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It’s interesting how the most challenging projects also turn out to also be the most rewarding. That was the case with today’s featured home renovation. This two-year labor of love presented Asheville builder Sean Sullivan with numerous challenges, but ultimately Sean’s company, Living Stone Construction, achieved spectacular and award-winning results.

Images Courtesy of Living Stone Construction ©

Just two weeks ago, it was announced in Las Vegas that this home won the National Association of Home Builders Gold BALA Award (Best in American Living) for Whole House Renovation. The accolades don’t end there. It also won a North Carolina Home Builders Association STARS award for Best Whole House Renovation in the state. Sean was kind enough to take the time to talk to give North Carolina Design his perspective on the project’s unique challenges and what it took to bring new life to the home.

The homeowners, MJ Bertsch and Melanie Furimsky, wanted to transform their existing Lake Lure house into a cozy lakeside retreat, and they came to Sean. “The house was really dated and in pretty bad shape,” he said. “We ended up tearing the structure down and building a new house from the existing foundation.”

Sean faced obstacles from the word go. “The home is on a steep slope that leads down to the lake, he explained. “Steep slopes are always a challenge. It’s also very difficult to build in the town of Lake Lure. There are a lot of stringent regulations from county and town municipalities. It took about 6 months just to get approvals.” The next challenge was replacing the sea wall. “We had to time the replacement to coincide with the lowering of the lake’s water level, which the town does periodically during the winter.”

Once the new sea wall was up, Sean and his team developed a plan to renovate from the bottom up. “We started by renovating the boathouse, then worked our way up the hill. As we went up the hill, we had to find a way to control storm water. Erosion control is a prime concern – you don’t want lakefront banks washing into the lake. We had to cut into the landscape to create drainage.”

The challenge within the house was to accommodate all of the homeowners’ wishes. “They wanted a cozy Craftsman that was also spacious. We gave them high ceilings and open rooms, but stayed true to a traditional Craftsman aesthetic. They also wanted to capitalize on their view, so we came up with a huge wall of windows overlooking the lake.”

A universal design was also important to the homeowners. The home features an elevator, lowered light switches, widened doorways, and an open kitchen, bar space and living area. The open concept idea serves a dual purpose of being wheelchair friendly and providing ample entertainment space for the homeowners.

In spite of the challenges – or perhaps because of them — Sean looks back on the renovation fondly. “To be honest, the whole project was really a lot of fun,” he noted. “As a team, it was probably our most popular project yet. We worked our way up the hill to the house, then we backed down that steep driveway and left, knowing that we made the homeowners happy, and that it was a truly a job well done.”