For Sam Silvey, building a bluffside retreat has “been a journey” – one that began when he was rock climbing up the side of Lookout Mountain.
By Rebecca Rochat
Photography by Med Dement
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He was cresting over an outcropping of boulders when he came upon an empty lot.
It wasn’t just any lot – the Lookout Mountain property had a sweeping 180-degree view of the valley below and a 100-foot waterfall. So why hadn’t it been built on? His curiosity piqued, Silvey decided to do some research when he got home. He found that the lot had actually been for sale for seven years, but had never been purchased having been deemed “almost impossible” to build on. If a house were to be constructed, he discovered, it would have to be built on partial rock. Not only that, loads of fill dirt would have to be trucked in to stabilize the remaining lot. After long consideration, Silvey decided he was up for the challenge. He purchased the one-acre lot in April of 2012 and began construction that August.
Sam says the home’s interior was “built for entertaining.” In the common area, separate spaces are defined by furniture placement – an open floor plan allowing for easy movement across the space.
To maximize the view at the rear of the house, Sam swapped traditional fixed windows and doors for 30 feet of custom-made accordion doors that open out to a back deck. Whether relaxing, dining, or watching TV, distant views of the mountains and horizon are always visible.
A sitting area facing one section of the doors is comprised of a sofa, coffee table, occasional chair, and footstool. The table, designed and built by Sam, uses a 120-year-old butcher block for the top and two short tree trunks for the base.
A long bar paired with black walnut stools divides the living area from the kitchen. The contemporary kitchen’s clean lines and stainless steel surfaces give it fresh and minimalist look.
Situated in front of a second set of accordion doors is a custom-made black walnut kitchen table paired with aluminum side chairs, over which hangs a white globe-shaped lantern. Between the two sections of doors is a wall housing a flat-screen TV.
Sam says that when he was determining the design and position of the house, there were two things he wanted to maximize: the view and natural daylight. To allow for an abundance of sunlight throughout the day, the roofline was offset and a band of five narrow windows was incorporated into the western-facing front roof of the house.
Concrete footers were poured to add support to the deck, which juts out over the bluff and the boulders below. Sam says there are two events he especially enjoys from his house’s perch on the bluff: one, the stars on a clear night, and two, the storms moving through the valley. He says that when things are very quiet, you can hear the sound of the waterfall flowing and the wind blowing through the trees. And since cool breezes flow from the outside when the doors are open, the air conditioner is rarely
Oak barn doors on sliding metal tracks open into the master bedroom, which has contemporary furniture with a minimalist flair. With its floating sideboards flanked by floating end tables, the bed is the focal point of the room. Gray and white bedding in a mixture of smooth and textured fabrics contributes to the room’s sense of calm.
To take advantage of the view from the bedroom and let in plentiful natural light, Sam installed large plate glass windows. In front of two corner windows is a seating arrangement with two Eames molded plywood chairs and a Marcel Breuer tubular steel cocktail table.
The home’s use of subtle texture continues into the master bath, which is outfitted with tiling of varying sizes and shades of gray. Natural materials are once again adapted to a modern structure with the double vanity, comprised of two vessel sinks of roughhewn stone atop a handmade wooden counter with a steel base.