While driving through the winding, misty mountain roads of Cashiers, North Carolina, Anu and Punit Chadha could practically feel their blood pressure drop. Both busy physicians with two teenage children, the Austin residents were astonished by the area’s lush greenery, fragrant flowers and pleasantly cool temperatures—a far cry from the heat back home. On a whim, they decided to tour a wooded, creek-side property for sale. Stirred by its intrinsic beauty, they made an offer on the spot. “This region spoke to our hearts,” Anu explains. “It’s a hidden gem.”
Relying largely on referrals, the Chadhas soon assembled a skilled design team to craft their vacation retreat from scratch. While they wanted their house to blend with the vernacular established by the area’s historic 100-year-old cottages, the couple simultaneously appreciated a more sophisticated and contemporary open floor plan with streamlined modern finishes.
Architect Mark Paullin, responsible for many homes in the area, spearheaded the concept. Clad in poplar bark siding and accented by rough-hewn stone detailing on the exterior, his design blends in to the landscape much like a traditional cottage would. But vast walls of gridded glass tip it toward modernity while framing the bosky surroundings. “It’s a house that won’t let you forget you’re in the mountains,” the architect notes.
Paullin’s collaboration with his clients—and, soon, interior designers Michelle Berryman and Lori Lambert Moreno of Blackberry Farm Design—produced a few tweaks to his initial plans, including adapting a lower-level terrace into a glass-enclosed gathering room. Builder Charles Womack and his extended team ensured every aspect of construction was executed with uncompromising expertise. “ ‘We can figure this out together’ was always their approach,” Berryman recounts of the cooperative effort.
Taking cues from the wealth of glass and magnificent views, she and Moreno approached the abode as a modernist opportunity. Refined finishes such as quartzite, brass and handblown glass juxtapose wood-plank ceilings and white vertical tongue-in-groove wall paneling. New and vintage furnishings—many upholstered in rich, jewel-toned fabrics—punctuate this neutral backdrop while reminding the Chadhas of the joyful batik textiles of India, where they both lived as children.
Visiting the couple’s colorful, flower-filled Texas home and looking through their personal snapshots—which included pictures of traditional celebratory ensembles—further affirmed the designers’ initial instincts to push the envelope. “These clients were drawn to vibrant colors with more life and spunk than we often get to work with, which was a treat,” Berryman says.
To wit, the Chadhas eagerly signed off on the colorful floral wallcovering adorning their first-floor powder room, its reddish hues perfectly complementing the Calacatta Viola marble vanity’s burgundy veining. “They have fresh flowers delivered regularly to their home in Austin,” Moreno explains. “So, the floral pattern wasn’t a hard sell.”
The art selections were equally as exciting: bentwood and metal sculptures, watercolors, encaustics, collages and fiber works—a number of them bespoke commissions. Adds Berryman: “These pieces were a key part of the layering process; they bring so much life into the home.”
Large corner windows brighten the kitchen, which captures breathtaking views of a nearby lake. Here, perimeter cabinetry in a creamy tone lives peacefully alongside an oak island inspired by counters found in old-fashioned pharmacies—with both featuring dark quartzite countertops. A bespoke brass-strapped metal hood with a bell-like flare adds an element of drama, its shape echoing the integrated quartzite backsplash behind the range. “The hood drove the bus in this space,” Moreno notes. “It’s a big statement.”
The dynamic pink print chosen for the primary bedroom is similarly impactful. Realizing how much the patterned cotton swatch resonated with their clients, the designers even persuaded the manufacturer to expedite its release as a wallcovering, allowing them to line the interior of a window seat, its cushion and pillows all in the same motif.
After watching much of the construction progress via video from their Austin home, the Chadhas said they felt like characters in a movie once they were finally able to tour their completed retreat, with snow falling softly on the trees outside. It was a magical moment that became a harbinger for so much more. “Without even realizing it, we had created a legacy home—for our children and their children,” Punit reflects.