From the bottom up: Lake home turns entertaining on its head

The beauty of custom homes is the ability to adapt to the strengths of its surrounding environment – a wall of windows to enhance views, open living spaces to foster entertaining, outdoor areas that blend with the interior.

Common to lakefront homes are walkout basements that allow easy access to the lake or pool. Often, they come standard with a wet bar, game tables, media room, and guest bedrooms off to the sides. The basement can easily become the hub of the house during summer visits to the lake.


But, at a newly-built home in Emerald Shores, this concept is turned upside down. Here, everything is combined on the bottom level that opens up to the lakeside living spaces. The kitchen is connected to the covered patio by a floating bar. The living room integrates a full bar into its design. The only things found upstairs are three serene guest bedrooms and an entryway that overlooks the main living space below.

“This house was really built on the whole premise of entertaining,” says homeowner, Sondra Boone, of Atlanta, who worked closely with her Athens-based builder, Rob Marett, on tweaking the custom floor plan. “I didn’t want half of us to be upstairs in the kitchen while the other half is downstairs getting ready to enjoy the lake. I didn’t want to feel disconnected, so this design really works for us.” She says when their son and twin daughters are visiting, they pretty much live outside. This layout keeps everyone connected. And when they’re not visiting, she and her husband, Keith, have everything they need on one level.

Upon entering the home from the circular drive, you are greeted by a dramatic view of the lake through tall windows, only here, the view starts at the top instead of rising above a living room like many lake homes. The windows draw the eye downward to continue the view onto the main living area below the balcony, framed by custom iron railings made into natural willows.

Four oversized iron light fixtures balance the vaulted space. Instead of the typical single chandelier in the center that could draw attention from the line of sight, designer Shane Meder of Black Sheep Interiors opted to space out the lantern-style grouping. “Because of the height in this house, we were able to use these kind of oversized, animated fixtures,” says Meder. “The challenge with the central chandelier was that one big fixture could ruin this initial view, but four of them, spread out, could bring balance to the space.” From outside, Meder says, the lanterns give the illusion of floating on the floor.

To the right of the entryway is a built-in “morning bar” to accommodate guests staying upstairs. Complete with a coffee station and refrigeration system, this keeps guests from having to come downstairs to the kitchen during the night and has coffee ready for them when they wake.

To the left is the staircase leading down to the heart of the home. To line its halls, Meder selected art that evoked the natural environment seen just outside on the drive from Atlanta into White Plains – cows in pastures, weathered barns, and a gallery wall of pines representing 12 species found in the region.

At the bottom of the stairs, tucked beneath the balcony above, is a full bar that connects easily to the living room and kitchen with elegant glass cabinet doors and shelving surrounding two televisions. Custom track lighting made from antique iron pulleys from a butcher shop hangs above the stools to reinforce an industrial feel that flows throughout the home’s otherwise natural and rustic materials.

An oversized island anchors the adjoining kitchen space, appointed with glazed cabinets and copper panels. To the side is the kitchen’s most popular feature – the floating bar. The glass windows separating the kitchen from the patio outside operate like bi-fold doors, allowing the Boones to slide and fold the windows away to open up the bar to the outside.

“The kitchen might be my favorite part of the house,” says Boone. “It really connects everything and brings everybody together. I love being able to really engage with the outside.”

The patio outside can convert into a screened in room at the touch of a button, which drops down mechanized screens. The furniture outside brings comfort from inside with plush sofas, swivel chairs and ottomans. “Outdoor fabrics keep pushing forwards,” says Meder. “You usually find things like this inside the house, but now you can have it outside and even hose it down if you need to.”

A large commune table separates it from the outside kitchen area and fire pit next to an elegant pool design. The spacious outdoor spaces connect under a backdrop of a stunning view of Lake Oconee.

Boone made sure to plan details with these outdoor spaces in mind. A built-in dog washing station is tucked outside the door leading into the kitchen hallway. The floors throughout the bottom level are concrete, even in the expansive master bedroom. “I wanted to use practical materials,” she says. “I didn’t want anyone to worry about dropping a wet towel on the floor when they came in from the lake.”

Boone has found a way to bring these practical elements together, from the bottom up, and create a comfortable home for lakeside entertaining, even if that meant turning the design on its head.

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