like to entertain, playful signs around the house let guests know that they are welcome to make themselves at home. For instance, one sign posted in the kitchen says, “If you want breakfast in bed, sleep in the kitchen.” And, says Kent, “One of the grandchildren did it.”
A gas fireplace is tucked into the corner of the adjoining dining area. “I love having the mantel to decorate. I’m constantly doing something with it,” says Brenda.
The room also features a round, distressed, pedestal Ernest Hemingway table. A granite lazy Susan, which was made from the same piece of granite as the kitchen countertop, sits in the middle of the table, and bonded leather chairs surround it.
“I needed something for wet people to sit on,” Brenda says.
Fun for All
The Hensleys offer plenty to do for people to get wet, and the basement is designed to accommodate them as well.
Serving as the “boat station,” built-in cubbies are full of flip flops of every size, stacks of beach towels and anything else anyone would need to enjoy the water. Brenda also keeps all kinds of bathing suits on hand so no one has an excuse to sidestep the water. Leaning against the cubbies, Kent’s wakesurf board is placed strategically to show off his nickname – “Granddaddy Shortlegs.”
The basement also includes a concrete floor (again, with dripping wet people in mind), a kitchenette with a tile backsplash and cabinetry that came from Brenda’s parents’ house, and a foosball table. A ping pong table is tucked away in a storage area.
A ladder hangs horizontally on a basement wall, and between each rung is a canvas photo of one of their grandchildren doing some sort of water activity such as wakeboarding, wake surfing, tubing, water skiing or jet skiing.
More of Kent’s handiwork can be found in the basement, where he built a queen-sized Murphy bed and the barn doors that conceal the bed and two storage rooms.
“Sometimes he has to warm up to the idea,” Brenda says of his home projects.
He doesn’t argue. “I have to be told, ‘Yes, you can do this,’” Kent says. “And I have to have the time.”
The Hensleys make time every year to have Fourth of July and New Year’s Eve parties for 100-plus people. When they entertain, they like to grill out and make homemade vanilla, chocolate and butter pecan ice cream. They serve the ice cream from the basement kitchenette, and everyone eats it on the screened-in porch. A 1946 claw foot tub that Brenda turned into a koi pond occupies space beneath stairs next to the porch.
When the Hensley families entertain, guests can stray back and forth between the two homes. “We serve in both houses,” says Sarah. “We’ll have the main meal in one house and dessert in the other.”
Casual & Comfortable
Of course, Sarah and Daniel’s home offers spectacular views of the lake as well. The family room features full-length windows that overlook Keg Creek, and double doors open onto a balcony.
A stained glass window hangs above the double doors. Sarah’s parents collected stained glass, and this piece, as well as one in the master bath, came from a turn-of-the-20th-century, Midwestern church.
The family room also features a stacked stone, wood-burning fireplace with a mantel made from a single piece of raw-edged cedar that their neighbor gave them when they moved into the house.
A wood column of Eastern cedar from a McCormick, South Carolina sawmill and carpeting provide separation to the family room from the adjoining dining area and kitchen in the open floorplan. The carpeting serves another purpose as well – it helps to keep down noise.
Oak flooring in the foyer, kitchen and dining area has boards that range from 1-1/2 inches to 5 inches in width. The flooring also features walnut inlays around the family room and in a medallion in the foyer. Two identical chests in the foyer were situated side-by-side to look like a china cabinet. An acrylic painting by Anne Downey, one of Sarah’s high school friends, hangs in the foyer as well.
Other accessories in the house showcase Sarah’s “affinity for mermaids.”
“I have mermaids all over the house,” she says.
She also passed along her love of mermaids to her daughter, which is evident by the décor in Janie’s room.
A live water creature has taken up residence in the kitchen where a goldfish swims in a bowl on the counter. The kitchen also features an Island with a granite countertop beneath two pendant lights, a decorative farmhouse sink with a fluted front and gooseneck nickel faucet, subway tile backsplash and chocolate glaze on white cabinets.
“I wanted a light and bright kitchen,” says Sarah.
She stores pots and pans in drawers in the island, and a microwave oven is tucked in the island as well.
The dining area has a door to the carport, and it also opens onto the covered porch where everyone seems to gather – whether they are visitors or live in the house.
“We have a very casual, comfortable house. We want to have a house where everybody likes to come,” says Sarah. “We want to share it with all our friends.”
Some of the artwork in the dining area is particularly meaningful to the family. A picture of Daniel’s late uncle Herbert, which is similar to a well-known photograph of a man with his head bowed over a loaf of bread, hangs above the doors. The original photograph called “Grace” was taken in the early 1900s by Minnesota photographer Eric Enstrom. The picture of Herbert was taken at an AA meeting 35 years ago. “It’s special to us,” Daniel says of the image.
A map of the Appalachian Trail also hangs on a dining area wall. Every fall Daniel and Raymond spend a few days hiking a portion of the trail.
In the carpeted master bedroom, walnut flooring occupies space in front of the fireplace, which features a cedar mantel with a finished edge. This wood also was a gift from their neighbor.
The room offers a view of Keg Creek, and lots of natural light seeps through the windows. Doors lead to another screened porch that overlooks the lake.
Of course, for the Hensleys, playing in the water is even better than looking at it. Daniel and family are competitive wakesurfers, and they organize the Clarks Hill Wakesurf Open in May each year.
For the uninitiated, wakesurfing is a water sport in which a rider trails behind a boat and rides the vessel’s wake without being pulled by the boat. After getting up on the wake, typically with a tow rope, the wakesurfer drops the rope and rides the steep face below the wave’s peak in a manner similar to surfing.
The Hensleys, who spend four or five days a week on the water, also give wakesurfing lessons every Thursday night during the summer at Wildwood Park.
“We’ve always loved the water. We get in the water March 1 and don’t get out until Christmas,” says Daniel. “I work three 12-hour days, and the other days I’m on the water. It’s so peaceful here.”
On those days he spends on the water, he always gets a phone call from Sarah as she’s on her way home from work so he’ll be ready for her to join him. “I go in the house, put on my bathing suit and step off the dock onto the boat,” she says.
In the rare times that Daniel isn’t on the lake, Kent has been known to get on a jet ski and flag down boats to take him wakesurfing. Sarah and Daniel also take their kids out in their wakeboard boat to a group of rocks on the shoreline so Raymond and Janie can jump into the lake where it is eight to 10 feet deep.
“This has been our dream that we never knew was possible,” Sarah says of living on the lake. “We love that our friends like to come here and share it with us.”
By Betsy Gilliland