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Southern Comfort

With the help of a Birmingham architect/designer, a North Alabama couple turned this riverfront fishing camp into a retreat for the whole family.

  

ABOVE The level lot allows for easy access from the house to the pier. Renovations almost doubled the size of the cabin (from 1,141 square feet to 2,179 square feet) and also included a new screened porch. 
 

In Alabama’s northwest corner, the Tennessee river dips south and cradles the town of Florence in the bend of its arm. Along the river, a pair of dams—Wheeler and Wilson—built in the mid-1930s as part of New Deal-era initiatives, hold back the river’s waters to create a reservoir known as Wilson Lake, acclaimed for its angling, recreational boating, and neighboring wildlife refuges. It is here, on the shore of Wilson Lake, that Lynn and Randy Coleman purchased a cabin 18 years ago. “Our son was only 5 years old when we bought it. We called it Camp Coleman,” Lynn says. “Randy is a workaholic, and this ended up being the only place he could truly relax.” 

The lake cabin proved to be a wonderful getaway for all of the Coleman men who enjoy fishing and spending time on the water. “For 15 years, we considered the place as more of a camp,” Lynn says. “Then one day, Randy said he wanted to add a screened porch. And that statement is what broke the proverbial dam.”

ABOVE "The new vaulted hallway centered on the roof axis gives the entry unexpected grandness,” says Cherri.

 

What started as a porch soon became dreams of a whole-house renovation—and for that, the Colemans decided they needed some professional help. Lynn, a “self-proclaimed retired interior designer,” has an eye for smart design. She had always loved the look of Yumm Thai, a downtown Florence restaurant designed by Birmingham architect Cherri Pitts of Studio C Architecture & Interiors. “I loved every detail—Cherri really did it right,” Lynn says. “So I contacted her. She had never been to this lake, but I convinced her to look at the cabin.”

Cherri says that she and Lynn had an instant connection. “Lynn is so warm and classically Southern, and in that way she charmed me into coming to visit.” Cherri approached the project as much an architect as a romantic. “When they were a younger family, the Colemans had spent a lot of time at the camp before it became mostly a retreat for Randy,” Cherri explains. “Randy decided it was time to reinvent their beloved camp to draw Lynn back to the lake. I loved the romance of that and wanted to help make that happen. Their camp was oozing with potential, and I immediately knew I could make the spaces work perfectly for them.” 

“She really transformed the entire thing!” Lynn says. “Other than the ceiling and exterior walls, everything changed.” Cherri reorganized the cabin’s floorplan toward a single focus: the water. “We removed a full-height wall at the stair to make the living area feel more spacious,” says Cherri. “Now, when you walk in, you don’t see anything but lake.” Renovations also included the addition of a lakeside screened porch with fireplace, as well as a cozy master bedroom suite expansion.

Although Randy’s manly getaway has taken a decidedly design-focused, feminine turn, he still loves going to the camp. “It remains as the one place he can unwind. And while it is just 20 minutes from our house in downtown Florence, that 20 minutes is like going on a true vacation,” Lynn says. “We love arriving on a Thursday, parking our car, and not getting back into it until Monday.”

ABOVE The side of the house became the new front entrance. Cherri added a protective canopy over the door and a circular window above.
 

  

ABOVE For Lynn, the new kitchen is a designer’s dream. “Cherri concealed everything so it always looks clean,” Lynn says. “You don’t even see the fridge.”
 

ABOVE Homeowner Lynn Coleman furnished the screened porch as an alfresco great room, incorporating both dining and living areas. The outdoor upholstery by Lane Venture is made to withstand the elements, as well as wet bathing suits. An overhead woven-vine light fixture adds drama to the space.
 

  

ABOVE LEFT Dutch doors, original to the 1940s house, connect the new porch to the master suite.

ABOVE RIGHT Lynn outfitted the remodeled great room with all-new furnishings. “I used lots of greens, terracottas, and neutrals to complement the outdoor views of nature,” she says.
 

ABOVE A suzani bedspread brings color to the otherwise all-white master bedroom.
 

  

ABOVE Decorating details such as board-and-batten walls repeat in every room of the house, including the bathrooms. In a guest room, ceilings were raised to expose the beautiful vaulted wood ceilings and beams from the attic. 
 

Resources 

Location: Florence, AL visitflorenceal.com // Wilson Lake wilsonlake.info Architect/designer: Cherri Pitts, Studio C Architecture & Interiors • 205.322.2315 studiocarch.com Cable lighting in great room: Mayer Lighting • 205.583.3400 mayerlighting.com Vine light fixtures: Scott Antique Market • 404.361.2000 scottantiquemarket.com