Designer Heather Chadduck Hillegas transforms a 1960s fixer-upper on a lake just outside of Charlotte, North Carolina, into a serene, nautical-inspired getaway.
Lake Norman, North Carolina, is the type of place that late-night Zillow huntresses have fever dreams about: a 33-mile-long inland sea flanked by garden-decked estates, all less than an hour’s drive from Charlotte. There’s just one problem. If it’s not an over-the-top manse you seek, your real estate longings could languish like a fish out of water. “Finding some of these older Mid-century places is really special because so many of them have been torn down,” says designer Heather Chadduck Hillegas.
So it was pure luck—and perhaps a bit of sorcery from the Vacay Gods—that led Chadduck Hillegas’s clients, Lindsay Bierman (former Editor in Chief of Coastal Living and Southern Living, and current CEO of PBS North Carolina) and Alan Henderson (owner of letterpress paper company Pinecrest Printery), to their getaway home. When they bought it, the house—built in the 1960s on a point that juts into the mirror-like water—was “a total disaster,” Bierman says, noting that rot, mold, and plenty of lackluster DIY modifications by a previous owner nearly obliterated its finer accolades. “In general, this place was pretty filthy when it was purchased and there were a lot of unnecessary built-ins,” Chadduck Hillegas says. “It was a weekend home the bachelor had, and there was just not a lot of housekeeping going on, ever.”
The client’s task for Chadduck Hillegas: whip up something modern, pretty, rustic, and masculine…all at once. To hew closely to the best of its mid century charm, they kept the home’s original floor plan “with all of its quirks,” and ripped out the “gnarly” brown-ish wall-to-wall carpet. In its place: wall-to-wall seagrass for decidedly beachy vibes underfoot. They also swapped many of the windows for view-maximising French doors (bonus: free-flowing natural light). And taking out a lot of the built-in bookshelves, like the ones cladding the entire main bedroom and flanking either side of the staircase in the living room, instantly provided them with “more living space and a cleaner vantage point,” Chadduck Hillegas says.
Then came color. “Most people would have walked into that living room and painted the whole thing white, and it would have been gorgeous,” Chadduck Hillegas says, “But we wanted it to be a little more cozy and earthy and easy on the eyes.” So she selected a serene palette that echoes the surrounding landscape, painting most of the main living spaces a muted olive: Benjamin Moore’s Creekside Green. “I didn’t want the interior to compete with the outside,” she says. “The color of the lake is a really beautiful green. And so that’s kind of where we draw our inspiration.”
A breezy, textural feel reigns through the home, where rattan and bamboo finishes are as common as sightings of American goldfinch and Carolina chickadees on the lake’s shores. “I love that the interior defies any stylistic labeling,” Bierman says. “It feels completely like ‘us’ and no one else.” But it’s their new, gleaming wood front door that holds the most impact for him. “We couldn’t afford to do much to the exterior, so we camouflaged all the weird architectural elements with deep charcoal paint and invested in that door,” he says. “Heather insisted that I find a vintage nautical door knocker. The contractor and subcontractors all took pictures of it. It’s weighty and beautiful, and it takes all the attention away from a lot of exterior details that would otherwise drive me crazy as a former architect!”
These days, the home’s aesthetic has the feel of a Hamptons cottage, complete with a dock and stand-up-paddleboards awaiting their next spin around the water. And it’s all so authentic that—despite its perch along a freshwater lake, some 250 miles from the frothing Atlantic Ocean—you almost catch a fragrant whiff of salt in the air.