_ebv0107Carter and Lynlee Hughes find the simple life on Smith Lake.

Written by Jane Reynolds Photography by Edward Badham

For Carter and Lynlee Hughes, being at the lake is all about simplicity, and they wanted to build a house to reflect that—clean lines and minimalist décor, with the focus on the Hughes’ expansive view of Smith Lake and the wide-open sky. It’s almost a statement in restraint, especially given the resources Carter has at his fingertips in his position as principal with both H2 Real Estate and Hughes Capital Partners, which build and develop properties in Birmingham as well as half-million-dollar homes on Smith Lake. Lynlee is also a real-estate agent with H2, so they’re well familiar with all the trends, styles, and options available to homeowners today.

“I’m kind of all over the place in my range of what I like in housing styles,” Carter says. “We’ve done two developments on Smith Lake, and both were more ‘lake-style’ or cottage-type developments. And in Birmingham, I live in a house that’s 108 years old, and it’s kind of the traditional arts and crafts architecture. So I like all types of different things. But I feel like water and views and things like that lend themselves well to modern architecture, so that’s where we started with this—with big, open views, lots of glass and really simple floor plans.”

_ebv9998The home consists of two structures—a modest, 1,200-square-foot main house with a living/dining area, kitchen, and master suite, and a smaller, separate guest house that sits perpendicular to it with two bedrooms, each with its own bath, and a small den. Designed that way, the space always feels just right whether it’s just the two of them or a full house. “My wife and I entertain a lot,” Carter says, “but at the same time we come by ourselves often, too, and we don’t need a lot of house. It’s just us and our two dogs. So we like the idea of being able to really have a small, functional space but at the same time be able to have guests when we want to.”

When Carter and Lynlee bought the lot—from Carter’s parents, who also own the lot next door where they have their own lake house—they knew right away they wanted Louis Nequette of Nequette Architecture & Design to design their house. Their companies frequently work together on developments, so they share a long history and easy rapport, though Carter wondered how Nequette would respond to his vision for a modern lakeside design.

The answer was that Nequette wanted to approach it as he does every new design—full of possibilities for unique character that also stands the test of time. “When Carter requested something with a modern feel, for me the response was, ‘That’s great, but we aren’t going to just take a modern design that could be anywhere and transplant it,’” he explains. “One of the main ingredients of good design for our firm is that it’s ‘of’ the place, that it somehow has a contextual relationship to not just the client but to the place it sits. And in this case, that’s a lake in Alabama.”

The context helped point them toward natural materials that would reveal subtle changes over time.

“We wanted to match the approach to classical modern architecture with a tactile, honest, tried-and-true material approach of using timber, stone, glass and copper,” Nequette says. “When we brought metal into it, we chose copper because unlike a lot of metals which work to preserve without ever changing in appearance, copper patinas. It ages. Then as the stone grows moss, the wood starts to age, and the copper patinas, you have classic architecture that you’re used to seeing in a lake house even if it were more of a cabin or vernacular style of architecture. So then when you put this modern house on the lake, in the end it still plays well with everything around it.”

_ebv9979What doesn’t age is the glass, which became a defining feature of the home. Sixteen-foot ceilings give new meaning to the term “floor-to-ceiling” windows and doors that surround the house almost completely. “Louis started out referring to it as ‘the fishbowl,’” Carter says, “and it’s stuck, because it really is. (The main living area) is just an all-glass room.”

That was exactly what the Hughes wanted. When they stay inside, the views are incredible. “It’s always great, no matter if it’s day or night or raining or sunny, and we have great sunsets,” Carter says. “It’s always an interesting view.”

Weather permitting, the Hughes love to open up the house and create a fluid indoor-outdoor living space that spreads out to the courtyard pool, spacious covered patio, and a straight path to the dock. The seamless flow is achieved with bluestone flooring that carries from the interior to the exterior to create a consistent, natural look. Meanwhile, the custom-built steel window-and-door system features a corner that swings out to create a giant opening. “That was probably the most complicated touch of the house,” says Nequette.

There are a lot of details like that, elements that blend in but add subtle elegance, like the copper on the roof cut into staggered “tiles” and maintain a visual connection to traditional shingled roofing or staggered masonry. Or inside, there’s the nearly invisible kitchen—a long island in front of a fridge built into the custom cabinetry, with the stove, sink and pantry all tucked behind and out of site.

Again, it’s all designed around maintaining a minimalist aesthetic indoors in order to draw attention back to the natural beauty of life at Smith Lake, a place Carter and his family have been coming since he was a child. “We’re outside all the time,” he says. “We’re either on the lake, on the dock, at the pool, playing ping pong…and then basically when we’re in here, we’re asleep or just waking up. So we used that in how we designed the house, because I wanted to put the effort into where we’re going to be spending the most time and what we’re going to be doing.

“So for us, it’s all about incorporating the lake into the living,” he says. 












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