With a vision of big water views and lush landscaping vistas from every window in the home, Rocky and Amelia Barnes hired architect Taylor Dawson, builder Leon Gould and landscaper Eric Brown to create a spectacular Lake Martin retreat. In 2017, after 21 years in their old lake cabin, they moved into their stunning home and began making new memories.
“We told Taylor that we wanted to be able to see the lake when we walked in, no foyer, nothing blocking the view. He did that and more. We can see the lake through the house when we drive down the driveway. And sitting in the great room with all of the windows is like sitting on the porch,” Rocky Barnes said.
The driveway and lake sides of the main part of the house are identical, with windows from the ground up to the 20-foot ceiling, allowing unobstructed views of the lake and backyard. The home is surrounded by flagstone walkways, boulders strategically placed into the landscaping and native plants that create a forested effect.
An iron gate, with a pinecone and pine needle design by Gowen Iron, invites guests to follow the driveway through lush beds of lantana and butterfly bushes, ferns and perennials, as well as magnolias and other trees screening the property. Landscaped beds around the home are planted similarly. In the parking area at the front of the home, a high waterfall greets visitors with its beauty and the relaxing sound of water rushing over boulders. The waterfall pours into a pool that becomes a stream along the side of the home then empties into the lake.
“I knew that Eric Brown had a great skillset with stone, and I trusted him. I wanted it to look natural, with native plants and a woodsy look, like it was here before the house. I have had people ask me if the stream is natural. That’s the look I wanted,” he said.
Outdoor living spaces were a priority for the couple. The grilling porch just off the kitchen wraps around the corner of the house, providing two separate seating areas, as well as a dining area with a single pecky cypress plank table from Marshall Lumber Company and a base built by Gowen Iron.
“We spend 90 percent of our awake time in the rocking chairs. The sound of the waterfall rushing over the rocks is really great,” he said.
The large flagstone patio allows a perfect view of the lake and the dock. Stone pathways wind through the landscaped backyard. On a special trip to California wine country, the Barneses saw unique Adirondack chairs made from wine barrels. They were able to track down the builder and have six chairs built and shipped to Alabama – a perfect addition to the patio.
Brown added boulders to the stone seawall, so they blend into the landscape. He also built the pebble beach where the stream spills into the lake, as well as a separate sand beach for swimming.
The octagonal stone gazebo is just off the great room. With plenty of comfortable wicker seating and drapes, the Barneses say it is the perfect place to watch football games in the fall. Gowen Iron did the ironwork in the gazebo, carrying the pinecone and pine needle design from the gate. All of the stonework on the home and the gazebo was done by Salvador Chacon.
Amelia Barnes describes her decorating style as transitional. Working with decorator Angie Grant from Alexander City, the home is beautifully appointed with furniture, artwork, rugs and light fixtures. From Montgomery and Destin to Scott’s Antiques, AmericasMart and ADAC in Atlanta, the two found perfect pieces to complement the architectural design and define the couple’s vision.
“I am kind of eclectic. When I see it, and I like it, I know I’ll find a place for it,” she said.
The great room ceiling and panels along the bottom of the walls of windows are poplar with a clear stain, and the trim is Benjamin Moore’s Sailcloth. Cedar beams are spaced along the wall between the windows and extend onto the ceiling. Sconces on the wall beams are from Light Ideas, and the fireplace sconces are from Solaria. Whipsaw Antiques in Atlanta designed three custom pine chandeliers for the room.
With so many windows and a lakeside facing west, the couple relied on Yancy Edwards, an extraordinary trim carpenter, to install shades manufactured by Q Motion, so that the motors did not show in the windows. The shades are raised and lowered by remote control or a smart phone app.
A sectional sofa, two chairs, and a rug by Birmingham-based LillieKat Rugs define the sitting area near the stone fireplace. A Noir iron and glass cocktail table anchors the space. In the center section, llama covered chairs from Fibre by Auskin Sheepskin and cypress tables add texture, while a double-sided sofa provides seating for the conversation area or the view of the lake, just by changing sides.
The kitchen features a 5-1/2-foot by 12-foot island. Countertops are wasabi granite, installed by DeBeer Granite and Marble, and provide a stress-free surface for meal prep. Seven barstools at the island were found in a Destin décor shop. All of the cabinets in the home were custom built by Heath Hughes.
Behind the kitchen, the butler’s pantry has two separate pantries that provide space for food items in one and a coffee bar in the other. Two Sub-zero refrigerators flank each end of the butler’s pantry. An icemaker, wine refrigerator and dishwasher make it a perfect bar area. Over the bar, windows fold open to allow a pass-through to the grilling porch.
“Even with the butler’s pantry, we do all of our prepping on the island. The butler’s pantry functions as a bar for us, and we love having the coffee bar,” she said.
A separate dining room adds another elegant space to the home. With the poplar walls and ceiling, the reclaimed wood dining table with leather and upholstered chairs invite diners to linger. Two buffets provide storage and serving space. A Solaria iron chandelier and a rug from Moattar Rugs add character to the beautiful space.
Several pieces of furniture came to the new house from the old cabin, but the couple’s most cherished items are actually new paintings. Amelia’s father was a retired Baptist minister who baptized his granddaughters – one in the lake at Children’s Harbor and one in a church. Through Red Hill Gallery, the Barneses were introduced to Ted Ellis who painted the baptism scenes from photographs.
A guest room and bath, the stairwell and a powder room are adjacent to the dining room. A long hallway leads to the carport and provides access to a mechanical closet, the laundry room and a mudroom. The powder room plus all three rooms on the back hallway have barn doors painted Coat of Arms by Benjamin Moore.
The master bedroom, also on the main level, has a sitting room just outside with Cole Stone semi-transparent stain on the walls, creating an ambience of tranquility. The furniture, linens and drapes are neutral. A bench extending the width of the king-sized bed is a New Orleans antique found at Peridot Home in Montgomery. The hall to the bathroom has his-and-hers closets behind antique doors from Amelia’s grandfather’s house in Shelby County. The doors are hung on barn door style tracks. The shower room has over-sized gray subway tile with a wavy texture. Hughes built the cabinets with seeded glass doors and plenty of storage space. Dawson added windows at ceiling height for natural light with privacy.
Upstairs, the Barneses have a cozy den and two bedrooms with baths. A bunkroom is a perfectly utilized space just off the hall with a bunk on each side of the room. Repurposed storage space at the end of the room became a bathroom with just enough room for a toilet on one side and a shower/sink combination on the other side of the space.
“Our two daughters have identical rooms, except I reversed the paint colors. In one, the ceiling is dark and the walls are light. In the other, the ceiling is light and the walls are dark. We love that they love to come home,” she said.
The vision became reality. And now, with plenty of space for family and friends, the Barneses enjoy entertaining or simply relaxing together in their sanctuary on Lake Martin.