The Hamiltons’ Low Country-Style Cabin at Dunaway
In the spring of 1971, Hayne and Mary Phil Hamilton were guests of Summerfield Johnston, Jr. at Dunaway, Johnston’s 4,500-acre hunting preserve on Fredonia Mountain near Dunlap, Tenn. At that time, the Hamiltons could never have known that Dunaway would grow to 7,000 acres and become a renowned conservation community with a 100-acre manmade lake, five hiking trails, cabins, and a clubhouse, all tucked away within the hunting preserve. They also could not have known that the preserve would later become the site of their family home, and the place where their three children, and eventually eight grandchildren, would learn to hunt, fish, and cultivate a respect for the land.
By Rebecca Rochat | Photography by Med Dement
Dunaway was born as a sporting concept in the late 1960s when Summerfield Johnston Jr. began assembling the property as a private hunting preserve. Beginning in the ‘90s, memberships at Dunaway were purchased through land ownership and homes were built. Now, the club’s management includes two college graduates in wildlife management, and the preserve offers a delightful combination of a family retreat with superb hunting.
At first, the Hamiltons’ cabin was a weekend and holiday family retreat. However, recently, Hayne and Mary Phil have made Mary Phil and Hayne Hamilton with their dog, Comet Dunaway their primary residence, becoming one of four full-time Dunaway residents. “I am an avid lifetime hunter and fi sherman, and the quality of the experience was an important part of my decision to be here,” says Hayne.
The cabin rests between two deep gulfs nestled among trees alongside the lake Hayne calls the “crown jewel of the property.” Each season at Dunaway unfolds its own unique landscape—native wildflowers in the spring, lush, green woods in the summer, autumn’s palate of orange, gold and red, and a wintry blanket of ice and snow that sometimes descends upon the mountain. Hayne has even been known to venture out on a partially frozen lake.
Dunaway has a defined building code, but this was no problem for the Hamiltons. Hayne and Mary Phil knew just what they wanted: for the cabin to disappear into the trees. “We didn’t cut a tree, except for one where the house sits,”
Hayne says. Hayne and Mary Phil decided to design the cabin based on the “low country” style typical of the coastal plains of South Carolina: the “front” of the house faces the lake, with a wraparound porch and a double staircase. In keeping with outdoor design aesthetic, natural materials are used inside. The floors are yellow pine, the custom cabinetry in the living room and kitchen is hickory, the fireplace is
made from Cumberland Plateau fieldstone, and the roof decking has been left exposed to reveal a pine truss beam ceiling. The Hamiltons also “bring the outside in” by using woodsy interior paint colors such as “tree bark gray” and “lichen green.”
Throughout the home, ample wall space displays wildlife mountings, Hayne’s collection of sporting etchings, and Mary Phil’s landscape art collection. Even the cabin’s open floor plan suggests the free and unrestrained feelings that come with spending time in nature.
Tucked away in the front corner of the house, a cozy den has a stone fireplace flanked by built-in shelving, a striped navy, green, and red sofa, and a maple drop-leaf table with ladder-back chairs that belonged to Mary Phil’s parents. The extra table comes in handy when all the family gathers for holiday feasts of wild turkey, quail, or deer from the preserve.
Just off the den and kitchen on the side of the house is a screened-in porch with wicker chairs, a settee and a table with chairs. If the weather allows, Mary Phil and Hayne eat most of their meals at the table while taking in views of the serene lake and the sounds of a trickling creek below.
The compact kitchen keeps with the theme of “bringing the outside in” with its green countertops, green tile backsplash, and hickory cabinets. A serving and prep counter with glass cabinets separates the kitchen from the adjacent dining area, in which a wooden country farm table with black Windsor chairs is lit by a rustic, wrought iron chandelier.
In the spacious living room, traditional cabin décor and furnishings use a red-andgreen color scheme. Two club chairs with ottomans—one red, one green—provide comfortable seating, along with a red and green checked rocker, a red sofa positioned to face the lake, and an Arts and Crafts-style brown leather rocker.
A tall stone fireplace at the end of the room is embedded with fossils collected by Mary Phil during her childhood. To the right, custom Hickory shelving displays family pictures, books, bronzes from Big Horn, Wyoming, and artwork. All around, the room’s spacious walls are adorned with Hayne and Mary Phil’s art collections and wildlife mountings.
Just off the living room, the home’s wraparound porch provides covered seating to enjoy tranquil hours reading or just gazing at the lake. A deck with rocking chairs and comfortable Adirondack chairs with green cushions provides a closer view of the lake covered with lily pads.
At the “rear” of the house, the master bedroom is accessed through the master bath, which has green countertops, a double vanity, tile fl ooring, and separate tub and shower. The bedroom, painted a cheerful green, has pine furniture and a yellow, blue, and green quilt with matching pillows.
To accommodate additional sleeping space while following Dunaway’s housing restrictions, two bedrooms were built into dormers upstairs. Both bedrooms have yellow walls, green carpeting and their own bathrooms with exposed pine roof rafters and built-in drawers.
At ground level downstairs is the “bunkhouse,” named for the row of red metal bunk beds that can accommodate all eight grandchildren. Each bed is covered with a navy spread with a navy duvet folded at the foot.
Next door is a den with marine blue walls, which used to be the grandchildren’s playroom. Now that the grandchildren have grown, the den is a retreat for Hayne and Mary Phil. One area has a small desk/work space with a desk that once belonged to Mary Phil’s father. Another area has a beige sofa
and two club chairs and ottomans.
Just off the den is the mudroom, where Hayne keeps hunting and fishing gear. Here, he can clean fish or fowl, after a long day hunting or fishing at Dunaway.
Whether they’re hunting, fishing for bass in the lake, canoeing, hiking, or enjoying a family feast of quail or wild turkey indoors, the Hamilton family cherishes the things memories are made of at their Dunaway retreat. Hayne and Mary Phil’s low country home personifi es hospitality, love of family, and a respect for the outdoors—a legacy passed on to their children and grandchildren. “Dunaway has been an incredible family experience, a wonderful environment,” Hayne says.