Southern Around the Edges

“Idea House” in the Ramble highlights local builder

Nostalgia slow dances with innovation in the Southern Living Idea House in The Ramble Biltmore Forest.

A treasured publication with fiercely loyal subscriber-followers, Southern Living still focuses on the decorative traditions, gracious architecture, and unique foodways of the American South. But over the decades, and like many national lifestyle magazines, it has morphed into a multi-pronged brand, branching out to offer house plans, cookbooks, and interactive events — including yearly tours of a showstopper home, created each time in a different city. 

Known as the Idea House, the luxury project showcases high-quality construction materials and elegant décor with a vernacular theme. This year’s house is right at home, in The Ramble at Biltmore Forest, and is being built by Buchanan Construction. “To be selected,” says owner Rick Buchanan, “was a thrill and an honor.”

The 3,600-square-foot home is situated on a striking corner lot, and Buchanan praises the community for its park-like feel and proximity to downtown Asheville. His project collaborators are Charleston architect Beau Clowney and Virginia-based interior designer Lauren Liess.

Their task? Create a modern iteration of a Mid Century-style American farmhouse. “I grew up in one,” Buchanan declares. “You know how when you see an original, you can tell it was added on to as the family grew? The Idea House has that feeling, except the transitions are more gracious, and there’s a great mix of classic, timeless farmhouse style coupled with a subtle Victorian flavor on the exterior.”

However, he adds, “once you enter, you see its contemporary aspect.”

Buchanan talks about the collective design process, with an emphasis on materials. “[We made] every decision for maximum effect,” he says. “We considered slate and shingle for the roof, for example, but opted for silver tin because it elegantly complements the simplicity of the home’s white exterior.”

Practical elements include a versatile layout.“The plan could serve a young family, empty nesters, or retirees equally well,” says Buchanan. “It’s a great mix of private spaces one can escape to for quiet time, and expandable ones that allow for entertaining.”  (After the tour is over, the house will be available for sale on the open market.)

Pocket doors between the spacious deck and great room means guests can easily move about. A radius wall behind the living-room fireplace and a natural light-flooded sitting area add to the drama, while modern amenities galore, like interior lighting controlled by a phone app, enable effortless living.  Designer Liess favored a soft palette of natural hues, but added unexpected color through accessories and by throwing wallpaper into the mix, which Buchanan says has made a huge comeback. 

“The home’s environmentally friendly, too — outfitted with energy-efficient windows, Energy Star appliances by Thermador,” notes the builder. Instead of gutters, river rock surrounds the home, engineered to capture water and channel it away from the structure.

COVID-19 has caused some project slowdowns, but the team is adjusting to new developments. “Safety’s our priority,” states Buchanan. Extensive safety protocols are in place (check the builder’s website for details and updates). A portion of ticket proceeds from the tour, open through the end of the year, will benefit Asheville Area Habitat for Humanity.

“The Idea House defines what mountain living is about,” says Buchanan — “slowing down, appreciating nature, and enjoying solitude and times with friends and family.”

The 2020 Southern Living Idea House will be the cover story of the October issue of Southern Living that will hit newsstands in September. Built by Buchanan Construction (828-650-6565, and located in The Ramble Biltmore Forest (, the house will be open for tours later this year. Visit for more details.

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