The dramatic setting overlooking Smith Mountain Lake in Huddleston, Virginia, lent itself well to big ideas, stunning design and creative landscaping. The Coopers were looking to maximize usable outdoor space by building a connected, flowing design that enabled interaction and incredible views for entertaining guests. They wanted luxury lakeside living.
Over the course of two years, Southern Landscape Group of Evington, Virginia, completed a three-phase project to transform the property into the ultimate home and entertainment space. The combination of outdoor living and lakeside luxury create a one-of-a-kind complex for the Coopers’ main house, car barn and guest house.
Luxury Lakeside Living: The Ask
The homeowners wanted to use their property as an entertainment space, particularly with outdoor areas to enjoy the lakeside scenery. The space was separated into three main areas: the lake house, the guest house and the car barn.
Andy White, director of pre-construction for Southern Landscape Group, says the Coopers’ passion for outdoor living played a role in the design of the property. Beyond showcasing the natural surroundings through creative features, they also wanted to incorporate themes from other parts of the country, including metal palm trees near the main house and metal cacti for a southwestern feel in the car barn area.
Southern Landscape Group
Location: Evington, VA
Year founded: 1998
Client mix: 70% residential, 30% commercial
Service mix: 75% design/build, 25% landscape maintenance
2018 Awards of Excellence winner: Exterior Categories > Residential Design/Build > $500,000 - $1,000,000
Luxury Lakeside Living: The Challenges
Steep slopes, unmanageable areas and a lack of enough available outdoor entertaining space met the Southern Landscape Group’s team at the start of the project. On top of that, Smith Mountain Lake is owned by Appalachian Power Co. to produce electricity, which presented its own set of challenges.
“They maintain a Shoreline Management Plan to ensure the protection and enhancement of the recreational environment, cultural and scenic resources,” White says. “Any work being performed below a specific topographical contour line must be permitted to stay within these guidelines.”
The requirements were carefully considered during the design phase and no work on the project was performed below the designated boundary. Any living areas within the boundary were already existing and were “grandfathered in” prior to the project.
Luxury Lakeside Living: The Solutions-Dealing with Slopes
The Southern Landscape Group team put a lot of effort into the upfront planning to make sure they got it right, from the beginning.
“Thorough site analysis and pre-planning were extremely important for ensuring we could overcome the steep lakeside slopes and maximize the Coopers’ usable outdoor living spaces,” White says. “Once work began, weather was the biggest factor in tackling the steep slopes.”
Though no one can control the weather, the team was able to stay on track thanks to their initial design efforts and their pre-planning. “Proper equipment selection was key for the execution of these areas,” White explains.
Key materials were selected in the design of specific sloped transition areas to make sure the Coopers and their guests could safely flow from one area to another. Large boulders were used to retain the flat yard area where games and tents are located near the main house, and paver pathways flow throughout the entire property, making it completely handicap accessible from one area to another.
Luxury Lakeside Living: The Solutions-Emphasizing Outdoor Beauty
The Southern Landscape Group team designed the space to emphasize outdoor beauty on both a natural and artificial, artistic scale. The metal palm trees were installed with low voltage lights inside coconuts, while large natural stone steps out to the dock were lined with gas torches. Irrigated urn planters are located throughout the site, surrounded by spectacular landscaping.
Built into the lake-side of the main house is a large main level Trex deck with an outdoor kitchen, dining table and seating lounge. There is a basement paver patio terrace with a pizza oven with counter tops, a prep counter under the deck, a dining area, a seating lounge under the deck and cafe lights for additional outdoor living space. A fire pit patio and a gunite swim spa with a vanishing edge overlook the lake.
Near the car barn, the southwestern-style landscape includes LED low-voltage lighting, a cornhole area, a stone bridge with pavers and paver sidewalks for easy strolling. Metal cacti and boulder outcroppings complement the small and medium-sized urn planters. To cap off the unique theme, an “abandoned” ‘53 Chevrolet shop truck sits complete with an LED low-voltage dome light, head light and turn signal that come on with the landscape lighting.
Luxury Lakeside Living: The Result
The new Cooper residence is the ultimate space for lakeside luxury living and entertaining, and the homeowners couldn’t be happier.
“With more space to entertain, the Coopers can have more family and friends visit,” White said.
Southern Landscape Group continues to work with the Coopers, maintaining the property and keeping things in check.
“We continue to ask questions and inform the Coopers when we see things that need addressing or when we have completed respective tasks,” White said. “The Coopers continue to communicate when they have ideas or need direction or advice on any landscape-related items.”
This communication is what keeps the relationship healthy and ongoing. White’s advice for any landscaper looking to take on a project of this magnitude is to put a lot of energy into expectations and planning.
“Understanding what the client wants and lots of preplanning will help execute the project and yield a finished product that the client will enjoy for years,” he said. –Heather Tunstall