Lake House in the Trees

Alabama Lake House in the Trees
Photo: Photo: Helen Norman

Designer Richard Tubb gives his Alabama lake house a glass-walled addition that blurs the boundaries between inside and out.

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Lake House in the Trees

Alabama Lake House in the Trees
Photo: Helen Norman

Set at the edge of a clear, deep lake just north of Birmingham, the unassuming home of designer Richard Tubb and his partner, Danny Weaver, rises like a tree house from the shore. In the evenings, it glows like a lantern, becoming a beacon of sorts for boaters on Smith Lake. Architect and friend Jeff Dungan designed the home's addition.

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Lake House Before

Lake House Before

The original cabin was initially purchased as a "mail-order" kit. Accompanied by an instruction manual, these mass-produced prefab homes arrived on-site in as many as 12,000 pieces. Rather than force an addition directly onto the cabin, architect Jeff Dungan designed a separate, freestanding structure and connected the two with a breezeway.

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Lake House After

Lake House After
Photo: Helen Norman

Jeff's design left the original house untouched, adding the single room at the front edge of the home's existing porch and leaving that space to function as a breezeway between the old and new structures. To maximize lake views, he sited the addition as close as possible to the water's edge, which required removing some of the pine trees on the rocky shoreline. Jeff paid homage to those trees by supporting the new structure with seven tapered timber poles, varying their heights and locations. "I wanted the placement of those columns to be random, which created some engineering challenges," says Jeff. "But in nature, trees grow where their seeds land, and that's the same effect we implemented here."

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The Addition

The Lake House Addition
Photo: Helen Norman

The addition, which includes a galley kitchen that opens onto a spacious living room, offers a bird's-eye, panoramic vista of the lake through windowed walls on three sides. Muntins painted a dark hue complement the pine walls coated in Richard's trademark neutral shade and help the elongated floor-to-ceiling windows draw all eyes outward to the serene scenery beyond. "This house captures you," says Richard. "When you are standing in this room, it feels like you're on a boat. Guests sit in here and say that they're going outside, but they never do!"

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Panoramic Living Room

Panoramic Living Room
Photo: Helen Norman

With this being the home of a well-respected designer, one might expect the living room's interior to speak just as loudly as its setting. Instead, guests at Seven Sticks experience the opposite. Devoid of area rugs or window treatments and outfitted with understated furniture in a neutral palette, the room is completely camouflaged by its surroundings. "I want people to walk in and say, 'This is the most beautiful view I have ever seen,' " says Richard. "This house is about being captivated by nature. Not one single thing is intended to stand in the way of what's outside."

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Rustic Kitchen

Rustic Lake House Kitchen
Photo: Helen Norman

Following suit, the galley kitchen also does little to call attention to itself. Rustic wood salvaged from a North Carolina cotton gin lines the addition's only solid wall. "I left the wood just as it was found—peeling paint and all," Richard says. To complement the look, he chose freestanding restaurant-grade stainless steel cabinetry and enlisted blacksmith Darren Hardman to craft a custom steel island. Open shelving confines dishware to the essentials, while a row of bare Edison lightbulbs provides general and task lighting.

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An Inviting Location

An Inviting Location
Photo: Helen Norman

All summer long, the addition hosts good times and keeps the invitations flowing. "This house makes you feel like you're a kid again," says Richard. "You know when you enter that you're going to enjoy yourself. The only worry here is whom to share the house with next."

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Cozy Bedroom Nook

Cozy Bedroom Nook
Photo: Helen Norman

Hanging curtains create a cozy bed nook.

Richard's Style Tip: "Instead of patterns, use lots of textures to add interest to a neutral palette."

Get the Look!

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Comfortable Living Room

Comfortable Living Room
Photo: Helen Norman

Richard sometimes adds black to deeper paint colors to make the hues more intense.

Richard's Style Tip: "Fill a lake house with comfy pieces so you can't wait to sit down."

Get the Look!

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Raised Terrace

Raised Terrace
Photo: Helen Norman

The raised addition allows for a covered terrace underneath.

Richard's Style Tip: "Balance rustic textures with clean lines and sleek surfaces. On the terrace, a handcrafted stucco fireplace provides a counterpoint to the woven furniture and wood walls."

Get the Look!

  • Easy-Care Fabric, Classique from the Richard Frinier Collection by Sunbrella through Pindler & Pindler; available through DCOTA, 954/921-7575
  • Industry Side Table (#05300), $179; homedecorators.com
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Balcony with a View

Balcony with a View
Photo: Helen Norman

A balcony a top the connecting breezeway provides an idyllic spot to take in sweeping views of Smith Lake.

Richard's Style Tip: "Surround yourself with nature indoors by filling vases with things you've cut from the yard."

Get the Look!

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