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.
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.
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.”
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.)
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.
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.
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.