A Serene Retreat on Smith Lake

Nestled in a cove, a modestly scaled Smith Lake house lives large while celebrating its setting with natural materials and native plants.

The stone used for the exterior is referred to as “overburden”—discarded top pieces that are typically unused while extracting the more valuable flagstone pavers underneath. John purchased the stone by the truckload from a nearby quarry. Photos by Jean Allsopp

John Hagefstration knows a thing or two about Smith Lake. He’s owned two other homes in the area and has invested in developments at the lake as well. So he knew just what to look for when searching for a piece of property to build his third lake home—and he certainly got it right.

Located on an isolated peninsula with a series of coves, the land offered the ideal lake trifecta: expansive water views, a sandy beach, and abundant privacy. And John didn’t waste any time calling on the ideal design duo to execute his vision. “I worked with Ben Shepard and Darla Davis on my last Smith Lake house and on significant renovations to a mid-century home in Mountain Brook,” says John. “We speak the same language when it comes to design.” Adds Ben, “We were all on the same page about our goals for the project—a house that feels tucked into the landscape with an emphasis on natural materials, along with sight lines that connect the spaces and embrace the views. This home suits John’s style and viewpoint in every respect.”

The pavilion features a stone fireplace adorned with a family crest-style placard featuring Addison and Ally, John’s two beloved golden retrievers. The placard also includes Latin phrases that translate into “My Happy Place” and “Belly Up” in tribute to the dogs’ love of lake like. The Serena & Lily sofa and club chairs pair with a coffee table from Mecox Gardens.

The stone house with its cedar shake roof feels both intimate and open. A double-rolled gable roof treatment on the façade makes for a cozy, welcoming introduction. Inside, FireRock concrete pavers seamlessly join the main living spaces to each other, as well as to the back terrace. The main bedrooms and bunkroom have oak floors laid in a herringbone pattern, imparting a separate identity to those private areas.

To keep the scale modest, as well as suitable for weekend living with or without guests, the architects designed a lower level with its own entrance and no interior staircase. “It feels more like a guest house than a lower story,” John says. “Sometimes I forget it’s even here.”

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When it came to the furnishings, John wished to include existing custom pieces from his previous Smith Lake home. He worked with interior designer Andrew Brown to reimage his furniture collection by reupholstering items or using them in fresh locations while also introducing new custom pieces and finds. “We wanted the interiors to be free from fuss but still engaging with a subtle palette that conversed with the outside,” says Andrew.

The only sheetrock in the house is in the foyer, allowing for the installation of a Phillip Jefferies grasscloth wallpaper hand-painted by decorative artist Jan Roberts. “We wanted it to look like a 1930s Deco-inspired forest scene,” says designer Andrew Brown. A vintage Maison Jansen bench serves as seating or a drop zone. The Roman shade fabric is from King Cotton. Pavers by FireRock.
Pecky cypress cabinetry and a soapstone-topped island play into the natural elements found throughout the home. A brutalist-inspired chandelier from Mecox Gardens pairs with a Pierre Frey fabric at the window to maintain the neutral color scheme. Simple cuttings of Sweet Bay magnolia speak to the landscape beyond. Pavers by FireRock.
The bedside tables, topped with custom skirts and Greek key detailing, impart softness to the leather wall.
The simple but stylish main bathroom plays off the kitchen materials with its pecky cypress cabinetry and soapstone counter.

Both the exterior and interior design circle back to the beautiful natural setting with its canopy of trees. Landscape contractor Joey Bischoff incorporated native plants and trees throughout, such as Oak Leaf hydrangeas, Sweet Bay magnolias, wax myrtles, native azaleas, yaupons, and beautyberry shrubs.

The result of the whole stems from kindred spirits with a clear and focused vision to create an exceptional home in an exceptional location. This one just may have staying power. After all, third time’s a charm.

The lower floor’s covered terrace leads to the guest quarters. Folding shutters can be flung open or closed depending on the season. A zinc table and Klismos-style chairs from Restoration Hardware provide another dining and entertaining option. The concrete console table is from Mecox Gardens.
Outdoor living area overlooking Smith Lake
The FireRock concrete pavers used throughout the main living spaces extend to the expansive back terrace. Restoration Hardware chaise lounges offer relaxation with a view. The dining table and chairs are from Mecox Gardens.

John Hagefstration’s Take on the Lake

Location: I love the proximity of Smith Lake to Birmingham. I can make it in an hour. There is less traffic when you head north, no matter the time of day, and you don’t have to deal with Highway 280 headaches going or coming. 

Topography: Smith Lake comprises 550 miles of shoreline and has so many interesting and private peninsulas and coves. It has the feeling of a lake in the mountains. It’s so diverse, so you have to be very intentional when describing the location of your house—generalizations won’t cut it.

Water: It’s very deep, clean, and clear. In the spring, it reaches 510 feet above sea level at full pool. Then it goes down gradually to around 500 feet starting in July though early spring. That’s when the natural sand beaches on my property get bigger. I like that summer progression. 

Scene: Smith Lake has a casual, informal atmosphere. There’s no country club or golf club. People come to escape and entertain family and invited guests.

Architects: Shepard & Davis, shepardanddavis.com Interior Design: Andrew Brown Interiors, andrewbrowninteriors.com Landscape Design & Installation: Joey Bischoff, 256.287.2434 Builder: Randall Walker Construction, 256.775.6577 Pavers and Fireplace: FireRock, firerock.us

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