Photography by Sally Kolar
Modoc Shores may be a second home for this close-knit-family, but it’s their go-to place for summer R&R on the water.
For Michele and Bruce Johnson, their hilltop Modoc Shores house on Clarks Hill Lake offers a front-row perch to the spectacular sunsets that mark the end of a satisfying, fun-filled day.
Sure, the generous windows provide gorgeous views of the setting sun from just about every corner of the house. But the Johnsons also have insider knowledge.
The Johnsons haven’t always been lake people. Michele grew up in Augusta, but her family never went to Clarks Hill. As a Nashville, Tennessee native, Bruce was more inclined to spend his time hunting in the woods than chilling on the water.
Their mindset changed in 1992, however, when Bruce started working at Thermal Ceramics, which has a lake property for its employees. That’s when the Johnsons originally started going to Clarks Hill with their sons, Luke, Caleb and Micah.
“I love fishing. I love being with my family out on the boat,” says Bruce. “They grew up on the lake wakeboarding and tubing.”
The expanding Johnson clan now includes Luke’s wife, Meagan, and their three daughters, Kinley, Addison and Hannah, as well as Caleb’s wife, Macey, and their two children, Landon and Riley. The grandchildren, who range in age from 8 to 1, are growing up on the water, too.
The littlest Johnsons love to ride jet skis, roast marshmallows on one of the three firepits at the lake house and jump off the double-decker dock into the water.
“We have a place in Augusta, but we basically stay here in the summer,” says Michele. “By March, we’re kicking back at the lake.”
Along with the lake views, the two-bedroom house features a great room with an adjoining kitchen/eating area and lots of outdoor living space.
“We didn’t need a big house anymore,” says Michele. “We got rid of the kids.”
Well, not exactly.
“If we’re not at the lake house, the kids are here with their friends,” Bruce says. “All of us are avid boaters.”
So, maybe the downsizing didn’t work out as planned. Frankly, though, the Johnsons wouldn’t have it any other way.
They spend all of the holidays – from Easter to the Fourth of July to Christmas – at the lake. For the Fourth, they’ll decorate, grill out and watch fireworks. And ribs on the smoker are a must.
“We have a lot of fun,” says Michele. “We ride jet skis. We have Easter picnics, parties and Lowcountry boils. We have a lot of family events at the lake.”
Décor to Adore
Even when the whole family isn’t there in person, they’re ever-present in the family photo collage on a wall in the great room. The space also features tile flooring, a stand-alone electric fireplace, a ceiling fan and a red sectional couch.
A Clarks Hill Lake reservoir map hangs on a wall by the door. Two open black shelves on the wall behind the couch are sandwiched between two black-framed mirrors. A green wreath centered in the middle of each mirror enhances the décor.
The adjoining galley kitchen features granite countertops, a tile backsplash and dark cabinetry. A pie safe with glass-paned doors provides additional storage, and a peninsula, which most likely is covered with food when the family is at the lake, provides separation from the great room.
To set the tone for fun, Michele draws a picture on a wood-framed chalkboard in the kitchen. “I change the picture every season,” she says. “My mom says I draw like a kid.”
The current artwork depicts a sailboat on the water and says, “Summer Fun” and “Lake Day.”
The family can gather around the table in the eating area, and a bench on one side offers plenty of seating for the grandchildren. A glass cylinder vase, filled with greenery and tied with a yellow and white checked ribbon, sits on a riser in the center of the table. Lemons and limes around the vase complement the sunny colors.
Featuring a nautical theme, the guest room has navy and white bedding. A decorative sailboat rests atop a chest, and a wood sign on the wall says, “Happiness comes in waves.” A round mirror above the bed resembles a porthole.
The master bedroom suite is on the second story of the house. The room features a ceiling fan, sleigh bed and an upholstered bench at the foot of the bed. A window ledge runs the length of one wall.
The room also has a sitting area with a glass-topped bistro table, a pair of armed chairs, a couch and a small chandelier overhead.
Patios & Porches
While the interior of the house offers lots of comfortable spots for togetherness, all of the outdoor living space practically negates the need to ever go inside.
A brick pathway from the driveway leads to a small patio on the side of the house. A decorative butterfly hangs on the door to the eating area, and planters contain colorful hydrangeas, daisybushes, Brazilian jasmine and carnations.
A chalkboard easel says, “Welcome to the Johnsons. Est. 1987.” That’s the year they got married, but their love story began when Michele was in high school and Bruce came to her house with a friend who was dating her sister. (Her sister and Bruce’s friend married each other, also, but the Johnsons beat them to the altar.)
A small patio in the front yard features a firepit surrounded by outdoor furnishings. Strings of lights and ferns in hanging baskets are suspended from thin black poles around the sitting area.
Two birdhouses, including a lighthouse-shaped birdhouse, hang on another pole, and a yard sign says, “Life is Better By the Water.”
The deck is another favorite spot, where the Johnsons like to gather around the bar-height table with a firepit in the middle. Lights are strung along the railing, and a pair of decorative, oversized, pink flip flops with white polka dots hangs on the door to the great room.
When it’s seriously time to decompress, though, the Johnsons retreat to the screened-in back porch.
“Bruce wanted to turn the porch into a junk hunting room,” Michele says. “I said, ‘No, no, no.’”
She was right.
This porch features wicker furnishings, a bead board ceiling, a fountain where the sound of trickling water soothes the soul and a swing bed that Bruce and Micah made from pine wood for Michele as a Mother’s Day gift in 2015. They also made the pine TV cabinet on the porch.
“We love the porches,” says Michele. “The swing bed on the back porch is my spot. I drink wine on it. I drink coffee on it.”
A pillow on the porch says, “Life is better on the porch.” Yes, this message competes with the yard sign that declares life is better on the water, but who could argue with either claim?
The upper level of the dock features two umbrellas that shade four lounge chairs and a table with a firepit. The Tigé, which is Michele’s boat, and Bruce’s fishing boat are parked underneath.
From enjoying the views to riding jet skis, boating to Lakeside Grill to relaxing on the beach area, fishing to just hanging out together, the Johnson family has a lot to love about the lake house. Perhaps, though, Meagan hits the high water mark when she sums up its appeal.
The best thing about spending time at the Modoc Shores house, she says, is “making memories with our kids.”
By Betsy Gilliland