The A-frame Lake Murray home George Rush built in the 70s is filled with memories. Today, a new boathouse adds a chic spot for entertaining and celebrating the family’s past, present and future.
By Katherine Pettit Photos by Sally Scott
Donna Rush Chumley, along with her sister, Greta and brother, John, enjoyed Lake Murray as children. The tradition has carried through to the next generation. “We were in the suburbs of Columbia,” she said from the family home built by George Rush and sited on about three acres and 200 feet of waterfront, now surrounded by neighborhoods. “My parents were divorced, and we would visit my dad and have wonderful times.” The view of the lake remains the same, except there’s a stone-wrapped upgraded pool area just steps from the water.
Donna points out the bedrooms she and her siblings shared, which have been favorites of the next generation as well. The second-floor master – up the spiral staircase – was her father’s domain. The warmth of wood is everywhere including a substantial amount of pecky cypress covering the walls. The swinging chair that all the children loved is still swinging gently, with the same beautiful Lake Murray views. “My sister would head for that chair first,” Donna said, laughing.
She spent years working at Rush’s and it’s where she met her husband, Greg. “I lived behind the original restaurant and almost every day, I’d find a reason to go to Rush’s,” he said. They’ve been married for 28 years.
Family still enjoys the home for getaways, but in 2019, Donna and her husband, Greg, decided to add a building behind the older house that would give them more rooms for family and an updated entertaining space. They named it the “Boathouse” at least partially because a large pontoon boat is stored there.
Donna has recently started R&R Interiors and Designs with her business partner, Madison Bressler. Donna pulled out all the stops to use her design and home furnishings skills to make this building something very special. “The ground level is really mostly about Greg,” she said as we walked through the massive storage room for the boat and peeked into a well-equipped workshop.
What isn’t about him is the small area which provides a bit of nostalgia for Rush’s early years. Two orange swivel stools from the first restaurant are positioned at a constructed lunch counter. Several vintage signs also came from the earlier years. There’s a fridge and sink, and bathroom. Three miniature boat motor sculptures are on the counter, and always draw interest from visitors. The area provides a bit of whimsy amidst the downstairs area. Here as well as upstairs, Donna’s talents shine.
From the stairs, you walk into the open concept kitchen and living area. Near the top of the stairs is a cabinet custom-designed by Donna. Open shelving at the top displays lovely pieces, while the closed bottom is for storage. She sketched the design and the cabinetmakers took it from there. Substantial bar chairs provide comfortable seating to watch the cook prepare snacks or fix drinks. The color palette is cool and soothing. “I couldn’t decide between gray or beige for the walls and came up with the idea of greige paint. And then we found a greige color which was perfect.”
There are gentle blues and cream colors which showcase some of the couple’s favorite pieces. The dining room table displays a bejeweled oversized cheeseburger sculpture, reminding the visitor of the family’s passion.
A painting of boats purchased at High Noon in Ballentine is on the living room wall – the piece that Donna speculates she would probably grab in case of fire. Murray, their West highland terrier is clearly a beloved part of the family dynamic. It’s a lovely area.
“I had lots of professionals who help me find the pieces I visualized,” Donna said, including contractors Mitch and Doris Neal of Turner Building Systems. Her dear friend, Sally Scott, who photographed the home for Columbia Living offered her creative eye. Deb Kelly at La-Z-Boy helped her choose the furniture. Professionals at The Nest helped with important fixtures and appliances. E.D.’s Paint and Windows assisted in window covering and Wade and Joel helped find the greige paint and other colors that fit Donna’s aesthetic. The area is cozy and filled with light. Not too big; not too small, beautifully appointed and just right.
A staircase behind the kitchen heads up to a playroom. A pool table stands ready and around the corner, a seating area is anchored by signed artwork and a guitar from Hootie and the Blowfish.
Even with two houses, there’s plenty of room on the property for future expansion or renovation. For now, the setting is ideal for the family. Nostalgic yet new, it’s perfect for all the family and friends who are remembering good times and making new memories, lakeside.
R&R Interiors and Designs
Rush’s, Then and Now
In 1940 the Rush family operated a little drive-in at the edge of their dairy farm in the St. Andrews area. After fire destroyed the small Carolina Dairies building, the Rush family reopened as a drive-up Dairy Queen on the same site along Broad River Road, and it remained a Dairy Queen until the early 1960s.
Young entrepreneur George Rush expanded the restaurant’s food and service capabilities and changed the name to Rush’s. The blue and orange landmark was a popular meeting place that served delicious burgers and shakes.
Beginning in 1980, Rush’s began an expansion program, eventually opening nine more restaurants in Columbia, Lexington and Camden. The cheeseburger with all its variations remains the top seller. The fried chicken is second. Nine flavors of milkshakes remain very popular. The tasty treats are a result of the precise testing from their founder.
After George Rush passed away in 2008, hometown favorite Rush’s has remained a locally owned and operated family business.