• Laurel Contributor

Ambitious Renovation

by Luke Osteen

I don’t suppose it’s a coincidence that on my way up to Caribou House in Cullowhee that a pair of otters galumphed across the road to splash into Lake Glenville, absolutely unaware of the car screeching to a stop five feet in front of them.

It turns out that Caribou House embodies that sense of carefree frolic.

Owner Rose Mary Achey has transformed a home built in 1982 (with all the questionable design and decorating choices that implies) into an all-season getaway, complete with a bright, sunny color palette and breathtaking views of the lake and the encircling mountains.

“I found the place abandoned and unloved, and decided to take a chance with it,” she explains. “It was so dark in the living room -- mauve carpeting, dark walls, a dark fireplace in the center -- and the kitchen was harvest gold and cramped. It was hard to see the potential. I really had to think about what was possible.”

Undaunted, Rose Mary bought the place and set about an ambitious renovation, with much of the work done by herself. That’s one of the hallmarks of Rose Mary’s life – she plunges into her projects with passion and an unshakeable conviction (for evidence, see last month’s Laurel for a piece on her entry into the world of beekeeping).

And fortunately for her, she had a small coterie of friends who could offer a hand at critical times and their own visions.

“Carole Shepardson brought me the smoothie on a hot summer day last year,” she says. “I asked, ‘Can you help me remove this kitchen cabinet blocking the view?’ and she said, ‘Where is your crowbar?’ Carole was also the friend who encouraged me to remove the wall between the kitchen and living room to open the space.

“Ginny Romano is a friend who is also a professional interior designer. Ginny encouraged me to rework the laundry room entry, who gave me the brilliant idea to relocate the door to the laundry and utilize that space for the expanded kitchen appliances. Ginny also introduced me to the technique known as German Smear and encouraged me to rework the fireplaces. (German smear mimics the look of irregular stones and is akin to whitewashing bricks, but instead of using diluted latex paint, homeowners coat the brick with a layer of wet mortar. The mortar adds a rough texture, thus creating a rustic and distressed appearance.”

Such is the power of Rose Mary’s indefatigably cheerful personality that even the carpenters hired for the project became part of her circle of friends.

“Ed Shuler and John Goodson became part of the family through this project,” she says. “They were honest, fair and there was nothing they could not do. Ed was the mastermind behind the wonderful deck overlooking the lake. I told him what I envisioned and he brought it to life.”

The result of all this hard work and blue-sky envisioning is a bright three-bedroom house (that’s counting an utterly charming queen-sized loft), with three baths and an updated, airy kitchen. The mauve carpeting has been replaced by light, hardwood floors throughout and there’s an airiness to the entire home.

There’s a covered deck overlooking the rolling grounds centered by a fire pit, and, always, that remarkable view of the lake and those mountains.

When you look at the finished project, you begin to understand the easy delight expressed by those scampering otters that live just down the street.

With all the work done, and everything just right, Rose Mary has put the home on the market. For information and a tour, call Sue Mills at (561) 213-2241.

The Laurel Magazine

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