Susan and Tom Wiggins had long toyed with the idea of building a second home, as an occasional escape from their busy daily lives in Cleveland. Tom, a dentist, and Susan, who works part-time in the Wishing Well (the dress shop she once owned) are longtime, dyed-in-the-wool Deltans. However, when it came to choosing the setting for their weekend dream spot, they ventured a bit outside the alluvial plain.
“For years, when Tom and I traveled, he would occasionally say, ‘let’s get a place here!’ But it wasn’t until we drove to this lake a few years ago that we both knew: this was the spot.”
The Sanctuary, off Patrick road in northwest Madison County, was once part of the old Cameron plantation. It was developed in 2001, centered by two large lakes that had been dug back in the 1980s. The 80- and 55-acre lakes offer superior bass fishing as well as exquisite views, and in the intervening years, many families have created weekend havens along the shores. Residential lots of four to ten acres provide plenty of privacy, and yet retain a sense of community.
The long, sweeping views of perfectly flat meadows around Sanctuary Lake reminded them very much of their beloved native landscape. Dotted with the occasional old-growth tree, the vast properties of their fellow lake dwellers bask under clear skies that are reflected in the glass-smooth, cobalt water.
An easy half-hour drive from Jackson, their peaceful getaway provides access to the art events and shopping venues of the capital city. As an added bonus, Susan’s sister and brother-in-law, Joanne and Henry Lyell and their family live in town, so there is a lot of socializing when the Wigginses are in residence. Family celebration dinners, spontaneous summer picnics, and lots of “just relaxing on the back porch” have made this relatively new place feel like a longtime gathering spot.
The couple had firm notions about exactly the sort of house they wanted. They chose residential designer Lisa Thompson to draw up the blueprints; she added many helpful suggestions of her own. The footprint is pleasingly symmetrical: an entry hall leads to a sprawling central living/dining/kitchen area that is flanked by two bedroom suites. “Initially, Lisa questioned whether we might not want a third bedroom,” recalls Susan, “but as we have no children, and really don’t have many overnight guests, we wanted to keep it very simple.”
To bring this vision into three dimensions, Susan and Tom called on Randy Cress of Capstone Construction. “There are not enough words to describe how wonderful he is!” says Susan. “We had done some remodeling, but had never built from the ground up before. Randy made this project a dream of ease and pleasure.” She laughs, “He retired right afterwards. He likes to tell us that this was his last house…and his best one!”
The core entertaining area stretches some 40 feet, from the spacious chef’s kitchen to the sitting area on the far right. In the middle is a long rustic farm table perfectly places for meals en famille, with additional seating at the wide quartz-topped serving/work island. The kitchen, like the rest of the house, is a study in clean lines and creamy neutrals. The white Shaker-style cabinets reach to the ceiling, the brushed stainless appliances lend an industrial-mod air, and underfoot, blond hardwood flooring lends a beach-house atmosphere. The rear wall of floor-to-ceiling windows provides an unbroken vista of the bluest water imaginable. As the Wiggins’ land forms a gentle promontory, it is possible to imagine being on an island, far away from the rest of the world.
The cozy sitting area, centered by a glowing gas-log stone fireplace, is done, like the rest of the house, in Susan’s preferred clean, crisp, modern style. Bold color is reserved for the pops of art; the basic palette is coolly vanilla. White walls, white sofa, white cushions on the rattan chairs, all create a sense of serenity. The varying textures of nature lend gravitas, and even the smallest accessories reference the outdoors; a small Lucite box on one of the sofa tables holds a collection of small rocks and pebbles that Susan and Tom have found over the years. Quirky objects, like the set of Italian bocce balls on the mantelpiece, and the antique bamboo ladder next to the fireplace, are what give the house its distinct personality.
The master retreat, down a hallway past the kitchen, is on the front of the house, but an adjacent glassed-in sunroom-cum-exercise area features two walls of windows to drink in the water view. Once again, creamy neutrals dominate, from the crisp floor-length curtains to the nubby sisal rug. Beyond the bedroom, a luxurious spa bathroom offers yet another spot to unwind and shed weekday cares.
On the opposite side of the house, a generously-proportioned guest suite offers hospitality away from the flow of the rest of the house. A large laundry/pet/mudroom completes the layout, with plenty of storage for everything weekend life requires. A dramatic powder room, with walls and cabinetry enameled a deep charcoal hue, is found between the guest room and sitting room, perfect for accommodating large parties.
As lovely as the indoor areas are, visitors and homeowners alike find themselves irresistibly drawn to the sweeping covered porch out back, which runs the length of the structure. Deeply shaded even on the hottest days, this spot provides an invitation to sit and lose oneself in a good book on a peaceful afternoon.
Or, perhaps, just gaze out at the lake, enjoy the absence of schedules and obligations, and practice the fine art of dolce fa niente. This is what Susan and Tom had in mind, and they have achieved it perfectly. “We pretty much spend Wednesday evening through Sunday down here every week,” Susan says, “as we both have to get back to Cleveland for our jobs.”
When asked if there’s any chance this idyllic place could become a full-time home base, there’s a pause. “We’ve talked about that,” she reflects. “But we just love Cleveland so much, too. That’s home.” Having two delightful, comfortable places to call “home,” within ninety minutes of one another, is indeed a nice problem to have.