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Their Beach Cottage in the Mountains

By Catherine Pritchard

A few years ago, Jim and Kay Jones decided they’d had enough of spending lots of time at the beach.

The Fayetteville couple, both retired teachers, owned a vacation home at Holden Beach but after experiencing skin issues, they were concerned about their sun exposure. They were also tired of gritty sand. And they just wanted a change.

So they sold their beach property and looked westward.

These days, they spend about half their time at their home in Fayetteville. The other half, they’re at the home they bought nearly five years ago just outside of Blowing Rock.

“We call it our beach cottage in the mountains,” Kay joked.

It’s a good line but don’t think for a second that there’s anything remotely beachy about the comfortable 3-story home. It’s clad in dark-stained logs, topped by a green roof and nestled among woods, rhododendrons and landscaping that meshes with the natural world all around.

Lighter wood gleams inside – on the floors, the walls and across the soaring ceilings with their exposed beams. It’s a stunning backdrop for their carefully chosen, eclectic mix of furnishings and décor, which fit into the Blue Ridge setting as perfectly as trout in a mountain stream. The overall effect is easy, cozy, welcoming and beautiful.

“It’s our personality,” Kay said, when asked to describe the home’s vibe.

They never would have imagined this house for themselves when they started looking for a home in Blowing Rock.

For one thing, it had just three bedrooms. They wanted a four-bedroom home to accommodate visits from their children and grandchildren.

It was also a log home, albeit a large, modern, relatively new log home. The notion didn’t bother Kay, a native of Asheville who was more used to the look and who was delighted to be returning to her childhood environs. Jim, however, while excited about getting a home in the mountains, wasn’t initially thrilled about getting one that was sided with logs.

Meanwhile, the home lacked finish in a number of areas. The outside deck railings had never been stained and remained raw wood. As far as landscaping, well, there wasn’t any. The gravel driveway ran right up to the deck leading to the front door. There was no walkway. There was no grass. The approach was not at all pretty.

But its bones were good. It had a good layout, was only a few years old and had space and available utility connections in the walk-out basement for construction of a fourth bedroom and another bathroom. The fact that it lacked landscaping meant that Jim could literally roll up his sleeves and start putting his own ideas into place, something he enjoys immensely. And overall it was their favorite of all the houses they saw.

So the Joneses bought the home and started making it their own.

Inside, they installed granite countertops in the kitchen, redesigned the stone fireplace in the den and added the bedroom and bathroom downstairs. Jim, who did interior design as a sideline for more than two decades, figured out what furniture and décor should go where. The couple used some furniture they’d put into storage after downsizing in Fayetteville. They bought a bit more and even found a use for a table that had been at the beach.

The resulting combinations are an inviting mix of color, texture and image. Furniture fabrics have warm tints, sturdy construction and cozy looks. There’s lots of wood and lots of iron accents. Scenes from nature are all around – from the sofa fabric with graphical images of black bears, elk, canoes and leaves to the lamp with an iron cutout of a moose to the many representations of birds in paintings, figurines and ceramics.

In the dining room, ladder-back woven-seat chairs surround a country-style table, which sits on a braided rug. Above is a simple iron chandelier made to resemble pine branches. One wall is dominated by a painting of a cascading woodland stream, another by the double glass doors that frame a view of a bank of rhododendrons.

Touches of Asian art – ceramic dishes, figurines – and leopard-spotted pillows are scattered into the mix.

“I love when we build a fire,” Kay said. The fireplace faces into the den but it’s a large open-concept area including the kitchen, the dining room and the stairs to the third floor.
Outside, on the covered deck, wrought-iron furniture is strong enough for the weather, pretty enough to look perfect and comfy enough, with cushions, to sit and enjoy the view. The railings all around have long since been properly stained.

Over the past few years, the once dreary yard has come to include a lawn and plantings, a stone walkway from the driveway to the house, two water features, a sitting area with a firepit and an arbor over what had been an uninviting deck entrance. Jim did much of the work himself.

He laughs remembering when he was digging up an area where he planned to put a fountain. “I was out there digging and digging and digging with a hoe and a shovel,” he said. While he was working on the rocky soil, an electrician who’d been doing work in the house suddenly left. “I thought, ‘Where in the world did he go? He didn’t get finished,’” Jim recalled.
About 45 minutes later, the electrician returned – with a pickax for Jim to use. He’d driven to his shop in Boone and back to get it. “He said, ‘Here, I just felt so sorry for you,’” Jim said. “‘You just use this pickax and when you get finished, you return it to me.’”

The couple love the outdoors, whether sitting on the deck or in the fire-pit area, looking at the trees, or hiking and exploring walking trails in the area.

There are lots of great restaurants nearby. And they have a lot of friends in the area.
The trek between Blowing Rock and Fayetteville isn’t bad – 3½ to 4 hours of driving. And Blowing Rock is more equidistant than the beach was to their three children, who live in Fayetteville, Charleston and Roanoke.

Beyond that, it’s simply nice to get away to the mountains. “We love it,” Kay said.