Featured Projects

At Lake Oconee, homeowners bring the outside in and the inside out.

Porches used to be as simple as the slow roads that snaked back to lakeside properties. A couple of rocking chairs under a slanted roof sufficed for shade– a place outside lending glimpses of Lake Oconee with the comfort of home at your back.

But in the last ten years, the walls that separate the indoors from the outdoors have broken down. With nearly ten months of pleasant weather, property around the lake is no longer simply a place to build a house, but a sloped, muscular canvas that holds space for a home in the great outdoors.

Builder Lowell White, a Lake Oconee resident and developer for more than twenty years, surveys lots by himself to see what the earth gives him. “My job is to take a look at what the land provides, customize for lifestyle–deal with that ugly word, budget– and blend it all into the house plan,” he says.

The topography of Lake Oconee is varied, affecting how outdoor spaces are crafted. Lower-level patios aren’t an option for homes on sloped property unless steps are added. If it’s too steep, subwalls are necessary, which can detract from views and the overall aesthetic.

Back porches may face the lake, but screened-in side porches might face neighbors’ yards, woods, or the driveway. The midday sun can quickly go from beautifully bright to miserably hot if builders don’t take the west sun into consideration.

"You can't have any preconceived notions when building on the lake," White maintains.

This is a radically different way to construct a home than in suburban subdivisions, where homeowners create house plans and plop it onto property. This is rearview living, building from the backyard in.

"Street views aren't as important as rear views, so you have to maximize every room to showcase the lake," says White.

No home is a better example of this concept than the builder's own. A long stretch of pavement leads to a large but humble edifice; nothing invites visitors to meander out front for long. One step inside, and guests' eyes grow as large as apples to take in what radiates from the back wall's floor-to-ceiling windows."

His living room is miles of blue sky, beams of sunlight, crystallized reflections of cerulean pool water, and the steady wobble of waves on the lake. He calls this the “wow” view. All trim, lighting, fixtures, ceilings, and moldings are crafted to accentuate the view.

The master bedroom opens up into an airy, square screened¬in porch with several sitting nooks, a fireplace, kitchenette, and a flat¬screen television. White sacrificed a "backyard" for a long, widespread back porch complete with a pool, fire pit, hot tub, and several sitting areas.

The stone walls were crafted to provide natural benches, and the pool has tanning ridges so sunbathers can put their chairs into the water without drenching themselves. This roomy porch, that held more than 50 guests for his son’s rehearsal dinner in September, is only a portion of the lot, which is slightly bigger than half an acre. “This porch is what we wanted for our lifestyle. We love to entertain and spend time outside as much as possible,” the builder says.

Whatever the lifestyle, porches can accommodate. White has designed porches with indoor/outdoor wet bars and even golf holes. “A lot of my clients come here for the same reason: to enjoy life,” he says.

Whether it’s the golf course, the woodlands, or the lake, the enjoyment comes from the myriad scenic opportu¬nities of the outdoors. Landscape designer Charles Miller says that over the course of his twenty years at Lake Oconee, he’s noticed people are focusing as intensely on the exterior as the interi¬or. “It’s more personal, people can explore water features, their favorite plants, and ornamental night lighting,” he explains.

While outdoor living space options are limitless, Miller says the central question is: How do I make this as useable as possible? Pools, fans, fireplaces, and pits temper the weather, and proper lighting can make the nighttime views as beautiful as the day. Outdoor living, he says, should stimulate all the senses. Trickling waterfalls and other water features should be in earshot of all spaces, and fragrant plants should swell on any patio. The Lake Oconee climate allows for year¬round blooming plants, so a little forethought ensures twelve months of vibrant vegetation.

“Maples and dogwoods provide good fall color, and as it gets cooler red berries on holly plants are beautiful. We have plenty of evergreens that keep leaves year¬round,” Miller says.

Marilyn Alea, an interior designer with Oconee Interiors and member of the American Society of Interior Design, says the colors that flourish around your porch can provide the pallet for your interior color scheme. “Mother nature is easy to work with,” Alea explains.

From bright reds to browns, every color complements greens. The designer says porches and deck décor can effort lessly meld with the style of the home, whether it’s a Mediterranean villa on the shore or a rustic cabin surrounded by large oaks. Mixing materials like wicker, grainy woods, stone, and cast iron cap tures the diversity of the outdoors, indoors.

Homeowners’ unique antiques or pieces of local art add personal expres sion and comfort, while preventing the pre fabricated look many Lake Oconee residents want to avoid. “You don’t want a room to look like you went to the store and picked it out,” says Alea. “This place is for entertaining and relaxing; it’s an intimate and comfortable space. You can really do what you want.”

What you do want is lots of throw blankets, firewood, and a teapot. For White, fall and winter are his favorite seasons at the lake, since the summer crowds wane and the fire pits blaze.

By Carleigh Kate Knight
Calvert & White Featured Project

Featured Project - Sonny and Jenny Newton

Sonny & Jenny Newton have been enjoying Lake Oconee for over 15 years. Residents of Stone Mountain, Georgia, the Newtown’s two daughters enjoyed weekend excursions to Lake Oconee during their teenage years. Four years ago, Sonny and Jenny found the perfect piece of property at Cuscowilla and began searching for a builder. They interviewed several builders, talked to friends who had built on the lake and decided that Calvert & White were the right folks to help them build their dream home. Sonny states, “ Lowell White & David Calvert have an excellent reputation on the lake with more than 20 years of experience in custom homebuilding and we felt very comfortable that building a home with their team would be an enjoyable experience.”

Although Calvert & White assist their customers in all aspects of planning & building their homes, the Newton’s had their own conceptual drawing and initially met with Lowell who was able to help them take advantage of their lot's topography and views and incorporate their lifestyle and desires.

Sonny and Jenny especially enjoyed the Interior Design service offered by Calvert & White. “Calvert & White worked with us on the smallest details including lighting fixtures, cabinets, and electrical outlets. We were so impressed with David Calvert’s attention to detail and there were many times when we trusted him to make major decisions when we were not there to oversee the building process. We also knew that we were getting outstanding quality, on time and within our budget.”

Calvert & White are unique in that they have no superintendents. The owners of the company are overseeing the building process every day. Lowell White, III has been a member of the team four and a half years after graduating with a degree in Building & Architecture from Georgia Tech. Calvert & White chooses to build only 6 to 8 custom homes per year so that they can give each home their undivided attention.

Now that Sonny and Jenny Newton have 3 1/2 grandchildren, their weekends are busy entertaining the grandkids with fun on the lake. Sonny and Jenny are also avid golfers and enjoy playing Cuscowilla’s challenging course. They are looking forward to the day when they can retire full-time to their dream home. Jenny recently surprised her husband when she remarked, “I would love to do another project with Calvert & White. Building a home with them was a terrific experience!”