Built for Beauty

Posted On January 21, 2020

Sure, it’s lovely, but it’s also practical, efficient and very comfortable. 

By Katherine Pettit

There’s not a bit of frou-frou to be found. To describe this home is to use words like minimalist, modern, rustic and Asian-inspired and it’s got all those characteristics fused perfectly together. Cookie-cutter, it isn’t. So how did the homeowners discover the talented professionals to create this fusion of art and science? First, they looked on sites like Houzz to find designs to help pinpoint their aesthetic preferences and create accordingly. As it turned out, these homeowners were a bit surprised after they found rooms and homes they liked and there was no traditional image to be found. There was an amazing loft in Seattle with floor to ceiling windows that caught their eye as well as other light-filled, airy rooms and exteriors.

They did their homework, interviewing countless custom builders until they found Vesta Builders, Inc., owned by Tammy and Joe Jur. They’re both licensed builders with an eye for quality and design. “When we saw their chosen photos, the overall look resembled northwestern style homes,” said Joe. “We paired the owners with Jim Phelps, a Charlotte-based architect and designer with whom we had previously worked. We thought it would be a good fit since they wanted something very unique.”

 When Jim studied their preferences, he, too, saw the Northwest design influence.  

“I call it Wrightian prairie style with a nod to Frank Lloyd Wright,” he said. “And when I saw the four-acre property in Northeast Columbia, I knew that type of home would be well-suited to the landscape.” What made the architect very happy was their willingness to embrace a new look. One year later, they broke ground.  

He wanted land. She wanted neighbors. They got both, with the home positioned in the middle of the property. Great views of the lake, a winding driveway that preserved their privacy, and neighbors who were just close enough. The final design included a combination of hard coat stucco and clear western red cedar – a beautiful wood that is virtually knot free. That material was shipped to South Carolina from the Pacific Northwest.  

“It was the perfect scenario for an architect,” Joe said. “These were clients who embraced new ideas with a site that was spectacular.” 

The back of the house includes a screened in porch on the main floor. A deck leads from the living room to the downstairs fire pit and gathering area. A covered sitting area with a grill offers the perfect spot to sit in cozy comfort and enjoy a summer shower as salmon sizzles. 

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. First things first, and that means walking through the massively beautiful 12-foot front door, created by local craftsmen at Southern Custom Doors & Hardware (with a showroom in the Vista), and into soaring ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and the first of many colorful paintings and art pieces sprinkled in every room – all created by the wife’s father.  

Look to the right into the kitchen and through to the stairs (art in itself) that descend to the children’s area, entertainment and game room, and guest bedroom. Straight ahead is open dining with a massive, yet delicate, light fixture in front of the windows. Just to the right is an opening to the screened porch.  The doors open to create an extension of the kitchen and dining area. It’s not a huge space, and that’s part of the charm. 

“We made an effort to bring in exterior materials to flow inside the home,” Joe said. “The clear western red cedar ceilings on the interior main portion of the home are on the same plane as the exterior soffit, which gives a unique, seamless transition.” The stucco fireplace in the home’s interior has the same texture as the exterior stucco, and the architect designed it with a floating cast stone mantle in a contemporary and linear design.

It’s all lovely, but the large bank of windows facing the lake is stunning. This prominent architectural feature is as beautiful looking in from the back yard as it is looking out to the lake. The light is amazing.

According to Jim Phelps, it is Vesta’s attention to detail that makes all the difference. “They analyzed the house plans and made all the right suggestions,” he said, adding that the door is perhaps his favorite design element because it is massive and sets the stage for the entire interior. But every ceiling doesn’t soar. The 14-foot living area height gives way to a nine-foot ceiling in the kitchen area, making for a cozy heart of the home. Cabinetry is ample but understated and the backsplash is a combination of Carrara and glass tiles that gleam and sparkle. The island is Herrera marble, a cool white surface that complements the cedar ceiling. A place for everything keeps clutter to a bare minimum. That’s helped along by an area for the family’s shoes, coats and electronics.

The dining room table and coffee table were made by Josh Cox of local furniture shop Bricker & Beam, a company devoted to creating signature pieces for clients throughout the U.S. Both are fashioned from walnut with a glass panel running down the middle – again, warm and inviting, with clean lines and a modern feel. The interior palate is pale gray for the most part with touches of blue and orange for brightness and to connect with the paintings. Interior designer, Christy Monteith, owner of CL Interiors, helped add the color and texture that makes the overall look cool and inviting. 

To the left of the great room is a short corridor. Left again is a home office, neatly tucked away but instantly accessible. Straight ahead is the master. Comfortable and cozy, family photos adorn the walls and lighting built into the wooden headboard (also designed by Josh Cox) adds a soft glow when desired.

Another left turn finds the master bathroom.  The focal point is a large, free-standing soaking tub with a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling cedar. On either side are two large closets. Her ceiling soars to provide room for exterior windows that balance the outside look of the home. Behind the tub are separate walk-ins to the shower and toilet. Simple, private, elegant. And that’s the main floorer

Back to the kitchen and stairway which winds downstairs. This is the children’s area, with their two bedrooms and attached baths. A guest room just off the theatre room required Vesta to utilize sound-reducing techniques on the wall separating the rooms. A small kitchen with fridge and microwave keeps the snacks close by when family and friends are gathered. An unusual custom-made table covered in blue felt was a bit of a mystery until the family explained it was for games, a passion. A large storage area holds hundreds of games, providing thousands of hours of entertainment – or maybe more.  

A door opens to the lower porch, with a fire-pit just beyond. “The rear porch is just as cozy as its upstairs neighbor, also using red cedar on the walls and ceilings,” Joe said. The cable rail system added a contemporary feel and limited obstruction of lake views. A retaining wall provides a tiered look down to where minimal landscaping leads the eye toward the lake, past a grassy expanse. There are neighbors, but not easily seen.

It’s not all about the outward beauty, however. Energy efficiency was a huge goal for the family. Two features contributing to that include open cell spray foam on the roof deck and a geothermal heating and cooling unit that utilizes the lake as a heat sink. The result is lower utility bills for the homeowners in the midst of the natural light and striking appeal.  

Clearly, it works so well because the project was a collaboration among homeowners who researched on Houzz and other sites to identify what spoke to them, builders Tammy and Joe who were greatly praised for their attention to detail and careful planning and execution, and architect Jim Phelps who describes his work as juggling a bowling ball, peanut and flaming torch. “A project like this is like an orchestra, where every player knows exactly what to do and respects the others who are working to create a functional and appealing retreat,” he said. “It’s an art that’s disappearing which makes it even more remarkable when it happens.” The homeowners are grateful for all those experts, down to the last subcontractor. “Everywhere you look should be pretty,” I was told. And so it is.