Oasis on Oconee

For a moment, you can forget where you are. The sound of rushing water over boulders. The shade of palm trees. Summer music piping through the swim-up bar. An occasional “thwack” of a golf ball.

By the looks of the 60,000-gallon pool on one side and white sand beach on the other, you can imagine you’ve been transported to the tropics. But in reality, a bit of the tropics has been transported to Lake Oconee.

This hidden oasis, created by local landscaper, Steve Noles, is tucked away behind acres of trees at the far end of his Eatonton tree farm and nursery that he owns and operates with his son, Blake.

Over the past few years, it’s become an entertaining dream come true – lake parties in the summer, pheasant hunts in the fall. And, professionally, it’s become a real-life portfolio for Noles’ landscaping services.

But it all started with a little “room over the water,” extending out into a 21-acre private lake.

“When I bought the property, there was only a creek here that cut through it,” says Noles. It took about a year to dam it up and build out the 21-acre private lake, buffered by 3,000 feet of seawall, he says. “We had a massive force of equipment running through here for a while.” The dirt was used to create a 2,200-foot wide and 13-foot high burm to screen the area and provide points of interest along the gentle slope to the water.

From there, Noles built a simple retreat over his new lake, a 900-square-foot “room over the water” on sturdy stone footings. An ultimate outdoor man cave, the 30’x30’ room was well appointed with a nautical theme. The cedar walls hold saltwater fish that the family has caught over the years alongside light fixtures that were reclaimed from a 1949 ship. Curved wooden ceiling fans complement the oversized driftwood chandelier that hangs above the distressed leather sofas.

The room blends the nautical with the natural, illustrated by things like the hammered copper sink in the kitchen bar, a rustic table made from a wide slab of reclaimed wood, or the thick mantel atop the Tennessee stacked stone fireplace.

“The mantel is actually 400 years old,” says Noles. “You can count the rings on it to see it was 200 years old, and it was cut about 200 years ago, so it’s neat to say it’s 400 years total.”

All else is quite modern. The windows open to the outside with the touch of a button. Heating coils run throughout the Travertine floor. The kitchen has microwave drawers and climate-controlled wine cabinets. TV and audio are connected throughout.

The idea was to have a place on site to relax while ultimately building homes on the property – Steve on one side, Blake on the other. But, as the room over the water continued developing, ideas continued growing.

“Originally, I was going to build my house on top of the hill, but I decided to build a pool bigger than that,” laughs Noles. “So, that took up my home site.” Luckily, Blake decided to build at Cuscowilla, which freed up the second site for Noles to try again – if he could slow down with the additions and improvements to the property.

To connect the pool to the room over the water, Noles anchored the shoreline with a large outdoor kitchen and bar. In the space between, a well-appointed shower, bathroom, laundry, and steam room is easily accessible to guests.

They built a zipline tower across the lake lets adventurous friends drop off into 12-feet of water below.

They brought in white sand to build a beach and volleyball court on the opposite side of the pool, next to an expansive outdoor fireplace and seating area.

They added massive water features, with rushing water spilling down across large boulders that recirculates into the lake.

And they built and island. Yes, an island, with a scenic bridge connecting it to the rest. The island boasts a pristine view from a large gazebo that overlooks the artificial putting green and neatly designed sand trap. The green is 96 yards from the tee, across the lake and above the pool.

All in all, the final product has become a veritable brochure of their landscaping services, in living color. “We call it our showcase area,” says Noles. “We’re able to tell potential clients, ‘If you want this, you can have it.’”

It demonstrates a range of work, from landscape design, tree installation and irrigation, to water features and artificial putting greens. For pool installations, Noles partners with Dennis Stevens, owner of Oconee Pool Professionals, who also utilizes the space to show off his work.

The approximately 60,000-gallon pool boasts a 35-foot vanishing edge, giving swimmers the illusion that they are connected to the larger lake. Laminar pool jets spout from the edge on the way to the stone grotto, nearly hidden by a cascading waterfall. Stone bridges and pathways lead to the twelve-person spa or spacious firepit in the center. At night, each space comes alive with 23 LED lights with various color options in addition to around 500 more lights shining from the island, below the bridge, and through the pass.

“The place just looks amazing at night with the lights reflecting off of everything,” says Noles. “When you’ve got the gas tiki torches and fire bowls on, the flagpole lit, all of the uplighting on the trees, the path lighting, and boulders reflecting the water lights, that’s when it shows itself the best.”

Winding throughout the space is the undercurrent of tropical landscaping design. Selections like Canna Lilies, Hibiscus, and purple fountain grass adorn areas anchored by tall palm trees. “I wanted this to have a tropical destination look,” says Noles. “You get that feel with all the palm trees and lilies, and even with the Oleander, Spirea, and Purple Heart Secretia we added in to it.” And to top it off, oyster shells line the flower beds. “Most of the time we use pinestraw, but not here,” says Noles, grinning.

The pool is connected to the outdoor kitchen by a swim up bar, with stone stools just under the water’s surface. Friends can get their next beer from the taps without ever leaving the pool.

These delineated, yet connected, spaces make entertaining easy at every turn. The oasis can accommodate large numbers while not feeling crowded, says Noles, who put it to the test last Fourth of July. More than 400 people came to celebrate the holiday and Noles says he expects even more this year.

“It was quite the party,” says Noles. “Redbull and Deep Eddy sponsored it, we had a deejay, we cooked a hog on the cooker. It was gone in about an hour, so we threw on some hotdogs and hamburgers. I think everyone had a great time.” The fireworks display they put on across the lake gave the pool lights a run for their money that night.

Noles says he looks forward to hosting more large-scale events – farm-to-table dinners, weddings, community events – in the future. “That’s the direction I want to go,” says Noles. “We built it to enjoy ourselves, use it for business, and have a place the community could enjoy as well,” says Noles.



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