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Casual Elegance on Lake Martin

Photography by Jean Allsopp

Home sweet lake house! VIE catches up with designer Paige Schnell of Tracery Interiors to marvel at this beautiful second home on Lake Martin near Birmingham, Alabama. Completed in 2009, the home was a collaboration between Schnell and Anna Kay Porch of Tracery and builder John Lanier.

Lake Martin, one of the largest reservoirs in the United States, was formed by the Martin Dam, which has generated hydroelectric power from the Tallapoosa River for the Alabama Power Company since 1926. Today, Lake Martin is a popular area for swimming, waterskiing, camping, boating, golfing, and other outdoor recreation. The homes surrounding its shores are some of the most beautiful in the state, and this one is no exception.

VIE: How closely did you work with the builder on this project?

Paige Schnell: John Lanier, the builder, is a true craftsman. We worked with him on all decisions for the home. We selected the stone and mortar on the outside, the custom window color, the wood detailing on the inside, and the wood flooring, and we custom-designed all the cabinetry. This was truly a great collaboration. To work with someone that puts so much time and effort into every detail is very special, and we loved every minute of creating this home.

VIE: How did the owners’ intended use of the home affect your design plans?

Schnell: Our clients live full-time in Mountain Brook, Alabama, and we had designed their primary home there, as well as this lake house. We planned the home for the family, which at that point included small children—but we kept in mind that those children would grow up. The home still works well for the family, and the design is classic and timeless.

Creating a home that is a retreat for a family is different than working on a primary residence. While Tracery has designed both primary and second homes over the years, we have definitely kept our feet firmly planted in creating retreats for our clients, mainly because of our company’s location in Rosemary Beach, Florida. People come to us for that, and we love to be involved in the process of creating these homes.

VIE: What are some of the key features you wanted to include to make this a true Lake Martin retreat?

Schnell: We wanted classic details, but for the design to be clean, not fussy. This wasn’t the renovation of an old home; it was new, but we still wanted a balance between old and new. Old beams, old floors, and antiques mixed with the clean, modern details in the architecture to create the eclectic mix.

The owner found the antique beams from a supplier that hunts through the countryside for these treasures. The beams really are huge and add texture and scale to this large living space. The living room has soaring ceilings, and the antique wood adds warmth and character. We brought in the barn wood and more beams to keep the same flavor throughout the home.

VIE: How would you describe your style for the lake house?

Schnell: This home is the epitome of “casual elegance.” This is a style we really love. Many of the homes we design along Florida’s Scenic Highway 30-A would also fit in this category. You can host a beautiful candlelit dinner party at the dining table, and few feet away, at the island, you can sit in your swimsuit and enjoy a tomato sandwich for lunch. Just like a home at the beach, a lake house has to be multifaceted, accommodating many uses in one space. We love playing with the balance between cozy and elegant, creating spaces that are not only gorgeous but also comfortable enough for sitting around in pj’s and reading a book on a rainy afternoon.



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