A Rustic Retreat by Architect Joel Kelly and Wyeth Ray Interiors

Architect Joel Kelly and interior designer Whitney Ray establish a sense of permanence throughout a new home rooted in the North Carolina Mountains.

The home’s facade offers water views and a hint at the interiors just beyond.

Text: Emily Jackson
Photos: Emily Jenkins Followill

The air is still and fog hovers above the water on a crisp autumn morning at Lake Toxaway as “The House” comes into view. Nestled into a storybook-like clearing on the lake, the home of Marcia and Mark Miller has become something of local lore, revered for its intense character and prominent presence. “The intent of the design was to build a new-construction home that felt like it had been the original house on the lake for 100 years,” says architect Joel Kelly. Together with design principal Whitney Ray of Wyeth Ray Interiors, the duo created a mountain retreat for the Atlanta-based Millers with consideration of materials, functionality, and the celebration of its idyllic surroundings.

A Rustic Retreat

To create softness, Whitney chose to anchor the foyer with a skirted round table.

A Rustic Retreat

 

A Rustic Retreat

“We call this the working porch because when coming up from the lake and boathouse, you walk through it for direct access to the mudhall,” explains Whitney.

A Rustic Retreat

Sealed oak cabinetry and bronze hardware play up the kitchen’s visual interest while a simple plastered hood tempers the dramatic height of the room.

A Rustic Retreat

A charming fireplace is adjacent to the breakfast nook that overlooks the lake through a 90-degree bay window. A reproduction dining table from Holland Macrae and performance fabric topped seating ensure that the high traffic area stands the test of time.

A Rustic Retreat

The butler’s pantry serves as a much-used coffee bar and storage for the Millers’ extensive collection of entertaining platters and wares from Mud Pie.

A Rustic Retreat

A Rustic Retreat

A floating soapstone counter and river rock sink in the powder room lend an organic feel.

A Rustic Retreat

The bar and powder room, featuring reclaimed snow fencing as wall material and cabinet faces, echo the facade’s darker elements.

Landscape architecture by Atlanta-based Planters provides a well-appointed welcome to the home’s entry.

A Rustic Retreat

“I really wanted the master suite to feel like a sanctuary. I liked the idea that we’re bringing everything in and making it feel a little bit more warm and cozy,” says Whitney.

A casual upstairs bathroom design puts functionality first with tile floors and tongue-and-groove surfaces.

To capitalize on the land’s view, Kelly imagined a great room at the heart of the home with soaring ceilings and a window wall gallery that gives the illusion that the house is floating on water. Two distinctive 90-degree bay windows bookending the structure echo the experience while lending architectural interest to the home’s exterior. Reclaimed snow fencing from Montana and a shake roof blend seamlessly into the environment. “All the materials used were already weathered or would age immediately, so as they continue to get older, it will feel like they’ve been there forever,” says Kelly. The interiors called for classic finishes in the same vein that would stand the test of time, such as soapstone countertops and natural white oak cabinetry. Carrara marble appointments hearken back to the durable work surfaces of old-fashioned taffy shops, a memory recall of childhood visits to the mountains.

Layers of found objects and antiques, collected over a year, are true to the storied feel that resonated with Marcia. Discovering the origins of each piece, from a side table with patina to an assemblage of copper pots, fostered a connection to the newfound heirlooms woven throughout the spaces. Artful wood beams overhead and furnishings upholstered in nubby linens and cracked leather bring warmth to the tailored, rustic concept. “Creating texture was incredibly important to the design of this home and not just tactile, but also visual. Almost all of the tables and case goods are antique and have their own unique finishes—blending them all together is what makes the room feel lived in and not so perfect,” says Ray. For the homeowners, CEOs and founders of Southern-based lifestyle brand Mud Pie, the relaxed verve is a welcome reprieve from their busy work life.

“THIS HOUSE IS AN ENTERTAINER’S DREAM AS FAR AS HAVING GRACIOUS SPACES, BUT IT’S ALSO INCREDIBLY INTIMATE IN CERTAIN AREAS WITH PLACES TO READ A BOOK AND HAVE A GLASS OF WINE. IT’S THE BEST OF BOTH WORLDS.”
—WHITNEY RAY

Time at the lake centers around family as their adult children, grandchild, and pack of five springer spaniels gather at the home almost every weekend. “This house is an entertainer’s dream as far as having gracious spaces, but it’s also incredibly intimate in certain areas with places to go read a book and have a glass of wine. It’s the best of both worlds,” says Ray. The grand main room, anchored by two large-scale fireplaces, receives guests with a blend of separate seating groupings and a dining area. Tucked away from the social space are hidden nooks, complete with curtains and twin-size upholstered cushions that beckon a quiet escape. Nothing is too precious for children or canines, as the designer outfitted rooms with indoor-outdoor fabrics, low-maintenance varnishes, and comfortable surfaces.

After a day on the boat, the Millers meander back following a natural lake path toward the covered porch, where a crackling fire awaits them. “The home’s south-facing lake facade is bathed in sunlight in the evening and illuminated just right with that perfect golden hour glow,” says Kelly. As a quiet cadence settles over the water, “The House” follows suit with its own calming rhythm.