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A French-Inspired Garden and Home by Judith Stringham

Whisper Mountain ~ Special Design, Part 3

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Whisper Mountain ~ Part 3 

Special Design Touches

The third and final post in a series about a house rental on Whisper Mountain 

What makes a vacation rental home special?  What keeps it from feeling cold and sterile with no personality? You know how hotels have that "you're in a hotel" vibe?  Sure, the hotel has crisp, clean comforters, bedding, and towels, and there is artwork on the walls, but hotels still feel lifeless.

Luck House on Whisper Mountain in North Carolina is a rental home with a spectacular setting, views for 30 miles, and beautiful interior spaces that enhance the setting, with every room overlooking the mountains and valleys.  Yet, it is more than that.  The house is full of life throughout, but not cluttered.  Instead, it's filled with just the right touches that make guests feel they are visiting a friend's house. Some of the special design touches sparked my imagination enough for me to think of how I could incorporate some of them into my own home.

After viewing my photos, I realized the special design touches fall into four loose categories.  Most of the special touches fall into more than one category, which integrates the individual parts into an overall design, but there is one distinct major category into which each falls.

  1. Repurposed vintage and/or antique pieces 
  2. Materials used in unexpected ways 
  3. Small tabletop items 
  4. Artwork 

Source: Luck House on Whisper Mountain 

1.  Repurposed vintage and/or antique pieces

Right at the top of the list of repurposed vintage pieces is the custom made ceiling fan system.  Old metal rods connect repurposed propellers to create ceiling fan blades that work in tandem with one another... truly a one-of-a-kind piece that literally breathes life onto the guests sitting below the gentle breezes. 

Not as unusual as the ceiling fan, but still not the usual bathroom storage cabinet, is a vintage wood cabinet above the toilet in the guest half-bath. 

The aged wood is rustic, but the soft patina of the wood finish, the crown molding on the top, the raised panel in the door, and the unusual brass keyhole keep the piece from being too rough for house. 

The unexpected "pinkish" painted interior adds a little shot of color into the neutral color scheme of the house.  Here's where we found the extra toilet paper when we needed it.  I'm definitely looking for a small vintage cabinet to use in my master bath as a medicine cabinet. (Know of any for sale?) 

Probably not repurposed, but certainly an antique, the old wooden trunk in the master bedroom is a perfect space for extra blankets and pillows.  Old trunks often held treasured not-in-use items in early American homes.  A perfect blend of vintage and contemporary... the old trunk under a flat-screen TV on the wall. 

The custom made dining table on the porch is sturdy enough to withstand the natural elements of wind, rain, snow, etc...  The wooden base is solidly engineered with interlocking large supports, instead of being nailed or screwed together.  The top appears to be stained concrete with a smooth, easily cleaned surface. 

2.  Materials used in unexpected ways 

Take another look at the kitchen backsplash.  Not only do the colors echo the natural woods, the shape of the backsplash echoes the outline of a mountain range.  How stop-in-my-tracks-and-look-again is that design?

Pure inspiration!  Not only is it a unique nod to the natural settings, it uses scrap pieces of left-over granite.  Economical, purely functional, and an original designer piece.

How I would love to be able to visualize such a creative idea! I'm struck by how the graining of the granite imitates the rock striations of mountains.  Thinking about remodeling your mountain cabin kitchen?  You might want to check out the scrap granite at your local stone supplier.

Variegated grain adds to the beauty of the simple door facings.  This one is in the guest bath allowing it to be seen and enjoyed by most of the people who come to visit the house.  So, when choosing where to place your showiest wood grain pieces, think about who will see it.  Do you want to put it where a great number of people will see it or do you want to put it in a more private space, such as the master bath, where you will be able to enjoy it many times every day? 

The porch railing just fades into the background without obstructing the view because the railing is made from galvanized welded steel corral fencing available at farm and ranch stores.  This is another economical, light-bulb-moment material used in a highly unexpected way.  Easy to find, easy to install, and super safe with a strength that withstands abuse from LARGE farm animals.  

The decks around my house are currently being replaced (they are over 26 years old), and after seeing this house, corral fencing is what we plan to use for our new railing system.  Our local Tractor Supply store keeps this corral material in stock, 16' by 4' panels, for about $60 per panel.  Check your local farm and ranch stores for pricing in your area. 

3.  Small tabletop items 

Sparsely placed, unique custom pottery becomes a focal point to be admired instead of being overlooked in a more cluttered tabletop arrangement.

A handful of dried native black walnuts are reminders of the surrounding woods and of the heritage of the land.  Historical and environmental preservation are principles in the overall vision of Whisper Mountain.  

Any fruits, berries, or nuts indigenous to your area that you could use in your arrangements that would remind you of your heritage?  The black walnuts struck a chord with me.  As a child growing up in North Alabama, I lived with my grandparents on the side of a mountain that is part of the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, and there was a huge black walnut tree right outside the kitchen back door.  I remember gathering those walnuts while they were still encased in their thick fleshy green coats, then scraping away that outer surface after it dried into a black brittle shell, and then having to use a hammer to crack the walnuts because they were so hard. 

Black walnuts have such a distinctive flavor that I can taste it whenever I think of them.  Of course, the flavor brings a flood of memories of being loved and having a carefree, happy childhood on the side of a mountain where I roamed freely with my uncles. 

Yes, dried black walnuts are now on my list of things to use someplace in my home. 

One large wooden bowl filled with rattan balls and grey river stones is the only thing on the living area's large coffee table.  Once again, a single-item arrangement is striking. 

4.  Artwork 

Simple wooden frames and white double mats accentuate the sepia-toned photos of old buildings in isolated mountain settings.  The long narrow photos hang across from the guest half bath which makes them a focal point for people leaving the bathroom.  You have to look at them and be struck by their haunting images of bygone times.  Another reminder of Whisper Mountain's principles of historical and environmental preservation.

The flat wooden bowl holds a candle surrounded by more grey river stones on the main dining table, but the rustic metal HOME artwork on the windowsill says it all for this house, ...  or almost all for this house. 

l i f e   i s   g o o d

does say it all for this house. 

I knew I was going to love being in the North Carolina mountains for a few days' rest with my family, but I never expected to find so many great design ideas in the rental house.  Of course, bloggers always look for ideas wherever we go.

There's even more to see.  
If you missed the first two posts about Whisper Mountain, check out   

Anyone interested in visiting Luck House, Whisper Mountain, North Carolina 
can find detailed rental information at 

I did not receive any compensation from any source for the Whisper Mountain series.  Information is provided for my readers who enjoy seeing beautiful homes and decor in unusual surroundings.

Please join me at these inspiring sites...

Whisper Mountain ~ Interior Spaces, Part 2

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Whisper Mountain ~ Part 2

Interior Spaces

If you read the last post, Whisper Mountain ~ Part 1  Outdoor Spaces, you saw the natural beauty of the magnificent location of a three-bedroom rental house and probably could not imagine that the house's interior spaces could compete with the outdoor setting shown in the photo above.  Houses on Whisper Mountain in North Carolina are a Southern Living Green Community and are built with historical and environmental preservation as inherent parts of their designs making each one very special. 

The rental house where we stayed has interior spaces that compete with its natural setting mainly because the owner/builder incorporated many natural materials in the interior spaces and designed the house to take advantage of the mountain and valley views from every room.  The full-glass front door shows the beautiful hardwood floors, the custom designed beamed wood ceilings, and vintage wood dining table even before entering, merging the outdoors with the indoors.

Once inside the front door, the view back outside includes the sitting area on the first covered porch with its rough-hewn log beams supporting the natural bead board porch ceiling.  One of the great features of the house is its accessibility for someone in a wheelchair.  Notice how the exterior porch floor and interior floor are the same level without the usual small level change from outside to inside. A wheelchair easily rolls over the low threshold. The door handles also are easy to use for people who have difficulty grasping round doorknobs. 

The house has a mountain cabin feel with the wood framed windows, but at the same time has a modern uncluttered design. 

Windows do not have curtains or blinds giving wide-open views to the mountains and valleys from inside. Since there are no other houses in sight, privacy is not an issue. 

The kitchen, dining area, and living area are one Great Room looking onto a full wall of windows and French doors that look out to the attached porches and beyond to the mountains and valleys. Just beyond the living room is an office area with windows that overlook the mountains and valleys.  Opposite the built-in desk are the stairs that lead to a third bedroom on the second floor above the garage. 

Looking back the opposite direction from the kitchen area is a hall that leads to the first floor bedroom wing. The house floor plan is only one room wide for the full length of the house. The long hall connects the master bedroom, a half guest bath, a laundry room, and a guest bedroom.  The beams in the living area are stripped massive tree trunks from trees felled on the mountain. 

State-of-the-art appliances include a smooth-top range, large oven, French door refrigerator, dishwasher, microwave, two automatic coffee makers, deep ceramic sink, and a bar sink out of view in this photo.  The granite counter tops and irregular shaped granite backsplashes echo the colors of the natural woods surrounding the house.

Have you ever seen a more beautiful natural granite fireplace mantel and supports?  The fireplace reminds me of the great lodges built in the national parks in the West. 

All of the super large bedrooms have sitting areas and have a full wall of windows or French doors that overlook the mountains and valleys.  

Each of the ground floor bedrooms have glass doors that lead to decks/porches that overlook the mountains and valleys.  The master bedroom leads to the main covered porch outside the living room, and the main floor guest bedroom leads to a private open deck. 

A full bath is attached to each of the three bedrooms.  The master bath shown has a wheelchair accessible walk-in shower.  All of the interior wooden doors are like the one shown leading to a walk-in closet at one end of the bathroom. I love the curved arch door panels.  

In addition to the three full baths there is also a half bath for guests near the living room. 

Isn't this an incredible home?  I could move right in and live there all summer, but not the winter.  The mountain road has several switchbacks and would be treacherous in snow and ice. 

There's even more to see.  Come back next time for 
the third and final post about Whisper Mountain.  
Whisper Mountain ~ Part 3

Special Design Touches

I'll show you more details in both decor and architectural design that make this house special ~ 
more things that make it a home, and more things that give it character.  
You may find something that inspires you to do something similar in your own home, 
just like I found some things I plan to use in my home. 
I took lots of pictures for that very purpose. 

Just a little hint of something I plan to use... 
My decks are under going replacement right now. 

Anyone interested in visiting Luck House, Whisper Mountain, North Carolina 
can find detailed rental information at 
New Mountain Craftsman Home Near Asheville, North Carolina

I did not receive compensation in any form from anyone for writing about Whisper Mountain.
Please join me at these inspiring sites...

Whisper Mountain ~ Life Is Good, Part 1

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Whisper Mountain - Part 1

Outdoor Spaces

Life is good.  Summertime in Alabama with rain, evening breezes, and homegrown tomatoes whispers quietly about living unhurriedly with time for friends, family, laughter, and reflection. 
However, mid-August is humid from the summer rains and makes one long for cooler weather. As my sister, my brother, and I spent time together this August, we found ourselves talking about a short trip to the mountains. 

Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina has been on my sister's list of places to visit for many years.  Each time we were at home in Alabama she would ask, "How far is it to Biltmore?  How long does it take to drive there from here?  Do you think we could go while we're here?"  Then we would get caught up in visiting with Mother, with our brothers' families, with extended relatives, and then find ourselves short of time to do all we wished before rushing home to Texas and California to our jobs, to our responsibilities, and to our decidedly even more hurried lives. 

This summer, however, found all three of us siblings retired, with schedules that could be rearranged.  Found us living unhurriedly and listening to quiet whispers of life.  With just a week's planning, my sister-in-law found, on the internet, a mountain rental house with handicapped accessibility.  We packed our brother's van and along with some of my brother's and sister-in-law's friends, headed to Whisper Mountain, North Carolina, thirty minutes from Biltmore Estate.  

Our three-bedroom rental house was high up on Whisper Mountain.  Temperatures were in the low 80s as we began our ascent at the base of the mountain, and a cool 72 greeted us as we stepped from the van onto the rental house's driveway, six hours after leaving north Alabama.  Smiles and laughter all around.... deep breathing of cool mountain air. 

Four sitting areas under two covered porches ran the length of the house overlooking the mountains and valleys below. 

Far below us we could see only one other house, and we found ourselves on a hushed mountain rustling with whispers of late summer. 

Before even unpacking our vehicle and before going into the house, we sat on the porches, staring into the quiet beauty surrounding us, each of us lost in our own thoughts, and then collectively, marveling at how lucky we were to find such a fantastic house to rent on such short notice. 

Out of sight from the long main covered porches is yet another outdoor sitting area, located outside a first-floor guest bedroom.  

After rain during our first night, we awoke to fog rising and looked DOWN on it from the covered porches.  None of us were disappointed about the rain and fog.  Instead, we LOVED it! 

Rain fell off and on, and the fog grew denser and higher, all during our first day there.  

The covered porch outside the living room had comfy chairs and a long sofa with deep cushions grouped around a gas fire pit.  No gathering firewood, struggling to light the fire... no, just turn on the gas.  With soft throws to snuggle in around the fire, everyone was contented to visit with one another as we snacked and enjoyed the soft summer rains that fell straight down. 

That is, until someone found the dominoes.  Then it was round after round of dominoes at the outdoor dining table until late in the afternoon with the sun peeking out.  

A couple of people gathered green twigs to make holders for roasting marshmallows and for making s'mores as night fell.  Temperatures in the 60s, good friends and family, and beautiful surroundings...  Can't get any better than that.

Or so we thought.  Then one day, we saw the sunshine and were eye-level with the clouds!  

What an incredible view of the valley.  Temperatures in the 70s and crisp, clear air... 

L I F E   I S   G O O D 

This was just the outside of the Whisper Mountain rental house.  Of course, it's hard to beat the location, but the inside of the house is also stunning.  

Come back next time for 

Whisper Mountain - Part 2 

Interior Spaces

Anyone interested in visiting Luck House, Whisper Mountain, North Carolina 
can find detailed rental information at 
New Mountain Craftsman Home Near Asheville, North Carolina

I did not receive compensation in any form from anyone for writing about Whisper Mountain.
Please join me at these inspiring sites...