When Allen and Delores Lastinger decided to invest in a summer home, they started small. Their place in North Carolina's Linville Ridge was ample for the twosome, their grown son and two daughters. But in the past decade, things have changed. Including an 8,500-square-foot home and the birth of 10 grandchildren.
Funny how things work out.
Anchored in St. Augustine, where the couple moved after his retirement as president and COO of Barnett Bank, Allen and Delores Lastinger were drawn to the Southern mountains by the promise of an escape from the state's oppressive summer heat.
"Delores and I decided we wanted a second home somewhere cooler than Florida," Allen recalls, "so we started looking originally in 1997, though we'd visited way before that."
"We knew we wanted to go to North Carolina; we'd seen several places," Delores adds. "We wanted to be able to drive - we have dogs - and we never looked past a day's trip.
"We found that Linville Ridge most closely met what we wanted - good roads, good restaurants, a beautiful golf course and good value for our property. It all came together there."
"We were also looking for a lot of variety," Allen says. "This area around Blowing Rock has that."
So it was settled.
Today, the Lastingers have spread out.
The original house is just a memory. The couple bought their current property in 2000 and, five years later, started work on plans for the six-bedroom, 8,500-square foot home. The pivotal reason: the expansion from zero to 10 grandchildren - seven boys and three girls - over seven years.
"We wanted to build a home big enough," Allen notes, "to accomodate all the family."
"For us, that's 18 people," Delores points out. "Ten grandchildren and eight adults."
Designed by architect David Patrick Moses of Banner Elk, the home is, in Allen Lastinger's opinion, "a comfortable mountain lodge."
His wife defines the look.
"Yes, it's sort of like a lodge," she agrees. "There's a lot of stone and wood with stone fireplaces and a lodge feel. I'd call it elegantly casual."
"We gave the architect about two pages of things we wanted," Allen adds. "Two floors, a (main-floor) room for ourselves, and the primary thing that determined the floor plan: equal-sized rooms for each of our children and a bunk room for the boys over the garage."
"There's also a pretty bedroom for the little girls," Delores says, "though we only had two when we built the house." Today, the oldest grandchild is 10, the youngest just 2.
The home's configuration includes the main-floor living room, dining room, mud room, master bedroom with dual offices, powder room, pantry and gorgeous kitchen. Situated on the lower level are four bedrooms - one for each sibling plus the granddaughters' bedroom - baths and outside stone sitting areas for each room, a charming wine cellar, theater room and downstairs family room. The bunk room is positioned over the garage.
"Each room, though not gigantic, is comfortable and warm," Delores points out. "There's not a massive feel. Our primary criteria is that everything has to be comfortable. That and warmth are big decorating items for me. A piece can be perfect and beautiful, but if it's not comfortable, I say 'no'."
With interior design by Banner Elk's noted expert Dianne Davant and associate Margaret Handley, the home was completed in 2007, though the next year was spent accessorizing, finishing the interior and attending to odds and ends.
The final effect: "We tended to bring the outside in, " Delores says. "We used warm autumn colors - green and brown and gold - with some red for accents." Obviously, the result is pleasing. "We generally have lots of company and fill up the bedrooms, whether it is with children or friends."
Part of the home's charm is its reflection of the community around it. Almost exclusively, the work was done by local craftsmen and women, including the creation of cabinets, stonework, carpeting, landscaping and metal work on all interior railings and porches with one unique facsimile of wooden twigs. Of special interest are the handmade doors and random-sized plank flooring fashioned of reclaimed wood from a nearby barn.
The effort has paid off in a home that expands the property's disctinctive appeal.
"The reason we bought the lot is that it's one of the community's very few flat lots," Delores says. "We have a long driveway that comes in to a flat open area with a water feature. The children have so much fun there, they ride their big wheels and bikes and last summer we built a tree house for them on our extra lot.
"We have a nice view of the (nearby) pond and golf course, and lots of places to sit and look out since the terrace wraps around the house downstairs as the porch does upstairs, and looks onto the mountains and woods."
The family has found new ways to enjoy their new home. Though they generally go to Linville in June and come back in mid-October, they departed from their normal routine and celebrated Thanksgiving there a year ago. Different as it was from their Florida holidays, they spent the time ice skating, snow tubing and sledding on the golf course.
On cooler days, Allen has his special place.
"My favorite area of the home is the summer kitchen," he says. "We wanted a very comfortable spot where we could cook, eat and socialize. For me, I'd rather be out in the summer kitchen in cooler weather with a glass of wine, a fire and friends."
And finally, in these prickly economic times, there's the big question: Has this second home been the good investment the Lastingers expected?
"Today we're enjoying the house as a place to have fun and be together," Allen says. "Someday we may sell it, but whether we lose money or make money, it's been a great investment in spending time with our friends and family."