This three-story Lake Oconee home is a contemporary take on lakefront living

Architects Michael and Lee Ann Gamble designed a compact tower of Alabama limestone, concrete, and glass
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Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The nine-foot-long table, made from a single slab of padauk, came from legendary Atlanta wood dealer Carlton McLendon, a family friend. “When I told him what I was looking for, he said he’d been holding it for me for years,” says Michael. Chairs are Roorkhee-style campaign chairs from Lewis Drake. Michael’s grandfather was a carpenter who turned more than 150 little cups (some shown here) while experimenting with woods from panga panga to sassafras.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Lake Oconee is a relatively pristine reservoir where wildlife flourishes, says Michael. They often spot eagles, wild turkeys, hummingbirds, and deer.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Over the last 20 years, when work wasn’t taking architects Michael and Lee Ann Gamble off to Europe or South America, the Atlanta-based couple was spending every weekend they could at Lake Oconee. They’ve owned three different vacation homes there, so by the time the Gambles built their own lakeside retreat, they’d given their dream house a lot of thought.

Their city house is a 1910 Colonial Revival just off Piedmont Park, where the husband-and-wife team maintain both a residence and their business. “One of Atlanta’s distinguishing features is beautiful old houses near the central business district,” says Michael. “So we thought: Why not build something more contemporary in a rural, pastoral setting? It’s kind of the reverse of the usual approach.” Lee Ann adds that they coveted the more expansive vistas that contemporary architecture allows.

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The Gambles inherited the orange chair with their house in Atlanta. It had belonged to the former owner. The black-and-white prints are by a Georgia Tech colleague, architecture professor Harris Dimitropoulos.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Michael and Lee Ann met in architecture school. “She was the smartest girl there,” says Michael—whose exceptional class included notables like Jeffrey Dungan, Ray Booth, and Gray Davis. He started his practice in 1993. Lee Ann joined in 2000, leaving her multinational firm to help the family business after Michael joined the faculty of Georgia Tech. Their firm specializes in contemporary and transitional residential architecture, but notable commercial projects include restoring the Atlanta Daily World building and the Clermont Hotel.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Their three-story lakeside home, completed in 2007, is a compact tower of Alabama limestone, concrete, and glass that nestles gracefully into its steeply sloped lot, creatively allowing access from each level via bridge, path, or patio. The vertical footprint affords views and outdoor spaces off of every floor, including a rooftop garden and outdoor kitchen. The generous mix of public and private spaces helps the dwelling live larger than its approximately 2,000 square feet.

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Two of the four pairs of second-story French doors do not lead to balconies. Instead, they open to tempered glass panels that rise halfway up the openings—maximizing the view and ensuring visitor safety. The ceiling beams were hewn from Georgia cypress.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The macrame chair is by Marcel Wanders for Droog.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The abstract over the living room fireplace is by Kevin Archer and hides a TV. (These two Auburn grads can’t afford to miss fall football broadcasts.) The painter created three compositions for the Gambles to choose from. Bronzes flanking the fireplace are by father and son Philip and Kelvin LaVerne.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Also unique is a wall of polycarbonate panels on the rear, facing the street. The translucent material
—often used in greenhouses—provides privacy, is completely recyclable, and is much less expensive than glass. It diffuses light softly, producing an almost impressionistic glow. Because there are also many balconies and floor-to-ceiling windows facing the water on the opposite side, sunshine pours in from both directions. “Maybe it’s a little selfish to admit,” says Michael, “but of all the houses that we’ve done, this one probably has the best quality of light.”

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The house has three bedrooms and three bathrooms. The master bedroom has an adjacent study and is convenient to the master bathroom. But the Gambles often sleep in one of the downstairs bedrooms because concrete walls keep the room quiet. Art over the bed in the master bedroom is by their friend Todd Murphy. Michael created the collage over the basement bed.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Downstairs bedroom

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Master bedroom

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
Master bedroom

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The Gambles’ city house has an antique claw-foot tub, so they wanted a more luxurious soaking tub here. Michael’s father, Fred, carved the dog art when he was a child.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

The couple, who met at Auburn University, admit it was challenging for two architects to design their own abode—not because they disagreed, but because there’s so much that they both admire. They landed on a worldly mix that reminds them of a Venetian apartment, where Italian lanterns, colorful tile, live-edge wood furniture, vintage leather suitcases, and classical artifacts blend with modern furniture and finishes. (It helps to have another home where they can stash all of their collections, they admit.)

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
This midcentury modern desk, designed by John Van Koert, was one of the Gambles’ first purchases as newlyweds. The vintage desk chair was made by the Koken Manufacturing Company in St. Louis.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

A tight budget led to a combination of splurges and affordable solutions. For example, the three-story stair rail was upholstered in handsome leather by their friend Bob Childs, who owns the Atlanta-based alligator skin accessories company House of Fleming. In contrast, Michael saved money by making all of the doors on-site, including the 11-foot-tall, steel-clad front door that he welded himself.

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The three-story residence allows access from each level via bridge, path, or patio. The polycarbonate panels, which have an almost corrugated look.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Michael and Lee Ann Gamble house
The elevated walkway from the driveway to the front door. The vertical layout affords views and outdoor spaces off of every floor, including a rooftop garden and outdoor kitchen. The polycarbonate panels, which have an almost corrugated look.

Photograph by Jeff Herr

Not surprisingly, two architects are bound to dream up some unconventional features. A zip line ferries supplies back and forth from the kitchen to the dock. Bathroom sinks are placed under windows instead of mirrors to encourage guests to relax and not worry over appearances. A stack of futons accommodates children of guests. And a green roof is planted with hardy sedums. Low maintenance is key. Because at the lake, living is always easy.

Resources
Architecture Michael and Lee Ann Gamble, Gamble and Gamble Architects, gamble-gamble-architects.com
Dining area Tabletop: Rare Woods & Veneers, rarewoodsandveneers.com. Chairs: Lewis Drake and Associates, drake.net.
Art Kevin Archer, kevinarcherstudio.com. Todd Murphy, Marc Straus Gallery, marcstraus.com.

This article originally appeared in our Fall 2017 issue of Atlanta Magazine’s HOME.

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