When Mary Thompson and Mark Parnell started their search for the perfect house on Lake Martin in 2018, they were open to all possibilities offered by their Realtor, Angela VanHouten. One 1970s house on Little Kowaliga Creek, however, became the reference to which they compared other choices. 

“We knew the house would need a gut job, but it just felt right, and we kept coming back to the great view. We just didn’t realize exactly how much work would need to be done,” Thompson said.

The couple hired contractor Tim Corley to begin the renovation that November. The home’s bones were good, and the monolithic concrete slab provided a great foundation. Nonetheless, as proven true in many remodel situations, more problems existed than were anticipated after the initial inspection. Thompson and Parnell praised Corley for his ability to make their ideas reality over the 13-month-long renovation. 

“He ended up having to take out every wall. We were able to keep the metal roof and add to it. When he opened up the stairways on the bottom and middle levels, it was such a dramatic difference. Later, if I saw something I liked, I would show Tim. He would start drawing it out and make it happen. He was great,” Thompson said. 

With 2,640 square feet on three stories and built into a hillside, the front entry to the home is located on the bottom floor and on the lake side. Glass double doors open into the main living area and kitchen, where oak floors from Superior Hardwood Flooring in Auburn were added. Using Benjamin Moore’s sailcloth paint for the walls and trim, the couple blended neutral and blue colors in furniture and fabrics to create a serene and comfortable room. The original brick fireplace, painted white, now features a dark wooden mantel with a cabinet above it to screen the television when not in use. Paintings by a favorite Birmingham artist, Shannon Harris, add to the ambience. 

An island separates the kitchen and the main room. The countertops are marble with a backsplash of beveled white subway tiles. Stone and tile were supplied by Waverly Stoneworks. Nickel hardware, a stainless steel farm sink and stainless appliances bolster the cool, clean space. 

“I found the island while looking for other things I might want on a Facebook trading site in Birmingham. The lady who sold me the island told me if I could take the cabinets, I could have them for free. Tim said he had never seen it done before, but he was able to cut the cabinets to fit, and Jerome at Fred’s Cabinet Shop in Dadeville made additional doors for pieces we needed to match what we had purchased,” Thompson said.

The trading sites proved invaluable to Thompson as she searched for furniture, tables, chairs, light fixtures and accent pieces that were practically new but selling at huge discounts. 

“I can say that at least 75 percent of the furnishings in the house came from trading sites. I have some light fixtures from Russell Décor, and I have some furniture from Seibel’s. I also really like prints I found in downtown Alexander City at Half-Moon Market and Interiors. Often, I found a light fixture on the trading site; and then, found one to match online,” she said. 

The front doors open onto a covered porch just steps from the water’s edge. The porch floor is original, and a new railing was designed to take the place of raised brick flower boxes that ran the length of the porch. The railing design was then carried throughout the decking around the home. Original steel posts supporting the porch above were wrapped with wood to finish the new look. The couple enjoys the space now with a grill and four rocking chairs perfect for enjoying the lake at any time of day. 

On the middle floor, two guest bedrooms share a full bath with a shower. Both are beautifully decorated with quilts and other linens in neutrals and blues, as well as accent rugs perfectly placed for function and color. One of the guest rooms opens through French doors onto a sunporch, drenched in light from windows on three sides, decorated with a sofa and desk. The original sunporch had a sliding door, a sloping floor and carpet. 

The master bedroom and bath, plus an upstairs den and bar area, are located on the middle floor. The master bedroom walls are painted Benjamin Moore’s Healing Aloe while the trim is White Dove. Understated linens from Ballard’s complement the relaxing spa-like space. The master bath, originally a sunporch, features a large, frameless glass shower and his-and-hers separate vanities. A flush-mount teardrop chandelier lights the space. 

Thompson’s college roommate, decorator April Russell, who owns April Russell Interiors in Huntsville, provided her decorating expertise in many areas of the home, especially the upstairs den. Corley built in shelves for the television, books and other décor. Whimsical pillows add pops of color to the neutral fabrics in the main sitting area, while four nail head-trimmed club chairs circle up to form an additional conversation area in the room. A glass-topped table with a cypress knee base was purchased at the Lake Martin Mini Mall.

A new bar area in what had been a second kitchen has a leathered granite countertop and a glass tile backsplash that looks like marble. A hammered copper bar sink and faucet are complemented by copper pulls on the cabinetry. 

Outside the second floor living area, the screened porch overlooks the lake. Thompson found Restoration Hardware wicker furniture on a trading site and had the cushions recovered. When not in use, a gas fire pit doubles as a cocktail table. 

The screened porch holds a special place in the couple's heart, as they became engaged here last fall and have planned a late May wedding. The porch opens onto smaller porches on each side, and stairs down to the lake level and a side provide wrap-around access to an expansive screened porch on the back of the house. This additional porch will house a ping-pong table and allow even more outdoor living space. Under the porch is a tremendous storage area with paved access from the driveway and easy access from the water.

The top floor features two bedrooms mirroring each other with three twin beds in each. Between them, a hall closet was cleverly converted into a half-bath. The vaulted ceiling are accented with stained wood through the flat center. Thompson made sure this area was a place their young adult children could visit and be comfortable.

“We saved two things we found in the old house. I kept an old, framed map of Lake Martin and hung it on the guest room sun porch. We also found tiger paw pavers that we moved up to the house as stepping stones onto the porch from the driveway,” Thompson said.

Both Thompson and Parnell are thrilled that the project is complete, and they could not be happier with the end result. They are excited to see exactly what happens to the landscaping this spring. Much of the existing shrubbery was overgrown and had to be removed during the remodel, but azaleas and flowering trees that remain have bloomed, providing a perfect preview of the summer to come in their new lake retreat.