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Passionate about design on Asheville's Town Mountain



6/20/2011 - Passionate about design on Asheville's Town Mountain
by Staff Reports - Asheville Citizen Times

GREEN BUILDING in Asheville and Western North Carolina takes so many forms - and so many diverse ideas need a place to thrive, like on Asheville's own Town Mountain.  Check out the article below and see what one person's vision meant for the forwarding of "Healthy-Built" construction here in Asheville.


             Lish Helgeson feels lucky that when she landed in Asheville in 1999, she got to work with some of the city's best designers and architects.

 So when it came to designing her family's HealthyBuilt home on Town Mountain, she was able to call upon not only her own experience as a designer, but her mentors' as well.

"I've been incredibly lucky," she said of the people she's worked with in Asheville. And that includes her clients, many of whom have seen what can be accomplished by using local suppliers and working with local artists.

"I really want people to understand that handmade goods in the house are affordable," Lish said. "And I want to get gainful work for those important artists that at present we're not supporting.

"Asheville is the perfect place for my work. People (here) have such an open heart and open mind, and they're willing to take the journey with the artist to put art in their homes."

Even with a house like hers, resplendent with the graciousness that art brings to a home, that journey can take some coaxing.

"I joke that I'm not a designer -- I'm a professional hand-holder," she said. "I'm clearly beyond passionate about design."

An unforgettable experience

Lish based the exterior of the year-old house on the old train station in Black Mountain. She based the roofline of a Japanese teahouse that she saw as a child at the Philadelphia Art Museum.

Years later, when she was making a model of the house she wanted to build in Asheville, she couldn't get the roof right. Nor could she find what she was looking for in her architectural excursions around Asheville.

So she made a special trip back to Philadelphia, to the teahouse. Seeing it reminded her of why she always loved it.

"It always felt peaceful," she said.

For less than you think

A lecturer on sustainable design, Lish wanted a HealthyBuilt home that would show her clients how they can live comfortably in an environmentally sound house. She also wanted to promote local artists, many of whom returned the favor by donating work to be seen in the house.

Art is a sustainable home feature, Lish tells her clients, because unlike other goods they buy to outfit their homes, art isn't likely to end up in the landfill.

"People don't realize that I can have a local artist make an outstanding railing using recycled metals at the same cost as if they were to go to various supply houses to buy a regular stairway," she said.

Reworking the 1930s

Lish loves the 1930s. During that decade, her grandmother, living in Zanesville, Ohio, worked with a designer out of Chicago, and Lish has many of the pieces her grandmother bought.

In the master bedroom, the vintage chandelier is by noted lighting specialist Moe Bridges. The mirror is vintage art nouveau. The linens in the bedroom and throughout the house are contemporary, made by The Oriole Mill in Hendersonville.

Much of the artwork came from Grovewood Gallery, whose work Lish recommends to clients.

Soaking in scenery

"The truth is, the house was designed around that bathtub," she said of the master bathroom. "I wanted to be able to sit in that tub and watch the sunset and read my book."

To make sure the setting sun was visible from the tub, she climbed on top of her SUV on the lot to figure out how to position the house.

The rest of the bathroom includes understated travertine tile that doesn't deflect the attention from the tub and a very special lighting fixture by New Orleans artist Paul Gruer.

Down the road

Lish said she's "still digesting" the living room, not sure what it should be. But it has lots of potential. It's big, and the light and the sunsets are good.

"I didn't have the money to put my fireplace in yet," she said, "and I'm glad I didn't, because I've been feeling all these different notions, waiting to see what comes out of it. It may be a year down the road. Maybe two."

Nuts and bolts

The home: A simple 3,100-square-foot cottage house with three bedrooms and three baths.

The homeowners: Lish Helgeson, an interior designer, and husband David Helgeson, a certified financial planner. Their daughter is Taylor, 6.

Defining aspect: It's amazing that you can do so much with so little. Lish's house is uncluttered, an effect she gets by using a minimum of pieces, each of which is truly stellar.

The team: The design and interior decoration was by Lish Helgeson, of Lish Helgeson Home, Asheville. The designer/builder was Kirk Johnson, of Kirk Johnson Construction, Asheville.

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