The Tale of the Mountain Modern

It has been a long minute since we’ve heard from our favorite Storybook storyteller. But you know the saying…”Good things come to those who wait”? Well, there is no shortage of “good things” in this modern renovation tale. As a narrator for this story, please allow me, Sarah, to share the next chapter, The Mountain Modern, in the words of our girlboss, Niki Thompson.

Hello Storybook Readers, the time has come to tell you another little story. Although the pandemic is not central to the theme of this story, I do want to note, for posterity, this is my Covid-19 house…I hope the one and only. I closed on this home exactly 1 week before our spot on the map shut down and I’m about to put it on the market while we are still in the thick of it. Although we were able to keep working throughout this worldwide pandemic, it was not without consequences. Products were harder to come by and took longer to get. Meetings with subs took place 6’ apart. But perhaps most heartbreaking of all, I do not feel it is in the best interest of the health of humankind to host a public open house. So, for the majority of you, this blog site will be your closest visit to the latest edition of Storybook Homes. So stay tuned for future posts with pictures of the finished project! But for now….. let’s get on to the story…..

This story is unique from past storybook homes in that it was inspired by the actual words of its original author.

The day I closed on 40 Brier Springs Road, I unlocked the door and walked inside hoping the quiet, empty rooms of the “before” would spark inspiration for its next chapter. The wooded lot surrounding this home was already pulling me toward a mountain setting, but I was hopeful that something inside the house would give me greater insight into the details of the story. Never could I have imagined that the details would actually be waiting for me in an envelope left on the kitchen counter.

If you look closely you can see the envelope on the counter sitting behind the clorox wipes. And can we just pause to appreciate the fact that the previous home owners left a container of Clorox wipes and a 1/2 roll of toilet paper on the bathroom TP holder 1 week before these items held the equivalent value of gold in our country? I did not take these gifts for granted.

Inside the envelope were Polaroids taken during the homes original construction, a tiny cassette tape that I can only assume has information leading to treasure buried on the property but will remain hidden because I have no device available in which to decode, and a 2-page, typed love letter. Ok, it wasn’t really a love letter, but it might as well have been because on these 2 pages the original builder passionately laid bare what she felt was the most noteworthy features of this carefully constructed home in the following four categories: Structural, Energy Managment, Home Services, and Other Items.

After reading every last bullet point, I knew it was my duty to honor my predecessor’s forward thinking, above and beyond, modern building practices with a new design of the same integrity…the Mountain Modern. I let her words inspire me and I used my imagination to fill in the gaps where her words were missing. Starting with this picture:

See that lady there? The one with the hard hat, living her best life? She is my muse. Because the remaining artifacts did not tell me who the original builder was, aaaaaand I would rather rely on my imagination than go “fact find”, I’m telling myself and you- SHE is the original builder. I want to be her. She just looks like the type that wouldn’t go hide and cry in the attic when something goes wrong on a job-site or ever back down from a salty sub who doesn’t want to do what she says. I call her “Sandy”. To me, she looks like a “Sandy” but maybe it’s because, if I look a bit closer, she also reminds me of my mother-in-law, Sandy. She is a strong woman who takes no crap off nobody. She wouldn’t think twice about taking charge or dropping the hammer on anyone who doesn’t do what they say they will do when they say they will do it. And then clean the heck up after themselves when they do. Oh! To be a Sandy!!

Let me give a few specifics on how Sandy’s meticulous notes spoke into the design of The Mountain Modern on BrierSprings.

Under Structural item 1:

It reads: “The foundation is concrete-filled block on a reinforced footing. All the block have rebar in them tying them to the footing.  The 5’ (not 3” usual) floor slab has 6 gauge (not 10 gauge as is usually used) wire mesh. At the time the framing was done, I offered to pay $1.00 per inch to anyone who found a crack in the slab. Six people swept it and I did not pay a dime”

Oh my gosh…you guys! It was this paragraph, in particular, that made me fall in love with Sandy. That girl was so proud of her slab! I wanted to pay honor to that slab pride. So instead of covering it, I brought in a team to diamond polish it to let it shine in all its glory. During the process the grinding actually revealed the rock aggregate which reminded me of a creek bed winding through the mountain. And I hate to break it to Sandy but over the years, a few minor cracks did occur in her precious slab (which is to be expected). Rather than hide them we highlighted them and I truly believe that they add a certain “character” to the space.

Under Structural Item 3: 

“The brick is anchored to the footing and is tied to the walls every 24 inches. Portland cement mortar was used instead of common masonry cement.”

I decided not to hide the brick with paint and played off her pride in cement mortar by surfacing the linear fireplace surround, vent hood and outside modern decorative features in a cement/concrete compound. I thought this also added to the Mountain Modern feel.

Can I take just a second to introduce one of my favorite features of the renovation that I mentioned above? The linear fireplace. The original home had a wood burning fireplace but when I had the stove and chimney inspected I could not justify the cost for repairs. Normally, in this situation, I just deem the fireplace “decorative” and move on but I could not imagine a Mountain Modern Home without a functioning fireplace so I had this gas unit built in front of the existing fireplace. This little upgrade to the home is as useful as it is beautiful. We use the one in our own home constantly during the fall and winter. With the height of the ceiling and the openness of the living/dining/kitchen area, it provides ambiance and warms the space without overheating. Even though the fireplace turns on with a flip of a switch instead of the strike of a match, I added a wood stack cubby next to the fireplace to add to the woodsy mountain modern “feel”.

Saving the pic of the finished fireplace for the “after” post but here is a pic of the “during”:

Next Under Energy Management*:

(*I did not really do anything to add to this but she was very proud of her forward thinking energy saving strategies that I thought I would share them with you too.)

“The walls are an R-24 and the ceiling is an R-30. (This is the same as a good quality ice chest). The floor slab has 1” of perimeer insulation.  All corners and cracks received foamed-in urethane before the sheetrock went up.”

Sandy! I am not worthy! I don’t have any idea what you are talking about but I’m duly impressed. 

“All exterior walls are 2×6 studs (not the usual 2×4) and have a full 6”  batt of fiberglass in them, plus 1” of extruded polystyrene board (not styrofoam) for a total insulation value of R-24.”

Again hats off to Sandy! Let me add to this that we also found that Sandy insulated the interior walls too! 

Under # 5 The Heating and Cooling Systems:

The following is probably the most impressive part of her “Energy Management” strategy. 

“Water furnace, closed loop water source heat pump. Operates air conditioning or heat on less than $1.25 per day. The largest electric bill has been $108. The smallest has been $67.00 (insert me- Now readers remember this was written back in the early 90s so don’t get too excited). There is no Freon, so there is no expensive condensing unit outside. The heat removed from the house in the summertime is put into the hot water tank first. The rest is dissipated underground via the two 285 ft deep wells that the closed loop runs through.”

Bottom line, this house has a geothermal system!!! What?!? This was a total shock to me when I purchased the house. I walked around the house 3 times looking for the outside unit and couldn’t find it so I thought it had been stolen. Then, I had Freyaldenhoven walk around with me and he too was scratching his head until we opened up the outside storage room and found the box on the wall.  I still had no idea what it was but the friendly Freyalenhoven rep enlightened me. At that time, I knew this was going to be the best news of my day or the worst. It was awesome to have but if it needed replacing it would tank my budget. When he crawled up in the attic he was able to locate a serial number for the attic unit. He left with the promise to contact me to let me know if it was still operational. Well ladies and gentleman, he called me later that day and said (you are never going to believe this)…The unit was replaced in 2019!!! Score!!! It was the nicest gift any house has ever given me. Not only did it not need to be replaced, that unit was now going to be a major selling feature of the house. Thank You, previous owners! I did not take this gift for granted! 

Under “Home Services”:

Sandy was very considerate to make sure cable and phone lines were plentiful. I’m sure Sandy never imagined a day that gesture would be irrelevant.)

Under Other items:

#2 “All of the interior doors (except the closets) are 36” wide and SOLID CORE.” (Emphasis mine)

Thank you, Sandy! I thought the doors were beautiful so we just cleaned them up and put new matte black hardware on them. I think they add a lot to our Mountain Modern vibe.

Unfortunately, the acrylic tubs and barber sinks did not make it thru the renovation. But I think Sandy would be pleased with the replacements.

Now, let me give you a few additional elements that I, Niki of Storybook Homes, added to the developing story to further articulate the natural, Mountain Modern vibe. 

The ash wood highlights…

White Ash is particularly grown and harvested in the Appalachian Mountains of North Carolina. I wanted to feature this light and hearty mountain hardwood. Ash is found on the custom created, eat-in kitchen table. I chose Ash plywood for the oh-so-convenient butler’s pantry. I also had my Dad build a custom Ash top for the dining table. I did not do a ton of staging in keeping with the Mountain Modern design which highlights natural elements found in building materials, open spaces and sweeping structural design. However, I thought it was important to design and bring in the custom table to show the future homebuyer that there is indeed a designated dining space. This is in addition to the eat-in kitchen table installation. So much space for friends and family!

Since I already revealed the kitchen on social meeting, I’m going to break protocol, just this one time, to show you a picture of the Kitchen. Here, you can see an example of that beautiful Ash wood. (The rest of the “after” pics should hit your screen within the week)

The bold color choice…

The moody, deep blue, almost black cabinets and soapstone countertops remind me of the shadows cast by mountains over the valley as the sun is setting. It invokes a desire to be outdoors, maybe hiking, camping or just enjoying a warm fire on a cooler evening, roasting s’mores. With the intentional, almost secluded outdoor spaces created around the Mountain Modern, outdoor living is easy and it’s a “must”.

It’s time for us to draw the Mountain Modern chapter to a close. I, Sarah, the narrator, have seen this newest Storybook home and it definitely does not disappoint. In fact, next to my own Storybook cottage, this is one of my very favorites. The attention to detail and the “extras” make it extremely attractive to buyers with excellent taste. With 4 bedrooms and 3 bathrooms, situated at the back of a quiet, established culs-de-sac, it’s perfect for a growing family. Right off Tyler Street, it’s in close proximity to schools, the library, the Tucker Creek trail system, local shops, coffee and grocery stores. I couldn’t imagine a better place to begin writing a new story!

Intrigued? Have we “peaked” your interest with The Mountain Modern?

For more info or to schedule your showing, give Niki Thompson a call at 501.472.3310.

Credits:

Tile Installation and overall fix it man and rescuer of all the problems- Edwardo David

Painter Extrodinaire- Nick’s Painting

Cabinets- Jeff Perry

Electrician: JD Hall Electric

Plumber: Lucey Plumbing

Interior Framing: Julio

Carport/Front Porch Framing/Artist- Erik Menzie

Countertops: Countertop World

Effice Surfacing: RJ Plastering

Built-in Table and Front Door Carpenter- MBR woodworks

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