2020 Southern Living Idea House: A Dreamy Blue Ridge Mountain Hideaway
For our 2020 Idea House, we built a spectacular escape that shows off Asheville, North Carolina’s down-to-earth style.
Come October, the leaf peepers putter bumper to bumper along the Blue Ridge Parkway to take in its famed autumn color. So when it came time to decide on a location for this year’s Idea House, we headed north (well, not too far) for a nice dose of Western North Carolina’s mountain magic. Asheville has really exploded as a hot spot for outdoor adventurers, innovative artisans, and award-winning chefs. Not to mention the fact that Biltmore is a picturesque Southern pilgrimage. We broke ground in The Ramble Biltmore Forest, a secluded 1,000-acre community (part of the original farm founded by George W. Vanderbilt in 1897) nestled into a wooded mountainside. It’s around 15 minutes from the action downtown but feels like it’s a world away. We called on a talented team from across the region to bring our Appalachian getaway to life: interior designer Lauren Liess, builders Rick Buchanan, Jason Norton, and Rodger Gardner of Buchanan Construction, architects Kate Campbell and Beau Clowney of Beau Clowney Architects, and landscape architect Greg Cloos.
“We wanted to design a classic mountain house with a nostalgic reinterpretation of the vernacular architecture of the North Carolina region,” says Beau. “It’s full of light and air with classical proportions.” The blueprint (a collection of smaller cabins layered around a larger one) represents the idea of a family farmhouse that’s been added onto over time. “Great Southern homes have a connection between indoors and out. This house feels like a quaint cottage in the woods,” Kate adds. Lauren infused the interiors with soulful antiques, earthy color palettes, and cozy gathering spaces that are just as relaxed as the beautiful Blue Ridge setting. The result? A laid-back escape for year-round mountain living and getting together with family and friends. Step inside this year’s home for inspiration.
Setting the Tone
"The location really was my starting point. My vision came from the views outside the windows of the house," says Lauren.
"People choose to live in the North Carolina mountains because of the natural beauty of the surroundings here, so I emphasized the different shades of green (which I pulled from trees and other plants) as well as the texture of the wood,” she says.
"This is a space for exhaling, relaxing, and not worrying about anything else,” Lauren says.
Lauren chose fabrics and surfaces that were mostly neutral but provided a lot of texture. Here are some of the materials she used throughout the home.
- Taylor King in Kale Coffee, taylorking.com
- Squid Flower in Black and White, shop.laurenliess.com
- Fern Star in Lou Lou’s Pistachio, shop.laurenliess.com
- Veranda Marble in Antiqued White, architecturalceramics.com
- Terra Folk Bouquet in Honey, architecturalceramics.com
- Live Sawn White Oak in Custom Finish, cochranslumber.com
- Oak Cabinetry, wellborn.com
- Emerald® Designer Edition Momentum, SW 9530, sherwin-williams.com
A wide terrace greets visitors. James Hardie’s Artisan lap siding and HardieShingle siding (on the archway) are painted with Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Rain Refresh™ Exterior Acrylic Latex with custom tint in Quill Extra White (SW 7006), which stands up against the weather. The front door looks welcoming in Sherwin-Williams Rural Green (SW 6418) (shown on left). An antique hall tree adds function and charm to the foyer (on right).
In this open floor plan, the living room had to be equal parts hangout spot, entertaining center, and functional pass-through. A jute rug, layered with a vintage kilim, helps distinguish the space. Deep sofas and a large ottoman (from the Lauren Liess Collection by Taylor King) can seat a crowd. “I often use new upholstery but bring in quirky antiques—like the Victorian armchair—to add charm,” Lauren says of her first purchase for the house.
Lauren created a focal point above the range with terra-cotta tiles (Folk Bouquet from her line by Architectural Ceramics) that’s the perfect backdrop for displaying essentials like the Southern Living Collection for Dillard’s cast-iron casserole dish and other kitchen solutions. The sleek Wellborn Cabinet, Inc, cabinetry has built-in organizers and a touch-to-open wastebasket and drawers, making it functional for busy families and great for entertaining. The chimney-style range hood (with an oak board) adds a historical touch to the new space.
The galley-style back kitchen, with extra pantry and counter space, features large windows that overlook the back deck. Liess describes this space as the ultimate party-prep area for inside and outside entertaining. Wellborn Cabinet, Inc. cabinetry in Sandstone Slate and Oyster White Java finishes keep the back kitchen feeling light and airy.
Tall Marvin Ultimate Casement (Stationary) windows wrap around the dining room, making it seem like a glassed-in porch. Forgoing draperies and painting the frames glossy green (Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Momentum, SW 9530) helps draw attention to the pine trees in the background. “I kept the space spare so all eyes would be fixed on the view,” says Lauren. A traditional farm table from her collection by Woodbridge Furniture anchors the modern metal Windsor chairs from Wayfair.
A busy cottage needs a quiet room to retreat. The comfortable leather furniture (Lauren Liess Collection by Taylor King), floor-to-ceiling oak bookshelves, and painted ceiling (Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Momentum, SW 9530) with reverse-shiplap detailing make this a cozy spot to relax. “Dark colors have a cavelike effect and create a sense of privacy,” says Lauren. With a stocked bar cart, the library can transition into a cocktail lounge later in the evening.
“Living in the mountains calls for a wood-burning fireplace,” says Rick. A screened porch off the living room combines the best of indoors and out. The team installed Zuri Premium Decking in Chestnut, which resembles the interior’s hardwoods but resists scratches and stains. In the living area, a stone coffee table from The Home Depot and LEE Industries sofas covered in Sunbrella Spinnaker Cream fabric invite guests to gather around the fire.
An Original Charleston Bedswing in Mahogany with a cushion covered in Sunbrella Sailcloth Sailor fabric (with cozy Sunbrella throw pillows and a throw) is a prime spot for relaxing on the screened porch. The French doors behind the swing lead to the main bedroom.
Gold velvet chairs (from the designer’s collection by Taylor King) encourage passersby to plop down and enjoy the view. “Slipper chairs are comfortable and more noncommittal than armchairs. This is a great sneak-away spot for conversation during a party,” Lauren says.
A Reid Classics mahogany canopy bed (topped with bedding from The Home Depot) and Morris & Co. Meadow Sweet wall-paper are historical nods. Decorating tip: Crisp white bedding grounds the sculptural furniture and ornate wallpaper in this space.
The bath (painted Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Herbal Wash, SW 7739) features twin Wellborn Cabinet, Inc., vanities, accessorized with antique mirrors and scones from Circa Lighting. Underneath the windows, outfitted with lace curtains from Mission Motif, sits a freestanding Japanese soaking tub. Aged marble tiles from Lauren's collection with Architectural Ceramics round out the look.
The Buchanan Construction team added custom touches in the mudroom like cabinetry paneled in warm faux leather and a built-in wooden bench. This nook an ideal place for pet food, bowls, and leashes. The vintage style dog sketches (Lauren Liess for One Kings Lane) complete the look.
An apron-front sink, lace curtain, and moveable zinc-topped potting table add farmhouse style, while the vintage drying rack brings a Victorian detail to the laundry.
A marble sink from Signature Hardware and brass sconces from The Home Depot liven up this tiny room. The powder bath walls are painted Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Simple Stone (SW 9521).
The Reid Classics bed, moody green walls (Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Momentum, SW 9530), and ethereal Annie Selke bedding create a sense of tranquility. In the guest bath, fixtures with brushed-gold finishes dress up the neutral vanity.
A pair of cane-back corner chairs are perched at the top of the staircase. "I love how botanicals take over the entire space," says Lauren of the landing's natural artwork (Lauren Liess for One Kings Lane). An antique rug adds patina to the quiet spot.
A bold wallpaper by Morris & Co. “helps form memories of a space,” says Lauren of family homes. A pair of Reid Classics mahogany twin beds topped with cozy quilts keeps guests feeling snug. A pair of plush armchairs from Lauren's collection with Taylor King are perfect spots to curl up with a book before bed.
Subtle tones and simple details balance the adjoining bedroom’s busy wallpaper. Textured tiles by Crossville, Inc, add stunning impact.
Built-in beds double as lounging spots and keep the floorspace open. Artwork plays up more nods to the outdoors, with a collection of vintage tree prints hanging in the bunks. The bedroom walls are painted Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Foraged Steel (SW 9565), and the ceiling and trim are painted Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Simple Stone (SW 9521). A set of Lee Industries chairs covered in Sunbrella fabric invites guests to settle in for a board game.
In the bunk bath, Sherwin-Williams Emerald® Designer Edition Natural White (SW 9542) coats the walls. A set of bird prints by John Gould for Biltmore add natural elements to a blank space. Crossville Tile's Jazz Age-Louis shower tiles in a watery grey hue wrap around the walk-in shower.
Pick a Porch
Being in the mountain setting means you can enjoy the outdoor space year-round. There are plenty of spots to sit and relax.
A casual outdoor place to bring family together is always a bonus. Below the deck, wooden Adirondack chairs from The Home Depot surround a stone firepit, and shrubs from the Southern Living Plant Collection enhance the backyard’s natural landscape.
A Quick Tour of the House Plan
Build our 2020 Idea House! This 3,650-square-foot home offers four bedrooms and four-and-a-half baths (plus plenty of porch space for outdoor living). Buy the plan for The Ramble Farmhouse (SL-2052) at houseplans.southernliving.com.
Explore the Community of The Ramble Biltmore Forest
“Preserving and appreciating natural beauty are both fundamental parts of our design,” says Brad Galbraith, vice president of community development for The Ramble Biltmore Forest. Its wooded 1,000 acres are nestled into Ducker Mountain, neighboring the Blue Ridge Parkway and Biltmore. To maintain its scenic environs, the community carefully created miles of trails for exploring the area and designated a significant portion of acreage to be permanently preserved as woodlands.
Thanks to Our 2020 idea house sponsors
Inspired by the classic designs found in George Vanderbilt’s Biltmore House, gardens, and winery, Biltmore partners with industry leading companies in home furnishings, bedding and bath, entertaining, and style.
Crossville, Inc, America’s leading manufacturer of porcelain tile, also offers a wide range of glass and natural stone tile for interior and exterior use.
The Home Depot®
Everything for Every Room: From furniture and decor to bedding and bath linens, endless options for your space are online at The Home Depot.
The Aspyre Collection by James Hardie® expands design possibilities and provides uncompromising performance for distinctive design, engineered to last.
Marvin is driven by our purpose to imagine and create better ways of living. Marvin’s product portfolio includes the Signature, Elevate, and Essential Collections—an extensive selection of made-to-order windows and doors. Our products deliver quality you can see, touch, and feel; beauty that brings joy; and performance that stands the test of time.
Explore at marvin.com.
The Pedigree® Brand
The Pedigree® brand feeds more dogs than any other brand and is committed to dog adoption.
For more, visit pedigree.com.
Royal® Building Products
Zuri® Premium Decking combines the natural beauty of exotic hardwood with the durability and low maintenance requirements of PVC.
The Sherwin-Williams® Company
Emerald® Designer Edition™ paint and primer in one offers the finest in color with a virtually flawless appearance and our best hide yet.
Southern Living® Collection Exclusively at Dillard’s
Shop the complete Southern Living® Collection for bedding, bath, home decor, and more. Available in-store and online.
Southern Living® Plant Collection
Want your gardens to look like the pages of SouthernLiving®? Selected specifically for our Southern climate, these plants deliver.
Sunbrella fabrics are the complete performance standard, with best-in-class comfort, fade resistance, cleanability, and strength that lasts.
Wellborn Cabinet, Inc.
Wellborn has high quality kitchen and bath cabinetry made in the USA. Offering both frame and full access frameless cabinets, we offer wood, MDF, textured veneers, and matte and high gloss acrylic doors from traditional to modern design.