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HOMEOWNERS — Sandie and Donne Pitman

LOCATION — Hume, Virginia

HOMEOWNERS — Justine and William Nesbitt

PROPERTY — 2,000 acres of pasturage and woodlands in the Blue Ridge Mountains

COMPLETED — December 2002 after three years of planning and construction

STYLE — U-shape Georgian and French residence

LIVING SPACE — 15,226 square feet/30 rooms (22,872 total square footage) and six-garage coach house with apartment

EXTERIOR — Cast-stone veneer and stucco trimmed in rough-squared field stone; copper roof

HER FAVORITE ROOM — Formal powder room with black-and-white toile wallpaper, black-and-white checked silk drapes and upholstery, and sink made from a stone-topped Henredon console ("It's the prettiest room in the world – I wish I'd done my office like that.")

HIS FAVORITE ROOM — Two-story library with mounted buck he bagged on the property displayed above the wood-burning fireplace

AT-HOME PASTIMES — "When we're not inside the house working, we try to get outside."

HOUSEBUILDING TIP — "Pick your contractor very, very carefully. Hire an expert or have a project manager other than the architect. Otherwise, stick to buying – not building."

WHY FRONTGATE? — "Anytime I purchase anything from Frontgate, the shipping is very prompt and the customer service very courteous. The products are great." — Justine Nesbitt

Dining Room

Bar

Hume, Virginia — Nestled in a valley of rolling farmland defined on three sides by steep mountainous terrain, The Cove Estate provides Justine and William Nesbitt the seclusion and self-sufficiency they sought when creating a home for themselves. Their desire to live in the mountains first took them to North Carolina, but the property under consideration there was too remote for their liking.

And then they came across this 2,000-acre parcel of land in the Blue Ridge Mountains near Hume, Virginia. It had everything they wanted and more: a fishing lake, hiking trails — and no neighbors as far as the eye could see. "We fell in love with it," says Justine.

They built their home to the site, carefully positioning the house in the valley to take full advantage of mountain views. They drilled two 500-foot wells and installed a 1,500-gallon in-ground propane tank, two-pump septic system, whole-house generator, and geothermal heating-and-cooling system.

Their intention in designing the house was to create a formal atmosphere that was simultaneously comfortable and welcoming "so people aren't afraid to touch anything." While leafing through a book on famous American homes, Justine found a lovely French manor she admired. The next step was to enlist the services of the architect who'd built their cottage in Canada. "We'd already spent quite a bit of time together, and she knew what I liked," says Justine.

A PLACE FOR EVERYTHING

"There were a certain number of rooms we wanted," she continues. Chief among them were four guest rooms, each with a spacious, nicely appointed bath. "When the family comes down from Canada, we don't want anyone to have a tiny little bathroom or have to share." Essential, too, were his-and-her offices as well as his-and-her vanities, closets, and toilet rooms (a glass-walled steam shower connects the two baths).

Also important: a large kitchen. "When I cook, I like my space," says Justine. And it was imperative that the large kitchen be outfitted with two dishwashers and that a third dishwasher be located in the bar. "That way, when you have people over, you don't have to worry about all the dirty dishes." Last, but not least, Justine wanted several rooms where outdoor potted plants could thrive during the winter. ("Tending plants is something you acquire," she says. "I can feel what to do with them.")

"I wanted every room to feel like it would be comfortable to sit and lounge in."

The house was to be U-shaped in design, with the south wing designated for more utilitarian uses: kitchen, walk-in pantry and butler's pantry, mud room with boot wash, powder room, fully tiled meat-prep room, garbage room with outside ventilation, cleaning supplies closet, and maid's apartment with living room, kitchen, bedroom, and bath. Justine's office, the powder room, glass-walled conservatory, summer dining room, and family room are also situated here.

The public areas — living room, dining room, bar, two-story library, and powder room — were located on the first floor of the west wing. The foyer, with its walnut-and-marble floors, wallpapered walls, and carved Italian marble fireplace, sets the tone for these more formal areas. An elliptical staircase leads to the four guest rooms and master suite on the second floor.

The north wing comprises a third powder room, six-desk staff office with separate entry, and Bill's office furnished with dark-cherry cabinetry.

Smart-house technology provides access to all audio, video, data, voice, and lighting and ventilation controls from anywhere in the house. In-ceiling and exterior speakers deliver sound from all DVD, CD, satellite, and AM/FM sources. Video equipment includes two DSS satellite receivers, multiple DVD and VCR sources, and two 50" plasma displays. Data systems have high-speed Internet connectivity with back-up satellite link and wireless access points throughout the house. A 32-line phone system serves business needs, and wireless Crestron touchscreen controllers and infrared receivers with wall-mounted keypads provide instant access to media. The heating/cooling/humidity system was tailored to the house, and a professional weather station on the roof monitors wind, temperature, humidity, and solar and UV radiation.

The project took about three years, start to finish. Bill and Justine came by every couple of months to check on progress and then more frequently once the coach house was completed. Comprising a bedroom, sitting area, kitchen, and full bath, it provided comfortable overnight accommodations during their visits. Bill and Justine caution against using an architect as project manager, as they did, citing numerous mistakes that slowed completion by three months.

THE FUN OF FURNISHING

Justine took charge of decorating the interior, soliciting input from their architect but otherwise making nearly all the selections herself. "It was fun for me," she says. "I knew what I was after — I'd been collecting catalogs for two years before we ever started." Her advice? "Pick what you really love."

For Justine, that meant Italian furniture in the master suite, country French in the family room, an eclectic blend of casual and formal furnishings in her office, and as much stone and marble as possible on floors, countertops, fireplaces, and showers. "I really wanted stone floors in the formal areas," she says. "I feel comfortable with stone or marble. It just feels right to me. But I was told the house called for the warmth of wood floors." In the end, she compromised: 60% of the floors are walnut hardwood, another 30% are stone and marble, and the remaining 10% are carpeted. "The guy who put down the walnut floors did a great job," says Justine. "Still," she adds, "I would have preferred marble."


The main residence is patterned after a manor house Justine discovered in a book on
famous American homes. Shop Furnishings & Décor.

She estimates that 85% to 90% of the furniture came from a design showroom in south Florida. "I just went with what I liked. If I liked it, and it fit in the budget, I bought it." Justine chose the furniture first, then the Oriental rugs. "They set the tone for the rest of the house," she explains. "It's much easier than choosing a wall color and then trying to find a rug to match." The bed linens came next, and then the paints and wallpapers. "Most of the colors are blue-ish — I was in a blue mood at the time."

When it came to shopping for fabrics and carpeting, however, Justine deferred to the architect. "I don't have the patience for it," she says simply. The two parted ways, however, over window treatments for the formal areas. Justine wanted silk, but the architect strenuously objected. No matter what else the architect suggested, Justine refused to be swayed. "I want silk, and that's it," she said. "It doesn't really match anything, but I just love it."

ROAMING THE LAND THEY LOVE

The setting here is almost impossibly picturesque, encompassing two meandering streams, three ponds, and mature stands of hardwoods. Deer, wild turkeys, foxes, coyotes, and an occasional black bear roam the property as they always have.

But with the Nesbitts' arrival, the animal population has grown to include 150 cattle and, in season, their calves. "We weren't looking to be ranchers," says Justine, "but it was either bushhog the pastures or have cattle to crop the grass." The decision was easy. They bought a herd of cattle and hired a cattle tender.

"We weren't looking to be ranchers, but it was either bushhog the pastures or have cattle to crop the grass."

Justine and Bill sometimes saddle up a couple of the cattle tender's horses and go trail riding, but most of the time they just jump in the Land Rover. They find it comes in handy. "The property was logged at one point," says Justine. "Some of the old logging roads aren't properly open anymore. When there's a tree down, we either have to clear it out with the winch or go over it." A hard rain can create other obstacles, washing out trails and gouging huge trenches.

After working up an appetite outdoors, Justine and Bill satisfy their hunger by grilling a couple of steaks at their lakeside picnic site. On occasion, they bring along the smoker and slow-cook a slab of ribs or some chicken. "If we catch a fish, we'll throw that in there, too." she says. On a good day, they're up in the mountains before lunch and stay until well after dinner, kindling a blaze in the firepit to take the chill out of the moist night air.

LOOKING TO THE FUTURE

Yet for all the home's grandeur and sense of completeness, more than 7,500 square feet of living space remains to be finished.

Nearly 1,200 square feet have been set aside for two one-bedroom, one-bath apartments, one of them intended to house a staff person.

Justine imagines that the entire 2,700-square-foot third-floor attic will be designated as a child's bedroom. "They could keep games and all their toys in there. It would be their own little haven."

As for the 3,700-square-foot basement, it's to be divided into a home theatre, exercise room, cabana bath, and wine cellar with tasting room. Do they collect wine? "We're big wine drinkers," Justine responds, elaborating, "We don't store it — we drink it."

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