5/4/2011 - Planning for retirement at The Settings of Black Mountain
by Paul Clark
For so many lucky second home owners and retirees, Asheville and the surrounding areas are "homes away from home". Planning ahead to someday live in a fantastic area (for all ages) like Western North Carolina can make anyone's retirement something to seriously look forward to!
Like a lot of couples nearing retirement, Judy and Wayne Houston built a second home that they plan to make their primary residence.
That is, if Wayne will ever get off the phone.
"Rarely do we come up here that he's not on the phone with the office," Judy said, while Wayne took a call in another part of their house at The Settings of Black Mountain.
Wayne, a senior executive, is a busy guy, but that doesn't stop the Houstons, who live in Birmingham, Ala., from getting to Black Mountain one weekend every month. Often accompanying them on holidays and vacations are their three children, their respective spouses and the eight grandchildren. The house can get "absolutely full," Judy said, a thrill in her voice.
While the grandchildren argue over beds in the "bunkhouse" - a room originally meant for storage - one of the daughters takes the apartment over the garage, which could one day be a place for whoever takes care of the Houston elders.
"Judy may need a nurse one day," Wayne said, joking, stealing a peak at his phone.
"We're not ever going to do this again," Judy said of building any more houses.
"We plan to be here in our dotage," Wayne said.
Windy but draft-free
Tennessee fieldstone, cedar shakes and Hardie Board keep out the constant winds that blow up against the Houston house, which despite standing tall and exposed at 3,000 feet is draft-free, Wayne said. (A pressure test done when the house was completed indicated that the house is twice as tight as it needs to be.) Perched on the side of the mountain, the house, with its stone moorings, naturally reflects the woods around it. After a year and a half of construction, the Houstons moved in in August 2009.
It's easy to see what attracted the Houstons to their double lot high above Black Mountain - twinkling night views of the town ("so pretty at night," Judy said) and clear vistas of four of the Seven Sisters mountain range. Sunsets here (the lots face west) are gorgeous. The Houstons chose The Settings for their retirement home after 15 years of vacationing in Montreat. "Most people in Alabama are 'beach people,' Wayne said, "but we're more 'mountain people.'" They love Black Mountain's quaintness and its proximity to Asheville. And they love the cool mountain air - the perfect antidote to Alabama's mugginess.
In outfitting their home, the Houstons bought locally as much as they could. Most of the furniture on the main level came from Tyson Furniture Co. in Black Mountain. The stainless steel Thermador stove came from Haywood Appliances in Clyde. "I love my stove," Judy said. "At home in Birmingham, my cook top had only four burners. I said (during construction) that I don't care (about the rest of the appliances), I just want more than four burners." Both kitchen sinks - one set into the island and the other with the killer view of the Great Craggy Mountains - are farmhouse sinks, a style that Judy loves.
Dialing it down
The Craggies aside, Judy didn't want to be besieged by the views in the master bedroom. "We talked about it a long time," she said. "I said the view was great, but I want to be able to sleep." So she ordered wood slat blinds to turn off the magnificence at night. The bedroom, with the same pale green that covers the walls throughout the house, is so peaceful that at night the Houstons can hear wild turkeys calling to each other.