Sunday, September 15, 2013

Charley's Treasures : My Dream Home

Charley’s Treasures
 by Charley Norton

It has probably been 10 years since I saw this house. I was called by the people building it to measure for flooring and when I got there I was in complete awe. It wasn't because it was a marvel of architectural design or adorned with all the modern conveniences. It was because it was subtle and unique, which is a weakness of mine. It has to be in the top five of my favorite houses on Lake Wedowee and that is saying a lot considering I’ve been in most of them.

But even though I was so struck by this house, I was also very busy at the time and completely forgot where it was soon after we finished the work there. Several years later I was asked to help find houses to be on the first Tour of Homes. I instantly remembered this house and knew it would be perfect.
So the search began… For some reason, I thought it was somewhere in Pineywoods so I went, from the trailers at the road to the camp ground and back again. I looked down Ester Circle and followed Pam Street around to Mexico but the house was not there. The house was lost. So from that point on, I have secretly searched for it. Wherever I went, my eyes would travel the sides of the road hoping it would present itself. But it never did.

Recently my wife was bitten by the lake house bug (which I’ve had since we moved here), but with my wife, who seldom wishes for anything more than what she has, getting a bug for something is magnified ten fold over anything I’ve ever wanted. So with me in tow like a child being dragged into Walmart for the third time in a day, the search began. By land and by sea, we searched the lake over and my wonderful wife found out what I already knew, which is… Too expensive, too steep, too shallow, too small, too far, Bad road, no view, too isolated, too populated and, I‘ll say again, too expensive.
But then we found it, in a neighborhood I haven’t seen in years at least two hours after I had lost all interest in what we were doing, we roll up to an almost hidden house that had a Georgia real-estate sign in the yard. I was hoping Kim didn’t  notice it but “Eagle Eye” doesn’t miss a thing and had me stop to write down the number on the sign. It was a skinny road so when a truck came up behind me and was unable to pass, I was forced to pull into the driveway. When the house came into view, there it was. My lost dream house!
This wonderful house, sitting on what is basically a cliff on Wedowee creek is unassuming when first seen. It’s not a big house and architecturally, not a complicated structure but it is different. First of all the siding isn’t vinyl or hardy board or even rocks. It is, of all things, wood. It looks to be rough sawn wood boards made into a lap siding and a semi transparent stain perfectly colored to help the house blend in with the wooded surroundings. As you walk up to the small but adequate porch, the first thing that catches your eye, and your interest, is the light beaming through a stain glass window on the lake side of the house that can be seen through the window on the front porch.

As is the case with me most of the time, I don’t remember things in total accuracy but what I remember (or think I remember) from the young couple that built it was that the wife’s father (or grandfather) helped with the construction. He was obviously a master carpenter and had a keen eye for detail and flow. When you walk into this house, it is like walking back in time. All the walls are old vintage heart pine and when I say vintage, I mean old like from trees cut during the civil war, put in a house for over a hundred years, then removed, planed, milled and carefully installed in this house. I’ve done this before and can tell you that working with reclaimed wood is the most difficult wood to work with and this craftsman did a beautiful job. The stain glass is from an old church as is the Newell post at the foot of the steps, which was from the end of the alter.

The cabinets, I recall, were beautiful. They were the first open bottom cabinets I had ever seen and it was several years before I saw another like it. The countertops were hand made from wood and perfectly finished.

What I appreciate most about this house was that it wasn’t built to impress people that drove by. It was built for the comfort of those occupying it. And to me, that is the coolest part of this quaint little sanctuary nestled on the hillside.

It is a house that doesn’t need a stick of furniture to make it feel like home. It is warm, inviting, rustic and elegant with all the elements flowing perfectly into one another. The view from the deck is like being in the mountains overlooking a canyon and other than the thought of going down the many steps to the water, I can’t  imagine a better place to have my morning coffee.
So now your thinking, “Charley is going to buy that house” but you would be wrong. Charley doesn’t  have a stack of hundred thousand dollar bills laying around so for now, this place will have to go to someone who I hope will appreciate and respect it as I do. And for those of you who have a stack of hundred thousand dollar bills and want to know where this house is? Well, I’m sorry. It took me years to find it again, you’re going to have to look for it too. Besides, you have enough clues, right?

But what makes a dream house for me doesn’t necessarily make a dream house for you. If that was the case, this lake would be covered with a bunch of cookie cutters. Nope, my dream house is mine. It is created in my own head just as yours is because we are all different (thank goodness) and what we each perceive as paradise can be substantially different from one another.

I was brought up in an old house and even though I remember the cold mornings, the leaky roof and faulty plumbing, I also remember the happy childhood I had there and those memories come back whenever I see something that reminds me of it. When I smell a house with a fireplace, it reminds me of my grandmother’s house in Tennessee and the never ending table of garden fresh food with a giant plate of fried chicken at the end that I chased through the yard hours earlier after granddad cut its head off, which I know sounds bad now but back then it was a lot of fun (and tradition). When I’m on the water it reminds me of the many weekends I spent with the Warrens camping and boating on West Point, Lake Martin and here on Lake Wedowee and at my Uncle Neil’s where my cousins and I would float Lick creek on inner tubes before the family reunion.

It’s all the physical associations to good memories that create my vision of a utopic (another new word) residence and in my case, this particular house is one of the closest thing to it. The next person that sees it may say it smells or it’s too dark or that it’s creepy having pieces of other houses and a church built into it. But for me, it’s awesome. It’s unique.

What is perfect to me is all that was good “back when” and none of the bad. I enjoy the conveniences like warm mornings and good plumbing but want the feel of the old happy house. This is why this particular house on the lake is my dream house but not necessarily yours. But then again, I love the house I’m in. It’s old and always needs something but to me, that just means it needs me as much as I need it and everyone wants to feel needed, to a point. And on those occasions when the needs are too great, I’ll just imagine sitting on the back porch of this little piece of heaven watching the dew roll across the water as the sun breaks through the trees. Bliss…….

Editor’s Note: Since writing this column,  Charley was surprised with a weekend at his dream house by his wife Kim for their anniversary.
Illustration by Tom Scott


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