Lee and Tamzen Fleming’s 10,000-square-foot house could easily be described as a sprawling estate or outstanding manor. And yet the home owners and design team agree that “cottage” is appropriate.
A cottage … with a racquetball court?
“We wanted to create a home where people get together,” Lee explains. “We like it to be busy with an open door.”
The chat room, the cousin bunk room, the guest suite all speak to a home where people are welcomed, where kids come on in, where family plays cards in the sitting area off the kitchen, where racquetball enthusiasts stay overnight before a match. The house is intentionally designed to feel comfortable, warm and inviting. Cottagey.
To realize their vision, the Flemings enlisted architect Dan Sievers of Design Renaissance and the brother-sister team at All About Home Design: builder Scott Maynes and designer Karen Jones. It turned out to be a smooth collaboration. “What I value most about what I do is the team approach to the design,” Sievers says. “I’ve found it’s the most rewarding way to do a project.”
The Flemings envisioned a traditional East Coast style of architecture that was timeless but fresh, unique but harmonious with its wooded Black Forest surroundings. The construction had to be substantial enough to accommodate a six-car, RV garage without the rest of the house looking small in comparison. “The challenge was to have the automobile traffic in one spot but hidden,” Sievers says. “With the bridge to the guest suite, we were able to screen the garage.”
For six months the team met weekly to figure out architectural puzzles and consider every detail. With this 2016 Parade of Homes property, Jones brought her design expertise in effective but playful partnership. When Lee mentioned he needed space in the master bath to cut their kids’ hair, Jones was compelled to come up with another option: “You’re not getting hair all over my bathroom,” she quipped. The final collaboration was a basement barber shop that is actually a corner of the mechanical room made into usable, attractive space.
The details in the home are around every corner and along every wall—literally. A small, square cat door opens into a laundry room. Bookshelves slide apart to reveal an adjoining bedroom. A “secret” opening in 13-year-old Graham Fleming’s bedroom paneling leads to a study cubby. And the back wall of the racquetball court holds a retractable basketball hoop.
Tamzen and Jones share a mind for flow and organization, but not all the details were figured out far in advance. As Lee considered a space for attic storage, he talked to builder Maynes right before the roof went on. Going through the plans on the trusses, Maynes said, “T2 won’t work … U1 won’t work … but U2 is perfect.”
“U2?” Fleming said incredulously. “That’s my favorite band!”
With that, the music room took shape. Its long accent wall added warmth to the space without adding to the budget. “We have a lot of palettes from building projects,” Jones says. “And I thought the unfinished wood could be used as paneling.” The Flemings’ three sons disassembled the palettes as part of a team effort for a serendipitous room.
The final reveal included another detail, this one a surprise. At the entrance to the U2 room is a painting by local artist Doug Rouse. Rouse’s work decorates other walls in the house, but the homeowners didn’t expect cool, monochromatic images of U2’s Bono and The Edge. “Don’t forget Adam and Larry,” Lee says, moving a glass door to show the rest of the mural.
Still it’s not a U2 lyric that embodies the house. It’s a quote from a hymn the Flemings sing at church: “In the cottage, there is joy when there’s love at home.”
“We don’t care where we live if we have that,” Tamzen says.