Mountain Modern

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“Mountain Modern” written by Linda Kramer, reprinted from High Country Magazine, June 2010.

George Carlin once said, “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take but by the ones that take our breath away.” The home of Denny and Paul Feinsilver at Linville Ridge takes your breath away.

Cast aside the rustic mountain furniture and the twig bark; this 4,000-square-foot, three-bedroom home, built in 2003, rises at the top of a winding drive and gracefully steps up to its hillside-hugging, 3.5-acre site, showing off a contemporary flair that is unique to the mountains.

Denny and Paul, who live in North Miami, Fla., chose the High Country for a vacation home to be near Denny’s aging parents on Beech Mountain and to join friends with homes in the area. The time spent here gives them a respite from the summer heat and their busy life in Florida, where Paul owns FMS Bonds, a tax-free municipal bonds firm. Denny is a major fundraiser for cancer research and is on the board of governors at the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center. She is also a past vice-chairman of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Miami.

Their elegant home, which is a visual dialogue, reflects the owners’ love of contemporary art, while striking that elusive balance between sophistication and comfort in meeting a family’s needs. It’s a mountain-modern house; unified and warmed by a palette that plays with a combination of muted tones and primary colors, creating a look that is sleek and witty – contemporary, but not clinical and dramatic, but not severe.

The Feinsilvers purchased the house that originally had a very traditional interior in 2008 and wanted to make some changes to create a modern feel. Boone architect Joseph Pavelchak Jr., drew up plans for an addition that included a downstairs powder room and an interior stairwell for another entry to the downstairs living area previously accessed only by an elevator.

Boone builder Alex Johnson completed the addition and expanded, at the owner’s direction, what turned out to be a substantial remodeling job.

Pamela McKay, ASID, interior designer for Dianne Davant and Associates, with the help of Denny, created interiors that speak to the imagination and are strengthened by the influence of Pam’s strong art background.

Pam effortlessly juxtaposed patterns and rough textures against the clean lines of the architecture, transforming the formal interiors into a dynamic, contemporary, visually functioning environment that suits the owner’s personalities.

An easy-living, open floor plan on the main floor ties together the kitchen, dining area and living room. A neutral palette of soft mushroom is consistent throughout the home, punched up with bursts of color in artwork that burst with life, sleek metal materials that enhance and balance the warm tones and the ever-present textural accents that are repeated in key elements and are as essential as color.

The kitchen blends industrial elements with the warmth of hickory wood cabinets given a clean face-lift with sleek, modern fronts and new hardware. A commercial range and copper hood, new lighting and a wet bar, new tile and countertops and plumbing fixtures were also added to update the old look.

Not everyone would think to introduce art in a kitchen, but a contemporary acrylic by Tim Turner, red lacquer sculptural glass selected for its vibrancy and art glass pendants suspended over the kitchen bar accomplish the unexpected.

Adjacent, a glass-topped dining room table is supported by sturdy locust tree trunks. Vibrant hues of red are thrown into high relief in the bold, red Schumacher patterned chair fabric that goes for the drama in the bright primary colors that Denny loves. Repetitive colors and the neutral mushroom of the living room sofa and soft, natural linen drapes hanging from hand-forged medallions by local iron sculptor Bill Brown, pull the eye around the room and then out to cushions on the outside porch as well.

Expansive curved glass surrounds the living and dining areas, fully engaging the outdoor and views of Grandfather Mountain and its swinging bridge. The day’s light reflects, through its intensity, the organic unity of man and nature that is a recurring theme demonstrated in the many textures throughout the home, meeting the definition of “organic chic” – the term used for a look created with natural materials in contemporary interior design, providing spaces that are a study in contrasts.

The consistent soft hues mixed with sharper, brighter jewel tones are present again in the living room where a mushroom-colored sofa wearing lush fox throw anchors the room’s practical seating area. Whimsy is added with the sheepskin-covered chair by Oliver Tilbury, and hand-made chunky mountain wood tables give a soft edge to other contemporary pieces. “Self Portrait with Prime Numbers” by Greg Smith on a focal wall helps fulfill Denny’s wish to display works by local artists.

A woven wool Kilim step-runner carries you down the stairs to the lower level and is dramatically highlighted with hand-wrought iron railings by Bill Brown. Here, where the family enjoys a state-of-the-art home theater and game room with a wet bar, pool table, and wine cellar, open proportions also apply. Coffered ceilings and suspended monorail track lighting hang over the pool table. The same neutral pallet dances with splashes of color in the pumpkin leather theater seats. A natural stone fireplace warms the space dominated by a 96-inch diagonal transparent woven screen set into the wall, and a Sony projector in the ceiling displays Direct TV satellite programming or Blu-ray discs. Old cabinets and sink were removed from the open bar and replaced with a sleeker slate and marble countertop.

Pam said, “Denny wanted to incorporate unusual art elements throughout the house, like the Brand Von Egmond “Flower Power” chandelier in the dining room and the Oliver Tilbury “Bursting Chair” in the living room. Working with her was a treat because of our mutual interest in art. We just fell into sync with one another.”

Together they provided the focus and foundation of style throughout the house – Denny as curator and Pam pulling together a harmonious mix of raw, tactile fabrics or organic materials and a textural style, demonstrating that decorating is about telling a story that shares an owner’s life; interiors that tell who you are and what you love; and that when you surround yourself with what you love, you are what you live.