Learn how Leo and Kay Berard worked with architect Ken Pursley to create a naturally beautiful lake house.

Q: Designing and building a home from the ground up is a complex process…not for the weak. How did you get started?

Kay: Ken met us initially at our old cabin that we tore down to build this one. We talked for hours about what we liked about the old cabin and features we hoped to have in the new one. Taking advantage of the view from our point on the lake was a major priority. When we drove up, we wanted to be able to look straight through the house to the lake. We felt that the house should be only a part of the overall lake experience—not pop off the knoll like "ta-da!"

Q: The house appears as a series of simple barn forms, with the main structure connected to a group of outbuildings, including a primary bedroom pavilion and a screened porch. Were you inspired by the Georgia countryside? 

Ken: It was conceived as a rambling assemblage of barn forms. The intent was for the overall massing to be simple but broken down into smaller visual bites so as not to overwhelm the site. On the lake side, the design provides a panoramic view of the water from every room. The house is also one room deep, so each living space has great cross-ventilation and lots of light from multiple directions.

Kay: Our friends call it the "stealth house," because from the lake, you can see right through our home. Ken was so good at blending the structure with its surroundings that when he suggested painting the flagpole dark, I had to say, "No way!" From across the lake, that is the only part of our house you can see!

Q: The exteriors cue directly from the trees, with the sloping green roofs and darkly stained barn siding. What drove that decision?

Ken: I wanted to be considerate of the setting by having a house that capitalizes on the views and responds to its site quietly instead of being a "trophy on a knoll." Staining the house dark was key to having it visually retreat and blend with the landscape.

Kay: When Ken was here and we were discussing color, he pulled some bark and a leaf from a tree and said, "This is what I picture out here." It's hard to argue with Mother Nature.

Q: How did the natural setting influence the interior's design?

Ken: I like to bring elements from the outside in for durability and also because it helps you feel connected to the outdoors while enjoying the comforts of air-conditioning. Here, the home's fireplaces are made from the same local fieldstone used for many of the exterior garden walls, and the wood interior walls are stained a similar color to the siding.

Kay: I love that when you're inside, the dark walls seem to fall away and all you see are the bright green outdoors and the lake.

Q: How do you delineate space within an open floor plan?

Ken: The house has the kitchen, living, and dining areas all open to each other, but by using step-downs and ceiling vaults, I defined each space. I also used storage cabinets between spaces to filter the sight lines.

Q: So, is the screened porch the place to be?

Kay: Oh, we've had lots of memorable moments on the porch! We eat out there at least half the year. In the fall, we're out there watching football. We even had our son's wedding buffet there. It's a great place for the grandkids because I don't have to worry about fingerprints. But the best part is you don't feel confined in that room; you really feel like a part of nature. I just love to sit out there and read.

Ken: The screened porch was very important. It's their primary living and dining space for much of the year and is therefore scaled and furnished as a fully functioning room. I also love that this space appeals to all the senses. It's one thing to see the lake, but to feel the breeze, hear the laughter, and smell the pine trees—that is what I would call truly "living" in a room.