Don’t let the proper facade fool you. the best way to explore this Virginia homestead is on an off-road vehicle with an 11-year-old boy as your driver. Buckle up, put on a helmet, and let your tour guide show off a few tricks along the way. This is life at Cat Rock Mountain, where getting muddy isn’t just allowed, it’s required; where sophisticated never means stuffy; and where family time is the greatest luxury of all.
Off the Beaten Path
Maryland residents Rick and Belinda Scherr explored the back roads of Virginia in search of the perfect property. “Once we got stuck on a logging road, suburbanites in our Land Cruiser,” Rick says, laughing at the memory.
Now, he and the couple’s children―Jocey, 23; Caity, 19; Will, 14; and Ben, 11―are off-road experts. On a ride through the wooded mountainside at the back of the house, Ben points out the sights. There’s the old barn that Rick is fixing up. There’s the “bear” tree, the bark of which looks like enormous claws have torn it. There’s a 1-acre pond for swimming and fishing. Then come the massive dirt piles. “Want to try a few jumps?” Ben asks.
“And really,” you ask yourself, “why not?”
Looking for Inspiration Rick and Belinda found architect Robert A. Steele of BOB Architecture in a past issue of Southern Living and called him to create their dream house. This getaway isn’t just about doors and floors and windows though. Rick longed for a lifestyle unavailable in the city. “When I was growing up, my brothers and I would go out in the woods all day. That builds your independence. My boys didn’t know that life,” he says.
At the Cat Rock Mountain property, the first time Rick encouraged Will and Ben to “go explore,” they looked at him skeptically. Now they and their sisters run the woods like expert trackers. “We have pictures of the girls and their friends just covered in mud,” Belinda adds. “The boys are always a mess.
Designed for Living
The Scherrs challenged Richmond designer Susan Jamieson to work with, rather than around, muddy shoes and rambunctious boys and girls. “We didn’t want the inside to feel as if we were living in a museum,” Belinda says. “Susan captured that very well. The house looks well done, but you can sit back and get comfortable.” Warm colors throughout the main level create a cozy vibe. Antique furnishings aren’t untouchable. Beautiful rugs and heart-pine floors hold up under kids (and remote control cars).
Outdoor fun isn’t always dirty. The back patio is great for elegant gatherings. Angled at the end of the patio, the outdoor stone fireplace affords views of the front and back of the property.
The house is ideal for guests, but often it’s just family. There is always a project afoot. They once hauled piles of wood to the top of the mountain to build a quaint cabin. Belinda spends hours walking the winding trails. In their wanderings, the members of the Scherr family keep their eyes open for wildlife. They spot turkeys and have seen a couple of bobcats. A few skunks have wandered into the yard. And occasionally, in the early-morning mist, a deer will step out onto the pristine front lawn, making its way across the open expanse before disappearing again under the cover of lush forest.
"New Homeplace" is from the October 2008 issue of Southern Living.