In 1960, a humble cabin took shape in Highlands, North Carolina: poised on a ridge facing the wooded flanks of Satulah Mountain. The centenarian trees and granite outcroppings surrounding the dwelling became a playground for the youngest members of the family that summered there, and who came to know every branch, rock and rainwater pool.
As the ensuing years became decades, the cabin passed from parents to children to grandchildren who all, in turn, made updates to the property. But it was the latest alteration—completed for the original owners’ grandson and his family by architects Sam Edgens and Sarah Frances Herzog along with interior designer Rita Lashmet—that would prove most transformative.
Initially, the property’s newest stewards envisioned modest revisions to the ranch-style home: more gathering spaces and bedrooms for their large family and a second primary suite. But as the plans took shape, it became clear that minor changes simply wouldn’t do justice to the property’s awe-inspiring views.
“Here was this wonderful site, and the house didn’t take advantage of it in any way,” Edgens says. “The doors and windows weren’t very tall, and the roof overhangs were deep, so you couldn’t take in the view—and there wasn’t a place outside to enjoy it either. It became evident that we needed to raise the ceilings and roof and create a ribbon of glass at the back of the structure.” His and Herzog’s efforts thus expanded the kitchen, dining area and living room to the panorama beyond.
A new main-floor primary suite took the place of the garage, which was relocated across the driveway; the resulting gap between buildings reveals a glimpse of the dramatic vista, now fully appreciated around a fire pit that landscape designer Jeremy Smearman installed on axis with Satulah Mountain across the valley. From there, the family and their frequent guests traverse the exposed bedrock to reach a new rear terrace and screened porch. “We tried to map out the path that would be most comfortable to walk,” Smearman says, “but it was intentional to make you experience the granite,” just as the homeowner did as a child.
Giving the augmented dwelling what Edgens calls “California ranch attitude” are wide expanses of glass. These help the home blend with its native surroundings, while a team led by general contractor John Lupoli and builder Scott Sloop clad the exterior in dark-stained board-and-batten and Tennessee fieldstone hammered to reveal imperfect edges. Smearman followed suit with a hardscape of local granite and Tennessee gray crab orchard stone intermixed with native plantings—among them mountain laurel, rhododendron and bush honeysuckle. Each variety was chosen so as not to compete with the scenery. “Because when you have a view like this, you’re never going to win,” the landscape designer notes.
That same ethos guided Lashmet’s interior updates, which “never veered from nature’s palette before us,” the designer says. For the white oak shiplap walls, she suggested a custom gray-green stain “reflective of tree bark.” For the bathrooms, she sourced etched and chiseled stones “with an outdoor feel.” And for the kitchen backsplash, “we found a white marble with veining that, when book-matched, resembles a mountain,” Lashmet adds. The kitchen cabinetry, designed in collaboration with designer Mary Kathryn Timoney, balances blue-gray painted wood with rift-sawn oak, while the accompanying bar smolders in dark metal. Each of these finishes complements the blue-streaked, leathered quartzite island countertop. “Because there’s so much natural stone in the area, it felt fitting, like a slice of the mountain,” the wife notes.
Having previously designed two Midwestern residences for the couple, Lashmet understood their desire for approachable rooms. “Comfort was important, so there are deep sofas to lounge on, cashmere throws for cozying up and chairs that swivel to face the fireplace or the view,” the designer says. Upholstery in softly colored wools, mohairs, suedes and hair-on-hides adds to the sumptuousness. “In each room, there’s at least one piece that can stand on its own as art,” Lashmet adds. “There are wooden armoires, chests and mirror frames with intricately carved details, plus a custom bronze chair in the primary bathroom that reads as sculpture.”
“Our goal was to create a place that our own children and grandchildren could continue to visit; a house we could keep in the family,” shares the wife, praising the design team’s attention to material, craftsmanship and detail. The result? An inheritable home that is sure to carry on.