Frost seemed to wrap the little trolley as it headed up the winding mountainside to the aptly named, “Ramble at Biltmore Forest”. It was the site of this year’s Southern Living Idea House in Asheville, North Carolina. Due to the dreaded pandemic that had consumed the world in 2020, only 10 individuals were allowed to ride together. Everyone was spaced far apart, cloaked in facial masks, and sporting bottles of sanitizer.
No one spoke.
The creak of the vehicle’s wheels seemed to be the only soundtrack for this experience. However, the unspoken communication being shared was one of hope. All those aboard were wanting to see something refreshing. Something comforting. Something full of optimism. The destination did not disappoint.
The show house of nearly 3,600 square feet was nestled into a secluded, wooded, private community in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The land was once a part of the Biltmore Estate owned by George Vanderbilt. Buchanan Construction of Asheville was responsible for bringing architect Beau Clowney’s vision to life.
This was the first viewing of the day. I planned it that way. Trying to avoid any possible exposure to the COVID virus, I thought, “The earlier, the better.” Upon arrival, one could easily see the fashionable influence of “Modern Farmhouse Chic” in the home’s architectural styling. –The house felt at home in its setting.
The trolley’s door opened. A whoosh of frigid air burst inside. With great haste, December’s cold winds seemed to wisk the little ensemble of visitors into the home.
Some show houses can be overwhelming. Often, the mélange of disconnected styles is merely a collection of designers' dreams personified. That wasn’t the case here. Instead, there was an instant feeling of welcome. No pretensions. No deluge of drama. One felt they had arrived at a dear friend’s home for coffee.
Lauren Liess, the interior designer of the entire home, had created a cohesive environment of wellbeing. The palette leaned to the neutral side abetted by accents of earth tones. The splashes of green and brown were most appropriate. The interior was respectful of the environment. I believe this was part of the interior’s success.
Liess’s efforts also included the home’s holiday décor. It wasn’t an explosion of tinsel or a warehouse of disposable kitsch. Instead, it was much like the furnishings: simple, classic, and tasteful. ----A feeling of a “cozy Christmas” was the most appropriate description for this home.
The older I get, the more natural light I crave. Clowney’s plan was a cornucopia of light. The kitchen basked in a layered aisle of windows. The “back kitchen” being the source of light for the primary kitchen. ----All of this opened into the main living room. Thus, the plan was conducive to entertaining as well as daily living.--- The comfortable character of the plan’s openness permitted the host to be a part of the party. Likewise, a parent could easily manage a child’s activity while preparing dinner.
The main living space was tandem to an equally large screened porch. This delightful setting included: a full dining table, sofa, occasional chairs and a swing. This would be the perfect place to relax! The inclusion of a fireplace made the space more than just a summer retreat. ---Possibilities began to dance in my head!
Living Room & Screened Porch
Library & Halls
The master bedroom exhibited the first bit of pattern. The floral wallpaper was very reminiscent of the Arts & Crafts period. While the 18th century bonnet bed (dressed with a crocheted canopy) seemed most appropriate, a twist of fresh character was achieved by the addition of an artisanal wire chair. ---“A bit of the unexpected always seems to add character to a room”. --- It was most evident that Liess fully understood this mantra and created a mixture of modern and traditional furnishings throughout the home. It felt good.
The master bathroom enjoyed a circular soaking tub inset within a very unique wall configuration. Rightfully so, this was the focal point of the setting.
Master Bedroom & Master Bathroom
Much like other areas of the home, the laundry room enjoyed a plethora of natural light. Keeping with today’s lifestyle, it was located near the exterior side entrance of the disconnected garage. -- Easy to feed the dog or drop off the groceries. Comfortable living was the key in all situations.
The second floor of the home included two bedrooms with ensuite bathrooms. Each bedroom had its own unique personality and was dressed with twin beds for a young family. The presence of a “bunkroom” always provides a spark of interest. The home’s children’s bedroom did just that. It was fun, yet tasteful. Comfy.
The additional children’s bedroom could have easily delighted older teens or visiting grandparents. The patterned walls supported the thread of craftsman-style patterns which Leiss had woven throughout the home.
Obvious in both bedrooms was the extreme lack of closet space. I believe armoires might soon be sought to comply with a modern family’s needs. There certainly wasn’t enough storage space without such….
Stairs and Upper Hall
Second Floor Bedrooms/Bathrooms
My tour concluded with a viewing of the main level guest bedroom. Though very small in size, it provided all the needs of a visiting friend or family member. I noticed the delicious wall color was “Momentum” by Sherwin Williams (SW9521). This dark olive was like a warm blanket around you on a cold night. The perfect selection for this home.
Guest Bedroom & Hall
A stroll about the grounds revealed a wonderful deck for entertaining, a fire pit for conversations and an executive dog house for a pampered pooch or an unruly spouse. Beautiful furnishings were exhibited in all areas.
Soon, the little assembly of visitors found themselves huddled around the trolley door. As we wound our way back down the mountain trail, the group was chatty. Thoughts and amazement were being shared like treasured cookies on a playground. In all situations, the conversation entailed the expression of comfort. Everyone seemed to feel at home.
Even if only for a few moments, all of us were given the opportunity to escape from whatever anxiety was brewing in our souls.
It was exactly what we had all hoped to experience.