Addition to Tradition
A wall of windows provides ample ambient light in the game room. Along the far wall, a reproduction architect’s cabinet holds twin flat screen televisions for competitive video gaming.
Photography by David Dietrich
It has all the elements of a Hallmark Channel situation comedy: loving (yet practical) parents, five energetic kids, a collection of dogs, cats, birds and rabbits…and 500 summer campers. But this is real life for Jim and Margaret Miller and their children; they’re the fourth generation of the family to operate Greystone, a revered camp for girls near Lake Summit, which is closing in on its 100-year anniversary. So when they decided to renovate the heritage house that functions as command central for the campus, the Millers wanted to honor tradition while setting the stage for fun.
The house had developed along with the family and the camp. The original structure was a four-room salt box, built in the early 1900s as a mill house for the textile industry in Tuxedo and purchased by Jim Miller’s great-grandfather when he founded Greystone in 1920. Jim’s parents added on in the 1970s — a saw-tooth, mountain contemporary style addition — and over the years, further adaptations had created something of a crazy quilt of rooms.
“Many of the earlier renovations were drawn on the back of a napkin and executed by the camp carpenters,” says Jim with a chuckle. Not exactly a comprehensive approach. “One of the issues was that it was unclear where to enter the house,” notes Margaret. There were three different entries — basically three back doors — but there wasn’t really a front door.”
Enter architect Wayland Shamburger. One of his daughters had attended Camp Greystone, and he had delighted the Miller’s with an earlier design for the porch and bell tower for the campus’ dining hall. Shamburger had an immediate grasp of the challenges, and opportunities, in adapting the family home to the Miller’s unique needs.
“The original house had a very traditional feel, but the addition was as far as you can go opposite to that,” recalls Schamburger. “They were two worlds that didn’t relate to each other at all. I wanted to create an addition that paid attention to the history but didn’t stay too close to the Colonial. This is a camp — it required a more mountain rustic, more Adirondack architectural persona”
To physically transform the house, builder Brad Hutchinson and his crew from Grace Homes took the 1970s addition down to the foundation. “Brad built my parent’s new home,” says Jim, “so we knew we wanted him on this project. It was like working with family.” The new construction was then blended gracefully with the original section of the house, which contains the Millers’ personal spaces. “By adding some shutters and changing some of the textures on the exteriors of the main house, we could transition to this new section, with the shake roof and a more rustic feel,” explains Schamburger.
The result is a greater sense of continuity between the elements. “The 1970s addition took up basically the same footprint, but looked kind of tacked-on,” notes Jim. “Visually, this structure occupies the same space, but now it celebrates its own weight. It still acknowledges the “growth” of the house — it doesn’t deny the history — but it’s a much more comfortable graft.” Landscape design by Tom Mainolfi of Carolina Native Landscapes and stonework by Jim McPhee further integrate the home into its setting.
Recognizing that the Miller home serves as a gathering place for the campers and staff, Shamburger’s design incorporated an appropriate transition from the public to private areas of the home. Just a short walk from the campus along a wooded path, the structure’s large covered porch offers access to a great room punctuated by a high, vaulted ceiling with beams from Blue Ridge Timber Frame and an adjacent game room. The generous kitchen and dining areas overlook the living space and provide a congenial setting for the Millers’ daily breakfast meetings with the senior counseling staff.
A gallery — with an exquisite curved bookcase by Woodform Cabinets and hand-wrought iron railings by Patrick Pusateri — affords a birds-eye view of the great room. This balcony area also provides access to the children’s quarters in the upper story of the old section of the house while multiple computer stations in the aerie allow Jim and Margaret to monitor their youngsters’ online time. An adjacent family playroom connects to the downstairs game room via a secret door and a fireman’s pole.
To help her create the ambiance of a well-established — yet current — legacy home, Margaret worked with interior designer Bob Lancaster of Kentucky, a family friend. “We wanted to finish out the house in a beautiful way, “ says Lancaster, “but it was vital that all the fabrics and furniture be very user friendly and interchangeable, that is, adaptable to many different areas of the home.” Their muted palette, comfortable and un-fussy furnishings and Arts & Crafts touches invoke a sense of ease — kid friendly, low maintenance, yet supremely inviting.
And, yes, there is now a lovely entryway — a covered portico, foyer and clearly defined front door. It’s a door that offers warm welcome to a new/old house that’s filled with a tradition of laughter, life and love.