The mountains of North Carolina make a majestic backdrop for a vacation home with designer touches
It’s the bear truth: When you live in the mountains, wildlife abounds. Deer graze while you dine on the back porch. Rabbits hop by, and foxes peek out of the woods. And then there are the bears. As Yogi taught entire generations of kids, these seemingly adorable creatures have a hankering for human food, and they’re not above sneaking close to a cabin or campsite to forage for a snack.
But a little bit of black bear mischief turned into a good thing at this southwestern North Carolina home now owned by Albert Nolan and Jacques Molaison. While still occupied by previous owners, the cottage received a visit from a bear in search of a swim in the manmade pond out back. A few minutes of splashing around made short work of the pond’s liner—but while that spelled the end of the water feature, it proved the perfect excuse for Nolan and Molaison to later come up with a new attraction: a stone firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs perfect for relaxing with friends late into the night.
The new hangout spot is one of the many updated elements the two Baton Rougeans brought to this property in the Sapphire Valley Resort area, just a few miles from the crossroads in popular Cashiers. Drawn to the region’s cooler climate and scenic vistas, they discovered this 2001-built home in need of a new life during a visit last fall.
“It’s 3,500 feet above sea level, so there’s no mosquitos, and it’s on two lots which almost equal an acre, so you see no neighbors, you hear no road noise,” Molaison says. “All you hear is the rushing water of the creek that’s adjacent to the property, so it’s very peaceful. But the house itself was basically sort of a drywall box. We wanted something that was going to be a little bit more rustic—a sort of European hunting lodge, Ralph Lauren-esque look.”
The pair was well suited to execute the new vision—and not just because Nolan is an interior designer here in the Capital City. Molaison, an attorney, has long been an antiques and history enthusiast and was eager to put his passion for unique furnishings of the past to work in the new project.
“The second they accepted our offer, we started shopping,” Nolan says. “We started putting everything together, whether it was something that we had already that we rejuvenated or things that Jacques found on auction websites. We just started collecting things.”
That collecting process came with plenty of adventures, whether climbing through dusty antiques shops in Asheville and Cashiers or poring over art at the Atlanta market. One of the two antler chandeliers now featured in the house came from an antiques shop called Mantiques in the nearby town of Brevard, and other unique pieces were discovered at Birds of a Feather in St. Francisville. Jacques scored many items, including four-poster beds and Adirondack paintings, via the website liveauctioneers.com, which canvases auction houses all around the world.
Meanwhile, Nolan was overseeing the vacation home’s renovation from afar, with North Carolina contractor Esteban Garcia of Smoky Mountains Home Services serving as their boots on the ground every day on site. Outside, they added shutters and the new firepit area, but the biggest transformations occurred inside the house, where paneling was added to walls in the main living areas, a new shiplap-covered vent hood was added in the kitchen, and every bathroom got a major overhaul.
“The challenge for us was dealing with being three or four states away at any given point in time while they were doing the renovation,” Molaison says. “Albert was very precise and detailed with what he provided to the contractor, and we would make periodic trips up there to check the progress.”
A Stroheim pheasant-themed fabric that Nolan chose for the draperies in the open living and dining areas became the inspiration for much of the décor. Pheasant prints now hang beside the fireplace, and avian touches are found in most rooms. The birds even served as the impetus for the home’s new name, “Pheasant Ridge Cottage.”
In piecing together the design details, Nolan and Molaison were mindful of making the home functional for renters, as they are also offering it to other potential travelers on VRBO.com. “If you’re going to cook for a group on vacation, it needs to be in an area where you can see a TV, so as much as personally I’m not crazy about TVs above fireplaces, it made sense here,” Nolan says. “We decided to make it the center of attention so everybody could watch a movie or sports or whatever.”
But of course, the view of the flat screen isn’t the main attraction in this kind of setting. Every room features clear sightlines of the surrounding forested area and, in the winter, the mountain ridge beyond. Nolan installed landscape lighting all around the property to make the outdoor scene as inviting in the evenings as it is when the sun shines. “We have deer that come up into the yard, rabbits, foxes—it’s just beautiful,” he says. “Especially in the morning, if you’re out there drinking your coffee and it’s real quiet, they’re still nibbling on berries and it’s just very peaceful to watch.”
A new collection of vintage walking sticks will come in handy as Nolan and Molaison—or the cottage’s rental guests—venture farther afield to hike the path beside the creek or the many trails in this part of North Carolina, including the popular Whiteside Mountain loop.
“We hiked there last summer, and it’s absolutely breathtaking,” Nolan says. “We love the atmosphere all around here; we love the small town feel. It’s just a fantastic place.”
See more photos from this home on our gallery below: