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Front Row

Lake views and a wooded lot inspired a design team to create a house that would not only blend into the environment, but enhance the beauty of lake living.

“The debarked pine poles and rough-sawn wood timbering, dark wood exterior, and deep roof overhangs allow the home to blend into the woods,” architect Ben Shepard says. Recessed into the steep slope, the home seems more of a natural outcropping than a man-made building. The home’s proximity to the water is one of homeowner John Hagefstration’s favorite aspects. “In my previous lake home, there were almost 100 steps from my kitchen to my boat, which is very common on Smith Lake. With this house, there are fewer than 25,” he says.

“The debarked pine poles and rough-sawn wood timbering, dark wood exterior, and deep roof overhangs allow the home to blend into the woods,” architect Ben Shepard says. Recessed into the steep slope, the home seems more of a natural outcropping than a man-made building. The home’s proximity to the water is one of homeowner John Hagefstration’s favorite aspects. “In my previous lake home, there were almost 100 steps from my kitchen to my boat, which is very common on Smith Lake. With this house, there are fewer than 25,” he says.

Nature is always the greatest muse. So believes John Hagefstration who engaged like-minded designers to build his Smith Lake home in the Point William community. “I wanted to create a house that preserved that natural landscape as much as possible,” John says of the piece of land studded with old-growth trees. “Placing the home on a ledge close to the water would allow me to have great views of the lake from every room and very few steps needed to reach the lake.” 

John didn’t even have to think of whom to call. Architects Ben Shepard and Darla Davis and decorator Andrew Brown had, just a few years before, helped John renovate an architectural treasure in Birmingham. And John knew the dream team would be up to the challenge of creating a lake house that departed from conventional standards. “With my first lake home, I learned what features were most important to me,” he says. “I wanted to build a home that met my needs and also reflected a different architectural style as my tastes continue to evolve.”

The result is a two-story, one-room-deep retreat that capitalizes on panoramic lake views while receding into the wooded landscape. “This house is simplistic in form and materials,” Ben says. “It’s meant to feel like it belongs to this property. It is tucked tightly into the carefully protected woods and amongst towering, natural outcroppings on the steep, rocky site.” 

Inside, the furnishings are decidedly mid-Century modern—Billy Baldwin-inspired upholstered sofas and chairs, custom iron pieces inspired by Giacometti, a Brutalist-style sculpture, and authentic mid-Century vintage furnishings—while the color palette is pulled from the property itself. “I took my cue from the trees and the lake,” says Andrew. “Some of the wooden furniture has a custom stain that was chosen based on the color of the bark on a tree outside the living room. ”  

While Andrew considered the surrounding
landscape as inspiration, he also looked to John’s extensive photography collection—a major design element in the home, even for the architects. “The need for ample wall surface for art display was a challenge,” Ben explains. The team did not want to sacrifice the spectacular views from each room so they used fewer windows on rear walls for gallery space. “This lake house was the perfect place to display the black-and-white landscape and nature photographs in my collection,” John says. 

The most important feature of the home, the architects and decorator agree, is the lake itself. French doors create the lakefront wall of the main level, while floor-to-ceiling windows capture views upstairs. The panorama is, “to die for,” Andrew says. “The dark color of the main floor’s ceiling evokes the dark surface of the lake and creates the feeling of being in a cocoon, with all attention focused on the light and views outside the home.”

While the lake and landscape are paramount for John, he is thrilled with the home’s interiors. “I like creating a home that is very different than what most people think of as a typical lake home but still feels right at home on the lake.” 

  

ABOVE LEFT “The house blends in well to its natural surroundings, which was the goal. It doesn’t scream for attention.” — homeowner John Hagefstration

ABOVE RIGHT A patio swinging chair finds its way into a bedroom to create a unique spot to read a book or simply rest.
 

  

ABOVE LEFT The round dining table can easily seat up to ten people for dinner. Here, the leather chairs, floating string sculpture lights, and Brutalist-inspired sunburst sculpture all celebrate their Mid-Century leanings. “I wanted to use natural materials such as iron and wood so that there would be a slight rustic air to the home, but with a modern edge,” Andrew says. 

ABOVE RIGHT The living and dining areas are one large, open space divided by a custom iron étagère and drapery. Because the shelf is so large and heavy, it was designed to come apart in two pieces. A piece from the owner’s photography collection hangs on the front of the shelving unit.
 

ABOVE “I think it is important for a home to function the way the owner uses it, and this home does that for me,” John says. Bar-height seating welcomes casual dining when John is alone and also offers a perch for guests to watch the chef at work when he is entertaining.
 

  

ABOVE The lake house is an escape from city life, as well as a gallery for some of John’s storied art collection. 
 

  

ABOVE The master bath’s tub is a continuation of the concrete floor, sunken into the slab, and nestled against floor-to-ceiling windows. “It is actually a very private spot due to the trees and vegetation that block it from other houses on either side.
 

SECOND FLOOR
 

FIRST FLOOR
THE PLAN: Lower Floor 1312 sf / Second Floor 1160 sf / Total 2472 sf  
 

WHY WE LOVE IT

• Numerous French Doors: Each room on the lower level, including the master bedroom, has French doors that open onto a terrace overlooking the lake. “When the weather is nice, having all those doors on the main level open with the breeze blowing through the house is incredible,” decorator Andrew Brown says.

• Treehouse Feel: Old-growth trees, carefully protected during the construction process, hug the lake house. “The upstairs  bedrooms all have floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the lake. Those rooms feel like treehouses, since the bedrooms are at tree level,” Andrew says.

• Easy Maintenance: “Everything is lake, pet, and kid friendly,” Andrew says. Upholstery blends with Ally’s (John’s beloved golden retriever) hair so that no one can tell if dog hair gets on the furniture. And, the upholstery is linen, so it can be easily cleaned and is very durable and breathable,” he says.

• Distinct Guest Quarters: Architects Ben Shepard and Darla Davis designed the home with four guest rooms and two baths upstairs. “The upper floor is on a separate HVAC system, so if I do not have guests, I do not need to use that floor,” John explains. 

True Escape: “The mood of the house is one of rustic serenity with a mid-Century modern flair,” Andrew says. “It is dark and enveloping and makes you feel as though you are nestled inside a forest looking out on the lake.” 

RESOURCES 
Community: Point William Smith Lake, Alabama • pointwilliam.com; Interiors: Andrew Brown, Andrew Brown Interiors Birmingham, AL • 205.879.7949 • andrewbrowninteriors.com; Architects: Ben Shepard and Darla Davis, Shepard and Davis Architecture Birmingham, AL • 205.322.7770 • shepardanddavis.com

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