A visionary modern mountain home in sync with Mother Nature
By BRITTANY CONLEY
Photos by RYAN THEEDE PHOTOGRAPHY
Westmark Development has been in the business of creating high-end second homes for over 50 years, and through its affiliate, Westmark Construction, has been building top-notch custom homes for a long time. Dave Bauer, President of the Westmark group, has been at the helm throughout. It was while making waves in the Florida real estate market that he noticed a trend: there were a lot of Floridians escaping the summer heat by heading north and enjoying some cooler mountain air. As any good businessman would do, Mr. Bauer sent one of his managers north to scout for opportunities, especially on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau, which seemed to be the most popular location. “I saw the plateau and fell in love, and we went right for it. We bought the 880 plus acre Bald Rock within a week,” says Bauer. It took no time for Westmark to solidify itself as a premier builder in the area.
When the property now known as The Divide, which is adjacent to Bald Rock, became available, Westmark wasted no time in expanding its interests in Western North Carolina. While smaller than Bald Rock, The Divide’s 250 plus acres is developmentally more challenging. “If you go to Bald Rock, it is almost like Mother Nature said, ‘Here, this is how you do development.’ But The Divide is precipitous, with more than a few cliffs. This creates a much more challenging topography, which affords a developer the opportunity to develop more unique and picturesque housing,” says Bauer. Things we take for granted, such as electricity and running water, need to be discovered and installed within the context of untouched, undeveloped mountain terrain. Even getting a road in place is no simple feat in such terrain. Bauer adds, “These are raw mountains. If you pay attention, the topography will tell you what to do. I try to do that. If you try to force Mother Nature, you’re probably going to lose.”
That respect for nature and desire to work as much as possible within its parameters sets Bauer and his company apart in the development world. In fact, Bauer jokingly refers to himself as a tree-hugging developer. “My first objective is to not mess up what Mother Nature has done for us. That is what we try to do,” says Bauer, whose vision in his Creekside Treetop Village was to create homes that felt like treehouses without actually destroying the mature poplars he’d come to adore. These homes along Hogback Creek went over well with buyers–so well, that Westmark Construction set their minds to take their idea even further.
Bauer and his team at Westmark envisioned something extraordinary for their newest endeavor: Rockcliff at The Divide. “We decided to expand on the soaring roof lines of the treehouses and came up with a plan with our architect, David Sandless, to do Rockcliff, which is an expanded version of the homes in the Creekside Village. Rockcliff is considerably larger and has tri-level, soaring roof lines,” says Bauer. Interestingly, Bauer didn’t have an ideal buyer in mind; he just followed his instincts and kept tinkering.
Driving up to the home, one might think the views couldn’t get any better. The mountains along The Eastern Continental Divide never disappoint, but when stepping into the home at 52 Hidden Grouse Lane, one shouldn’t be surprised to feel a hitch in their throat as the expansive views sink into the soul. “With most houses in the mountains, you want to have a view. In my opinion this house is the view,” says Bauer. Even as the visionary behind the home, it took a while for Bauer to define for himself what made it so special. He went on to say, “When you walk in the house, it isn’t like you’re in a house anymore. It’s like you’re in the mountain itself. I couldn’t figure out why it’s so different, but then a friend said that the experience throughout is three dimensional. And he’s right. There’s not one window that doesn’t show you a beautiful view. It’s living the view.”
With every window offering a jaw-dropping panoramic view of the rolling hills, this may be a rare instance where the home and the locale merge. Once you convince yourself to avert your gaze from the scenery, you’ll find the home feels completely natural to the area. “The organic nature was intentional. The lot lent itself to that. I tried to incorporate the house into the mountains, so they flowed. I have to say, I think we succeeded. That happens from the moment you get on the driveway. For example, it’s terraced with massive boulders, making it feel like it’s part of the mountains,” says Bauer. Another way the team at Westmark punctuated the view was to fill the home with large windows, all with black frames that really set off the landscape as natural artwork. High ceilings bring in the open and airy feeling, and the thoughtful choices of wood and neutral colors inside the home are not only charming, but they work in tandem with the landscape instead of competing with it.
Westmark’s team had already redefined the modern mountain home, but with what they’re doing at Rockcliff at The Divide, they’re redefining modern mountain living. For more information on this home and all their projects, visit them at www.westmarkconstructionnc.com or contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org.