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Gracious Lakeside Home

A new home resounds with handcrafted materials and romantic notions of grand camp lodges and communal gathering places in nature

Written and produced by Eleanor Lynn Nesmith
  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Preliminary sketches of a house are often only vague concepts. Yet sometimes a simple diagram can instantly strike the perfect chord—even when the final outcome is a long time coming. More than a decade ago, architect Bobby McAlpine penned one such drawing while standing with Walter Russell on a magnificent piece of property in Alabama, overlooking Lake Martin.

    “The key to designing a successful lake house is to create a silent witness to the greater environment,” says McAlpine, who admits falling under the charm of Lake Martin himself. Since founding his firm in nearby Montgomery in 1983, he has designed scores of houses there. “You need to be quiet and take in what is around you,” he adds, “and always remember why you are here.”  

    Walter Russell surely does. In 2002, before Walter had even heard of McAlpine, much less thought about commissioning him, they shared a love of Lake Martin. Walter had recently purchased property and spent weekends camping out, clearing the landscape, and imagining the home he would one day build there.

    When Walter, who owns a lumber company, learned an architect was designing 10 Shingle-style homes nearby, he saw it as a business opportunity. Their first meeting at McAlpine’s office bordered on a sales call, but the subject of wood was not a mere commodity to the two of them. It was a unique personal connection. McAlpine’s father was a lumberman in rural Alabama, and he credits memories at the mill as powerful influences on his architecture.   

    The two men reviewed the plans and agreed to incorporate Walter’s products. A professional association was forged. A few months later, they met with a different agenda. This time it was along the lake to design Walter’s own home. “Bobby asked lots of questions and told me he wanted to get into my heart and soul, so the house would be all about ‘me,’ ” Walter recalls. “As we walked the land and talked, Bobby started drawing and quickly came up with plans and elevations.”

    The peninsula property oversaw big water and two bays. “With this type of land, it’s possible for every room in the house to have views of the water,” McAlpine says. “That was my goal.” 

    The architecture is incredibly site-specific as it rambles along the shoreline. The house nods to the romantic notions of the Shingle style, with its familiar forms and gracious proportions, yet this structure enjoys a commanding stature and sense of permanence. 

    “This home acknowledges its owner, a gracious Southern lumberman,” McAlpine says. “The design draws elegance from devices not typically found in residential architecture. There are elements of a chapel in the woods, rural schoolhouses, and old factory offices. It even has its feed-and-seed-store moments.”

    A steeply pitched gable paired with a subtle Gothic archway defines the front door creating a dramatic entrance.

    Architect: Bobby McAlpine   
    Project architect and landscape design: David Baker, McAlpine Tankersley Architecture, 501 Cloverdale Road, Suite 201, Montgomery, AL 36106; 334/262-8315,
    Interior design: Susan Ferrier
    Project manager: Audrey Bagley, McAlpine Booth & Ferrier, 349 Peachtree Hills Ave. N.E., Suite D-1, Atlanta, GA 30305; 404/501-9200,

    Photography: Emily Jenkins Followill

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Gracious Living Room

    Once inside, the drama unfolds immediately. At the heart is an open living space with abundant natural light and a tapestry of woods and textures. McAlpine concedes that a second home is more casual—with open spaces flowing one to another—but he recognizes a hierarchy. “This central hall accommodates the public functions of a lake house, while deftly reconciling massive scale with memorable intimacy."

    Designer Susan Ferrier chose large-scale furnishings in keeping with the room’s proportions, including a “Castle Praha” sofa from Lee Industries. The “Cocktail” ottoman was designed by McAlpine.

    Chandeliers (“Foundry European”/Hand-Forged Iron #139-3-J1174): Foundry Lighting,
    Art at stairs (Misty Marvel): Stanton Home Furnishings,
    Blue sofa (“Castle Praha Sofa” #3901-03): Lee Industries,
    Sofa fabric and throw pillows (“Genova” #F1327-30, colorway discontinued): Designers Guild,
    White pillows on sofa (“Sheffield”/Seaspray #34551-4): Clarence House,
    Bench in front of sofa (“Cocktail Ottoman” #9378-90 ); bench leather (“Serengeti”/Natural): Lee Industries,
    Pair of small tables in front of bench (“Tini Side Table” #GTAB303MT); round sofa end tables (“Fossil Stool” #AC041): Noir,
    Pair of tufted ottomans (“Leather Cocktail Ottoman” #L1014-90): ottoman fabric (“Flanders”/Coal): Lee Industries,
    Table at window, left in image (“Sergio Bleached Pine Console Table” #CIMP-M9-BP, by Four Hands): available from Furnitureland South,
    Lamp on table (wooden architectural lamp): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Stone Fireplace

    A massive stone wall and fireplace anchor the conversation area, where plenty of seating options allow for relaxed entertaining. The tufted ottomans from Lee Industries can serve multiple purposes—for seating, as foot rests, and as tables. Chandeliers at each end of the room are from Foundry Lighting.

    Stonework in fireplace: Phillip Brown, Alabama Wholesale Stone,
    Fire screen (custom): fabricated by Yancey Edwards, 334/657-8865.
    Fire tool at left of fireplace (Architectural Iron Element): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,
    High-backed chairs at fireplace (“Lyon Chair” #5529): Gregorius/Pineo,
    Chair fabric (“Mica”/Pewter #10209-099): Mokum,
    Pillow in chair (“Argentina” #1015/002): Dedar,
    Throw: Bloomingdale’s,
    Floor lamps by chairs (“Boston Floor Lamp” #SL1900): Circa Lighting,
    Table in front of fireplace (pair of 19th-century French elm benches): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,
    Pair of lounge chairs (“Hearthside Swivel Chair” #1906-01SW); tables beside lounge chairs (“Martini Table” #MT01): Lee Industries,
    Lounge-chair fabric (“Sheffield”/Pebble #34551-3): Clarence House,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Artful Armchair

    Hand-forged iron ratchets accent the “Lyon” chairs from Gregorius/Pineo. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Wall of Windows

    Four 23-foot-tall columns commingle with a lower ceiling and a run of windows that speaks to the lakeshore.  “Strong horizontal gestures in a vertical space put the eye to rest,” the architect says. 

    Walter personally reclaimed hundred-year-old wood from a plantation house and cotton gin. He then hand-planed the wood and devised a machine to create a wire-brush finish. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Great Room Dining Area

    To complement the tones and textures of the wood, interior designer Susan Ferrier went deliberately cool and subtle. “The roughness of the wood was the muse,” Ferrier explains. Muted grays and the blue and green undertones of the materials establish the palette and strike an appropriate balance with the landscape.

    “The wood is so active, there wasn’t a need for extraneous visual elements or a lot of movement,” Ferrier adds.

    In the dining area, a high-back bench and “Bongo” ottomans from Lee Industries mix with host chairs from Hickory Chair.

    Area rug: custom.
    Dining bench (“Armless Loveseat”#7793-09); bench fabric (“Bergdorf”/Nickel): Lee Industries,
    Pillows on dining bench (“Shannon”/Slate #3675): Pindler & Pindler,
    Throw on dining bench: Bloomingdale’s,
    Oval dining table (custom): by Michael Lloyd, 334/391-9761.
    Vases on pedestal table (by Richard Norris): McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Pair of chairs at table (“Country Occasional Chair” #337-23): Hickory Chair,
    Pair of stools (“Bongo Ottoman” #9308-00): Lee Industries,
    Stool fabric (“Strauss 01” #3541701): Fabricut,
    Table behind blue sofa (custom, black/brown hide console with nails): Douglass Workroom,
    Table at window, left in image (“Sergio Bleached Pine Console Table” #CIMP-M9-BP, by Four Hands): available from Furnitureland South,
    Lamp on table (wooden architectural lamp): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill


    The integration of design, materials, and craftsmanship is fully expressed in the kitchen, with its custom-made cabinets and reclaimed wood floors. Upholstered stools and a low-back dining bench are from the McAlpine Home Collection for Lee Industries.

    Flooring: (reclaimed, hand-brushed finish): custom.
    Cabinetry  (custom): McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Fabrication: Roger Hyde, Hyde’s Kitchens, 256/234-5561.
    Cabinetry hardware: Baldwin Hardware,
    Island (custom): McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Concrete countertop (“McAlpine Olive”): Bradley,
    Low-back dining bench (“Custom Dual Counter Bench” with 33-inch-high back #7000-53); bench fabric (“Sonoma”/Zinc); campaign stool (“Campaign Counter Stool” #5206-51, custom with seat height at 25 inches): Lee Industries,
    Campaign-stool fabric (“Suffolk” #F3722, by Colefax and Fowler): Cowtan & Tout,
    Chandelier over island (“Antique Iron Chandelier” #00652): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,
    Island sink; main sinks: Kohler,
    Island faucetmain faucets: Waterworks,
    Refrigerators: Sub-Zero,
    Dishwasher: Bosch,
    Large pewter pitcher: designer’s collection.
    Pair of architectural obelisks behind island (vintage): Foxglove Antiques & Galleries,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Double Duty Kitchen Island

    A center island with two large Kohler sinks fitted with Waterworks bridge-style faucets is a natural gathering spot for guests at the vacation home. The iron chandelier is from Foxglove Antiques. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Breakfast Nook Banquette

    A low-back tufted banquette upholstered in “Lotus Gray” fabric from Home Fabrics wraps the space without restricting views to the lake.  

    Trim paint (“Seal Skin” #SW-7675): Sherwin-Williams,
    Banquette (custom U-shaped tufted banquette): Douglass Workroom,
    Throw: Bloomingdale’s,
    Table (“Rockwell Adjustable 30-inch Round Table” by Four Hands #182023-213): through Furnitureland South,
    Dining ottomans (“Bongo Ottoman” #9045-00): Lee Industries,
    Ottoman fabric (“Merrill”/Mushroom #0252902): Fabricut,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Porch with a View

    Gothic-arched windows on the porch frame views of the lake. Dining chairs from Lee Industries are covered in a weather-resistant fabric.

    Table at window (“Industrial Iron and Wood Table,” discontinued): South of Market,
    Chandelier (“Buckingham Triple Tier” #C66A): Laura Lee Designs Inc.
    Sofa (“Nandine Outdoor Slipcovered Four Cushion Sofa” #US112-44); sofa fabric (“Crawford”/Mineral); swivel chair by sofa (“Agave Outdoor Slipcovered Swivel Chair” #US102-01SW); swivel-chair fabric (“Canopy”/Taupe and “Oliver”/Taupe on back cushion); dining chairs (“Jasmine Outdoor Slipcovered Chair” #US105-01C); dining-chair fabric (“Ralph”/Truffle); striped pillows (“Oliver”/Taupe): Lee Industries,
    Table by sofa in corner (“News Stand” #GTAB340MT): Noir,
    Table lamp (“Nantucket Driftwood” #15404-936, discontinued): Arteriors,
    Coffee table (discontinued): A. Tyner Antiques,
    Pair of round stools (“Drum Ottoman” #9203-10): Lee Industries,
    Dining table (“Industrial Iron and Wood”): South of Market,
    Table in corner behind dining table : Bungalow Classic,
    Shingles: Mark Rutledge, Shakertown Cedar Shingles,
    Flooring: Peacock Pavers,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Grand Chandelier

    A gracious three-tiered chandelier from Laura Lee Designs adds rustic elegance to the sun porch.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Upstairs Hallway

    Project architect David Baker worked with Walter Russell on the incorporation of massive timber columns and salvaged wood for the walls, floors, and ceilings to create enveloping spaces throughout. 

    Pair of chairs (“Skirted Sled Chair’ #7551-01); chair fabric (“Patton”/Khaki): Lee Industries,
    Pillow on chair (“Coupole”/Pewter #10210-099): Mokum,
    Table beside chair (“Reclaimed Lumber Console” #OW076): CFC,
    Table lamps: Bungalow Classic,
    Bowl on table: McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Stain on walls (combination of ebony and Jacobean finishes): custom.
    Flooring (reclaimed, hand-brushed finish): custom.
    Railing paint (“Sealskin” #SW-7675): Sherwin-Williams,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Handsome Master Bedroom

    Floor-to-ceiling draperies close behind the camel-backed gray upholstered headboard. 

    Drapery (“Felice”/Pewter #1452, colorway discontinued): Pindler & Pindler,
    Blinds (“Caco 2-inch Wood Blinds”/Walnut #3705): Mark King’s Lake Martin Furniture,
    Bed (custom, 54-inch-high camel-back upholstered king bed): Douglass Workroom,
    Bed fabric (“Atlas”/Gray #46412, discontinued): Nobilis,
    Bed cover (“Pure Indulge,” Donna Karan Collection): Bloomingdale’s,
    Silver pillow shams (“Ghent”/Taupe #9122): Pindler & Pindler,
    Long lumbar pillow on bed (“Valence”/Dove #11158-01): Cowtan & Tout,
    Throw: Bloomingdale’s,
    Bedside table (“Ascona Side Table”/Hand Rubbed Brown #GTAB277HBR): Noir,
    Table lamp (“Game Piece Lamp,” discontinued): Bungalow Classic,
    Art (“Antique Antler Engravings” #1771): framed by Brooks and Black Fine Framing,
    Chandelier (“Marigot Eight Light Chandelier” #CHC1413R): Circa Lighting,
    Sofa (“Landau Devan Skirted Sofa” #3093-03): Lee Industries,
    Sofa fabric (“Elements 09” #3655209): Fabricut,
    Long lumbar pillow on sofa (“Patterson”/Ivory #0212703): Fabricut,
    Side tables by sofa (“Biddy Side Table” #GTAB361MT): Noir,
    Lamps on side tables (“Boston Floor Lamp” #SL1900): Circa Lighting,
    Basket table (“Cask Lidded Basket,” discontinued): Pottery Barn,
    Chair (“Swivel Chair” #3009-01); chair leather (“Serengeti”/Walnut): Lee Industries,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Nightstand Detail

    The nightstand, in Hand Rubbed Brown, blends with the dark hues of the master bedroom. White accents, like the lamp from Bungalow Classic and a vase of roses provide contrast.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Smoky Colored Sitting Area

    Rough-hewn posts trim a window sitting spot in the master bedroom. A sofa and chair in gray tones coordinate with the bed. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Bathroom Retreat

    The “Margaux” tub from Waterworks is centered between twin vanities in the master bath. 

    Bathtub (“Margaux”); tub fillersink faucets: Waterworks,
    Vanity cabinets (custom): McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Cabinet hardware: Baldwin Hardware,
    Concrete countertop (“McAlpine Olive”): Bradley,
    Sinks: Kohler,
    Mirrors: custom framed by Brooks & Black Fine Framing,
    Sconces (“Leopold”): Solaria, Available through Seibels,
    Chandelier (“Iron Chandelier”): A. Tyner Antiques,
    Pair of metal console tables (“Industrial Cart Console”): Bobo Intriguing Objects,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Sophisticated Bedroom

    Furnishings are deliberately subtle and sophisticated throughout this bedroom. Clean lines and simple acessories defer to the architecture and play off the wood and stone surfaces. A balcony opens to the screened porch. 

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Homeowner Portrait

    Homeowner Walter Russell and his friend, Jeannie Eddins. 

    Adirondack chairs: owner’s collection.
    Table (teak cocktail table): Kingsley Bate,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Shingle Style Home

    This Shingle style home is neither imposing nor pretentious thanks to its gentle placement on the land and the deft handling of traditional details and materials.

    Shingles (“Shakertown Cedar Shingles”): Mark Rutledge, Shakertown Cedar Shingles,
    Windows: Kolbe & Kolbe,
    Doors (custom): McAlpine Tankersley Architecture,
    Fabrication: JP Millwork,

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Lakeside Luxury

    The strength of this house is its graceful architectural aspirations, handcrafted materials, and an inspiring connection with its settings. McAlpine labeled an early drawing, “A House for a Lumberman.” A dozen years later, that freehand sketch is displayed in the hall. And the recently completed home now stands along the lake as a reflection of its owner in a mirror as large as life.

  • Werner Straube