Some homeowners embark on a new build imagining an elusive dream house, a place like no other. Not so for Bill and Barbara Norman, formerly of Seattle, who’ve already lived the dream. The inspiration for their home-to-be in The Cliffs at Walnut Cove stood clear in their minds: a beloved lodge set amid the jagged mountains of Whistler, British Columbia.
The cherished log retreat they left behind was rustic, welcoming, and the hub of family gatherings and vacations. As they departed the Pacific Northwest to join their children on the East Coast, they also said goodbye to their getaway. When Asheville won them over as their new hometown, they decided to re-envision the house that had created a wealth of great memories. “We wanted to rebuild our house in Whistler. It was the emotional heartbeat of the family,” explains Barbara, as she sits on a cozy love seat in the outdoor living space of the couple’s new home.
Veterans of the design and building process, the Normans began homing in on a builder to start off the team, choosing Dan Collins with Glennwood Custom Builders. After finding the site and discussing the direction of the project at length, Collins suggested they draft Al and Parker Platt of Platt Architecture to complete the lineup.
Together, the team set about translating the warmth the couple loved in their West Coast mountain retreat into a fresh start in the Blue Ridge. Warm natural tones of wood and tile, a flowing floor plan, and a strong connection to the outdoors came through as the common design elements. Casual and comfortable also became guiding principles. Bill sums it up succinctly: “I told Al if friends come to the front door and feel they have to take off their shoes, you have failed.”
The ties to nature start at the front entrance, where graceful ironwork pine boughs, forged by lauded Asheville blacksmith Berry Bate, trail across the glass panes. When guests step through the threshold, it’s as though they’re stepping right back outside — an effect created by the arched window just beyond the open living room that looks out over the 12th hole of the golf course and mountain backdrop. Equally ample windows at the front of the house add to the flood of light.
“This house is really all about views and daylight,” acknowledges Parker Platt, the junior of the father-son architecture duo. “The unexpected expanse of glass lets the house reach back to the road and the sky. It lets in light from both sides, balancing it throughout the house.”
Inside, the blend of woods complements the wide views. From the alder cabinets in the kitchen and the oak floors to the Douglas-fir timbers and pine-clad vaulted ceilings, the home shows how a mountain design can feature a sophisticated blend of materials.
The outdoor living room, complete with a dining and sitting area, is a signature element of Platt designs. The screened room can be completely open to the kitchen or closed off with pocket doors. A wood-burning fireplace makes the room comfortable year-round. And Bill added a special feature: a dumbwaiter that carries logs from the lower level to the upper porch.
Barbara’s office is paneled in dark-stained alder and perched a half level up above the open-riser staircase to the lower level. Even with rich wood wrapping the walls, large opposing windows make the room feel like a grown-up’s tree house.
Barbara selected a comforting palette of neutral tones and worked directly with stores in Hickory to select the furnishings, including chocolate-colored leather couches and wood tables. Her go-to spots included Amish Oak and Cherry and Hickory Park Furniture Galleries.
Pieces found at local galleries give the home an Appalachian sensibility. While exploring the Folk Art Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, Barbara discovered the stained-glass work of artist Greg Magruder. In the kitchen, four panels depicting the mountain landscape in four seasons are set in a lattice framework above the sink. It’s only fitting that the Whistler home is also represented in a framed multimedia likeness, created with fabric, thread, and paint, that graces the central hall.
Originally, Bill vetoed the idea of a basement, a space he’d found unwelcoming and underutilized in past homes. But the Platts don’t create basements. “We make a rule — we never let anyone refer to the lower level in a house as a basement,” says Parker. “In the mountains, there are lots of sloping sites, and because of their nature, they ask for a lower level. If you plan it well, don’t overly shade it with decks and porches, and provide good ceiling height and lots of glass, you can create a really wonderful space.”
An open-riser set of stairs leads down to a landing where a window seat is framed with bookshelves. Barbara anticipates reading to grandchildren-to-come in this cozy nook. A half flight down, the lower level became an entertaining space, complete with a bar and “kegerator” for local brews and a pool table. Off the central room are three bedrooms, each with en-suite bathrooms.
With such comfortable accommodations, it’s no surprise the couple has welcomed a steady stream of visitors since they moved in. Their children, friends — even visiting golf-tournament players — have settled in for stays. A week without guests is a rare occasion, and they like it that way. It means they’ve accomplished, with the help of their team, a new mountain retreat where no one feels the need for formality. “So many people tell us it feels like home here,” Bill says.
Parker echoes that sentiment. “The best houses are the ones that are finished in a way that, as you rub on them and bump into them, and live in them, they tend to look better as they wear in,” he says. “Their house has that feel.”