By the time you read this, Kip Pritchard and Val Hardin will have been in their new home for just a few months. And they couldn’t be more delighted. About 10 days before they were to move in, they were excitedly talking about the house that Living Stone Construction was building for them in The Settings of Black Mountain.
A few years ago, when Val and Kip decided they wanted to retire, they drove around the country to discover where they wanted to live. They decided that they wanted to be close to exciting Asheville, which led them to the small, vibrant town of Black Mountain. Oh, this is it, they decided. “We loved the feel of this town, and how the mountains looked around it,” Val said. Working with a real estate agent, they didn’t see anything in Black Mountain that they liked. That’s when the agent suggested The Settings. She took them there to see a house that Living Stone built. “She said, if you decide you’re going to build, let me show you what a real craftsman builds,” Kip recalled. “We loved it,” Val said of the Living Stone house they saw. The stone work, the attention to detail, “you could see the builder’s style,” she said. “It was kind of what we were looking for.”
They’d heard good things about Sean Sullivan, Living Stone’s president and an accredited master builder. “We did our research and knew that he was very well respected in this area,” Val said. She and Kip commissioned a rustic-looking farmhouse-type home that is heavy on stone work, cedar shakes and exquisite woodwork. They didn’t want a big house, “just one built with quality,” Kip said. Stone pillars announce the large front porch and reference the stone fireplace inside. The 3,200-square-foot home has three bedrooms and three and a half bathrooms. Kip, who likes to take photos, and Val will use one bedroom for an office. “One of the things we liked about Sean and Living Stone, they asked us what we like to do and what we wanted to do when we moved here,” Kip said. “The fact that they really listened to us was a big reason we went with them. A lot of our decisions led us to the design we ended up with.”
“The other things we liked,” Val said, “was that they had a very process-oriented approach. Everything was done step by step and was easy to understand. Our (project) superintendent has been incredible. It’s been a really positive and good experience. And I know that most people don’t have those types of experiences when they build a house. This has been a fun process.” What made the process especially notable was that Kip and Val were in Pennsylvania during much of the construction. Kip was working in health care. Val sold software. “We needed people that we could connect with quickly who we trusted,” Kip said. “We really had to rely on the team to be forthcoming and come to us with recommendations.”
Kip and Val came down about once a month to see how things were going. They loved working with Living Stone’s in-house interior designer, Laura Kirkpatrick Sullivan, Sean’s wife. “She was critical to the process,” Val said “All the details you need – lighting and electrical and everything – she had those things laid out for us to select. Doorknobs, faucets, she helped us through all that. She did a great job of helping us narrow down what we were looking for.”
Now, the North Carolina natives are back at home. They hike and backpack, and Val rides trails on her mountain bike. They plan to spend a lot of time beneath the bronzed metal roof over the porch, as well as on the uncovered deck out back. They love all that outdoor living space, with its views of Black Mountain and the Seven Sisters mountains that help define the town. “I just feel like I’m in my own little playground,” Val said. She and Kip love taking their golden retriever on the trails or to the many dog parks in the area. “There are so many areas to explore,” Val said of this small town just east of Asheville. “We love music and all the craft breweries. I just feel like it’s going to take the rest of my lifetime to explore this area in detail.”