When Polly and Doug Fikse faced an empty nest, they did not downsize; they expanded. “When we built this house, we built it for the kids and grandkids,” explains Doug. Polly is quick to clarify: “But we don’t have grandkids yet!” With two grown children, one at Virginia Tech and one at Penn State, the couple knows that it is just a matter of time before little ones are back in their life. Their new home is built with room for everyone— family, friends and business associates.
Family gatherings are a tradition with the Fikse clan. Though the Fikses’ main residence is in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Doug’s mother had always kept a home at Smith Mountain Lake well-suited for these occasions. When she retired to smaller quarters, Polly and Doug stepped up to the plate.
Doug and Polly chose a half-acre peninsula on Cool Branch. According to Polly, the swimming is wonderful. “I think that this is one of the things that attracted us to the lake. The water is fantastic!” By early June, it is already up to 80 degrees and is perfect for water sports.
The home was four years in the making—two years in design and two years in construction. Polly and Doug finally moved in during the spring of 2009.
The size of the house and its location posed many challenges for both Building Specialists, Inc., who was responsible for the construction, and Danny Goins of The Highlands Group Architecture. Polly explains that Goins did a 360-degree site drawing of the property to map out all the points of interest. He literally tracked the sun’s exposure from every angle of the lot, to ensure interesting views and to take advantage of the sun’s exposure and wind patterns. “I think that he really accomplished that,” says Polly. “Every room has a view and you never feel like you are right next door to your neighbors’ homes.” And despite its 11,000 square feet of space, the home does not overwhelm the lot.
High Tech Features Galore
Doug Fikse works for Legrand Home Systems, which is part of the French-based conglomerate Legrand S.A. His company provides electronic systems for the home, targeting builders and providing them with high-tech lightswitches, plugs, receptacles, cable management, phones, audio and television. Legrand is a leader in this field, and the Fikse home is a fine example of what Doug does best. According to Sandy Murray of Building Specialists, Inc., “This is one of the most sophisticated homes we have ever worked on, technology-wise.”
Shively Electrical Co., Inc. of Rocky Mount teamed up with Sound Decision of Roanoke to install roughly 10 miles of wire plus the electrical and technical devices throughout the house. With his unique expertise Doug oversaw this part of the project, and he admits that he “got a little carried away.” A main control room houses circuit boards that direct a myriad of technological devices. High-definition televisions are everywhere. Adjustable mood lighting and crystal-clear music create an atmosphere for a party or a quiet dinner. Room temperature and even the temperature in the hot tub can be adjusted with the touch of a button. And a constant stream of information on weather and water conditions, as well as home security, are monitored on small screens throughout the house.
Though Polly insists she did not get involved with the electronics, it is true that home construction is in Polly’s blood. Her father was a developer, and she grew up with architectural plans spread throughout the house. So Polly is familiar with the technical details involved with home construction.
Comfort, Style Welcome Family and Friends
The home’s style—Alpine French, according to Polly—is a bit less formal than a typical French design, and combined with its furnishings, the home takes on a casual atmosphere. While a few pieces are antique, most of the furniture is new and was purchased for this home. The style is a mix of country French and contemporary, and many of the pieces came from Drexel Heritage. “I wanted the house to be comfortable,” says Polly. “Visitors can come, sit down and read a book or do whatever they want, and not feel like ‘Oh, we can’t touch that.’”
Every room is spacious and designed with guests in mind. There are numerous bedrooms with extra sleeping space, including a bunk room for boys and a girls’ room with several day beds. This enables the Fikses to put up literally dozens of overnight visitors.
A few of the bedrooms boast what Polly’s daughter Kimberly calls “water balloon towers.” She explains that these small balconies directly off of her daughters’ bedrooms are perfect for launching water balloons — a prank they are well-known for carrying out.
Central to the guest quarters on the top floor are two common rooms. The library offers deep-cushioned leather chairs, overflowing bookshelves, and a chessboard set up and ready to play. A game room is the perfect spot for a livelier crowd. Electronic gaming systems and a big-screen TV would delight any person young at heart. A large pull-out couch transforms this room into an extra bedroom for a lucky guest.
An ornamental wood and iron staircase leads from the top floor down to a spacious center hall on the main floor. Travertine marble floors lead throughout this level. In the foyer, a massive double-door entrance of knotty alder wood and a large antique armoire are simple but elegant greetings for visitors.
The living room boasts ground-to-ceiling windows that provide a fantastic view of the scenery. “I love the activity on the lake,” says Polly. An oversized fireplace reaches toward the cathedral ceiling. Upholstered chocolate brown chairs afford comfortable seating in this large, relaxed room. Tones of tan and brown are highlighted by the Brazilian cherry hardwood floors, and a Pakistani rug captures every color in the room.
The living room serves as the great divide on the main floor. Toward one side of the house are the public rooms where guests and family gather. Here we find a large dining room, kitchen and laundry. The other end of the house serves as the master bedroom suite.
Known for its elegant patterns, rainforest brown marble is used for the countertops, in stylish contrast to the simple butternut cabinets. The custom cabinets, along with other cabinetry and woodwork throughout the home, are the fine work of gifted craftsman Nathan Bowman of Bowman’s Woodworking. Truly a cook’s delight, the kitchen features plenty of work space, a large sink and a professional range.
Interiors By Kris helped Polly with the design of the rooms. “I think that this is where Kris really helped me,” says Polly. “Without a decorator, the house might have been ‘ho hum.’” According to Polly, Kris knew exactly what would work and where to find it. For example, when Polly discovered the perfect tile for the kitchen backsplash, Kris was able to locate a local supplier.
Directly off the kitchen is a sitting area. “I insisted on this in the kitchen,” says Polly. “Everyone seems to collect here.” Off to another side is a large table and chairs for breakfasts and casual dinners. An outside grill just off the kitchen serves as a handy appliance when dinner is just for two.
A small office and sewing room is adjacent to the laundry. Double washers and dryers enable Polly to keep rooms ready for visitors. According to Polly, who is an expert at juggling the logistics of overnight guests, all the bed linens can be washed and put back on the beds in two hours—even after a full house!
The master bedroom suite includes a wood-paneled study which serves as Doug’s home office. An indoor sitting area and small private patio present quiet retreats, especially when the house is full of guests.
The substantial master bedroom, with its paneled wall and tray ceiling, provides an elegant evening respite. The walk-in shower in the attached bath is completely wheelchair-accessible, and a luxurious overflow bathtub is designed in such a way that overflowing water is directed back into the tub, somewhat like an infinity swimming pool. Both a heated towel rack and a heated floor make this one of the most extravagant bathrooms imaginable.
A hidden doorway in the master bedroom leads to an alternate staircase down to the lowest level of the home. Truly another world, the layout here is extraordinary. Like a posh resort, archways, pillars and another travertine hallway direct guests through a complex of rooms including an exercise area with a sauna, and a hot tub directly outside, eliminating any excuses to avoid exercise. A locker room with a full bath completes this suite.
According to Doug, he and Polly wanted the lower level to feel like an outdoor street scene with shops and gathering spots along a walkway. In addition to the exercise area, there is a “hardware shop” where Doug can work on home projects, a “toy room” for grandchildren-to-be, a “billiards room” housing a standard-sized pool table, a “wine shop” with a tasting area adjacent to a temperature-controlled wine cellar, and a “garden shop” for potting plants and cleaning fish. Finally, the hall opens into a sizeable area with a huge fireplace, U-shaped leather couch and a big screen TV. From here, a door leads to a fully equipped outdoor kitchen and dining area for lakeside entertaining. This level also contains a movie-poster-lined lobby featuring an indoor fountain and leading into a sunken movie theater. The large screen and rows of reclining leather chairs are an enormous improvement to local theaters!
Outdoor Pleasures at Every Turn
In addition to the outdoor kitchen, the exterior of the home features several patios, some completely protected from the elements. Even on a mild winter day, they offer ideal outside sitting areas.
The simple gardens lead to a boathouse with docks and slips for two boats. According to Polly, Appalachian Power, the power company that services this area, maintains strict guidelines for homeowners. They not only dictate the size of the dock and boathouse but also the type of plantings in the garden and on the shoreline. When landscape architect Cabell Crowther designed the landscape, he conformed to their very specific requirements. Any trees removed during the building process were replaced with similar trees, and everything below the 800-foot water line (that is, 800 feet above sea level) was replanted with Virginia native plantings. Crowther used ornamental grasses, shrubs, ground cover and perennials on the grounds around the house, and native plantings along the shoreline—of which this lot has over 200 feet. According to Polly, with every season there is something in bloom, and “there is always some movement in the landscape.”
Polly wanted the Fikse home to be comfortable and welcoming. Thanks to the innovative design and creative input from the professionals involved with the project, the Fikse home is all that they had hoped and planned for. Finally they can enjoy the perfect home for extended family and friends to gather and enjoy their time at the lake.