NC Boating Lifestyle April 2004
“The Wilds of Lake Wylie”
Lots of people live on a lake, but not everyone lives in it. For Doug and Laurie McSpadden and their two boys, Harrison, 14, and Connor, 11, life on Lake Wylie means a deck boat, a jet ski, kayaks and canoes, wakeboards, sailboards, a dinghy and an ultralight plane.
“The family that plays together, stays together,” says Doug, a custom home builder who grew up in nearby Gastonia spending summer days and winter weekends on Lake Wylie. “I got my first boat, a 23-foot Sport Craft, when I was about 10, and as I got older, I’d take evening cruises with my friends whenever my dad allowed me to take the boat out on my own. Having a boat was a major deal because it meant freedom to get out on the water, explore and have fun. I wanted that same freedom for my boys.”
Doug and Laurie, an Asheville native, met as students at the University of Tennessee. After graduation, they moved to Forest Cove, a waterfront community in Belmont, where Doug built the family’s first home.
Last year, they moved into a 1.3 million dollar spec home Doug built in Misty Waters, a new lakefront community just across the water on Lake Wylie. The 5,100-square-foot Craftsman-style home features cedar shakes, dry-stacked stone and a series of graceful rock arches inspired by the Grove Park Inn’s spa.
“I always knew I’d have to live at the lake,” says Doug. “You hear people say that at every lake or coast you go to; we all have a similar attitude about recreation and leisure. But I feel very strongly that it’s really a different philosophy of living. Being on the water is a different way of life.”
For the McSpaddens, life on Lake Wylie has always brought family outings and adventures. When the children were younger, the family took overnight camping trips on coves around the lake. Doug and Laurie remember many evening cruises on the boat with the children curled up asleep on the way home.
When Harrison turned 5, Doug drew up an intricate treasure map and buried a chest of foil-wrapped chocolate coins on an uninhabited island in the middle of Lake Wylie. Harrison and his friends followed clues on Captain Will Wylie’s map to find treasure stolen by bad pirates pillaging the good people of the lake.
Now a bit too old for pretend treasure maps, Harrison, in eighth grade, likes to ride his Jet Ski down to the nearby River Hills development to hang out with friends.
Connor sometimes takes the dinghy just across the water to Harbortowne Marina for a Sundrop slushie. “Next year, I’ll be able to take the Jet Ski out by myself,” says the sixth grader.
In warm weather, the boys spend all day around the lake, riding in the boat, zipping along with friends on Jet Skis and pelting one another in paintball battles. Harrison and Connor also spend a lot of summer break time at wakeboarding lessons with mom or dad taking them and picking them up by boat.
“I like being able to go wherever I want to go on the lake,” says Harrison. “A lot of my friends are on the lake, so it’s fun to hang out together on the water.”
Cooler months don’t slow the boys down, either. If their homework is finished and the temperature climbs above 40 degrees, Doug insists they find something to do outside instead of watching TV or playing video games. With friends in tow, the brothers build campfires on the shore, throw in a line at their favorite fishing hole or ride dirt bikes on trails through the woods. “They’re definitely outdoors kids,” says Doug. “They also like to snow ski, whitewater kayak, mountain climb, rock climb and backpack on trails. They lead an adventurous outdoor lifestyle.”
As a family, the McSpaddens have canoed the backwaters of creeks feeding into Lake Wylie, rafted up with other boats on lazy summer days and watched fireworks together on July 4th and New Year’s Eve. Many days are spent aboard Sondays II, the 26-foot Chapparel the couple named for the family outings with their boys.
Doug and Laurie like to end the day by sitting on the terrace with a glass of wine to watch the sunset or relaxing in the hot tub where they sometimes see deer and blue heron quietly walk by.
“The great thing is you don’t have to leave to have fun,” says Laurie. “You can be in downtown Charlotte in 20 minutes max for all the restaurants, theater and other entertainment if that’s what you want. You’re so close to that, but when you’re here, you’re totally away.”
Despite living in their first home for 17 years, the McSpaddens know that most builders move from house to house as one is sold and another is completed. When this house sells, they plan to start another waterfront dream home – a stone and stucco contemporary – just two lots away.
“It’s been really interesting to be one of the first families in Misty Waters, to watch the neighborhood grow from the ground up,” says Laurie. “We love this home. Connor loves it so much that he’s always asking me if he can be home-schooled here. Being from the mountains, it feels especially homey to me.”
Located on a cul-de-sac lot with 120 feet of shoreline, the McSpadden’s home is a relaxed, family friendly sanctuary.
The stunning house, one of the first to be built in the 58-lot community, won the top luxury division award in Charlotte’s Parade of Homes and the Realtor’s Choice award in the Gaston County Parade of Homes.
McSpadden, who specializes in lakefront construction, attributes much of its great reception to the lot and to the neighborhood where a prime 1.6-acre point lot recently sold for $430,000.
“We knew we wanted to set a high standard with the home we built in Misty Waters, so we chose a lot that’s heavily wooded, surrounded by other really nice lots and has easy topography, beach access and deep water,” says Doug. “This also is a popular style for waterfront homes. It blends nicely with its surroundings; it’s very warm and natural.”
The neighborhood also draws a lot of interest from families with its community marina, clubhouse and pool on a point overlooking the lake. “For a 58-lot community, it’s just spectacular,” says Doug.
Starting with a plan created by Living Concepts, McSpadden used his architecture degree to redraw the home’s layout to suit a family’s needs.
The front entrance is high-lighted by rock columns and beams, an arched doorway, and a Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired stained-glass door with sidelights and arched glass design above. The L-shaped home’s three-car garage is covered in Coronado Idaho dry-stacked stone and features cedar doors and an upstairs bonus room.
Inside the foyer, the space leads to a formal dining room on the right and a wide great room with open views of the lake ahead. Rock columns support arches dividing the front and back of the home.
“We wanted to carry the same rustic flavor we used outside to the inside,” says Doug. Leather sofas, decorative iron pieces, a stacked-stone fireplace and a large photo of the family on a lakeside beach make the room comfortable and relaxed.
Just off the great room are the kitchen and keeping room, where the McSpaddens spent a lot of their time. The custom cabinets are made of birch and alder in a Craftsman style, which is combined with modern touches such as stainless steel appliances and a two-level island covered in uba tuba granite. Prairie-inspired details, like the beveled glass door on the pantry, continue the Craftsman style inside.
“I spend a lot of time here listening to music and reading,” says Laurie. “It’s so nice to have the lake as part of our scenery all day.”
On the opposite side of the main level is the master suite, decorated in soothing tones of taupe, sage and amber. A tray ceiling, his-and-her walk-in closets, a door leading to the terrace, two vanities, a glass-wall shower and a Jacuzzi tub combine the luxuries of a top-notch home with the feel of a quiet retreat.
Upstairs over the garage is the McSpadden home office, where Laurie handles the books for the construction business and Doug takes care of paperwork and planning. In between building homes and hanging out with his family, Doug also likes to tinker with creative inventions. He already holds three patents and several big orders on one design, a plastic plate with a built-in cup holder that he markets to party supply companies.
Off the kitchen and great room is a covered terrace with a grill and patio furniture, rustic Y-beams and a beadboard cedar ceiling. A spiral staircase winds down to the spa, which sits under three stone arches with small lights built into the center point.
Below the main feel of the house are the boys’ rooms and a large rec room with a widescreen TV, sectional sofas and a wet bar. The lower terrace, also surrounded by rock arches, features an outdoor combination pool and ping pong table, heaters and an outdoor shower.
Many spaces in the home are filled with faux finish painting by Dawn LaVecchia. Lynn O’Brien painted murals inside the great room arches to reflect scenes of the lake. Interior designers were Terry Manchester of Charlotte and Mimi Guin of Mt. Holly.
The gently sloping yard, which combines lawn and landscaped areas, a cedar birdhouse and heron sculptures, leads to the McSpadden’s fiberglass, maintenance-free dock. Shadow, the family’s border collie and lab mix, loves this spot to jump into the lake, fetch sticks and scramble onto the boat with the boys.
Even in the winter, the family cruises in Sondays II, thanks to a full aft enclosure. “It’s a great lake boat,” says Doug. “We had a 38-foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser before, but we ended up buying this because the boys like to ski and wakeboard all the time.”
Despite the demands of running a successful business and the allure to get in a few hours of work at home, the McSpaddens shut down their office every evening and each weekend.
“That’s our time with each other and with our boys,” says Doug. “I had a perfect childhood growing up around this lake and I want theirs to be even better. I can’t imagine a better lifestyle.”