Jeff and Lesa Rease describe the style of their Highland Lakes home as French country mixed with a bit of modern. The nearly 3,200-square-foot brick home they built on a hill in 2017 is filled with rustic architectural touches, family heirlooms and antiques set against a paint color palette of soft grays, blues and greens.
The French influence comes from Lesa’s Louisiana upbringing and carries over into the yard, where she and Jeff, with some professional assistance, have created peaceful pockets of space that are perfect for them to retreat to by themselves or to entertain friends in good weather. Inside and out, the Rease home is a reflection of their blended tastes in vintage and modern styles set against light-toned backdrops.
The French country theme begins with details on the front of the Reases’ home. Inlaid wood beams rest above two of the windows. A window box affixed below the dining room window bears blooms. Made to look like real wood, the faux wood garage doors resemble barn doors. To the left of the mahogany front doors are an azalea garden and limelight hydrangea tree.
The front doors open into the foyer. Above an antique chest from France hangs a collection of butterflies, moths and cicadas from all over the world.
The formal dining room contains an antique table and buffet that have been in Lesa’s mother’s family for many years. The buffet holds pictures of Lesa’s mother’s grandparents from Ireland.
This airy space features granite countertops, a farmhouse sink, a custom-made range hood and cabinets, an extra-large island and a backsplash of subway tiles in a herringbone design. But the pièce de résistance hangs behind their gas stove. It’s the fireback, a unique piece the couple acquired with the knowledge it’s originally from Versailles, France, and dates back to the 1800s. A fireback is a metal plate that covers the back wall of a fireplace. “The history on firebacks is interesting,” Lesa says, and notes they were used to transfer heat back into a room. “I think they were used in upper-class homes.”
Another interesting element in the kitchen is the exposed brick wall, which brings a rustic touch into the room, along with the farm table opposite the island. And the couple found an antique door to use as their pantry door. “We found antique door hardware and added that to it and a tinted glass ‘peep hole’ into it,” Jeff says.
Rustic meets refreshing in the Reases’ living room. On the rustic side, a piece of cypress driftwood hangs over the entertainment center, and cedar beams run the length of the ceiling in this room and the kitchen. The room holds a Chickering piano, another heirloom piece dating back to 1943. The Reases are in good company; Abraham Lincoln also owned a Chickering piano, Lesa says. A faux stone wood-burning fireplace adds to the rustic feel. The room’s furniture is neutral-toned and comfortable.
Rustic and French country touches adorn Jeff and Lesa’s room. Reclaimed barn wood provides a focal point on the ceiling, where a chandelier hangs. The pale blue wall color coordinates with the light-colored bed linens, and distressed antique pieces serve as nightstands on either side of the bed. A TV hangs above a large, dark-stained chest of drawers standing opposite the bed. Plantation shutters allow just enough sunlight into the room during the day.
The pale blue walls in the master bedroom carry over into the bathroom, a cozy, clean space that feels like a spa more than just a bathroom. It features a garden tub, a large shower, granite countertops, dual vanities and tile floors that resemble real wood. A detail Lesa likes to point out are the drawer pulls – they look like glass, but they’re actually plastic.
Jeff calls this space “a getaway spot from everything going on downstairs.” The multipurpose room holds Lesa’s guitars and sometimes serves as a waiting area for Jeff’s photography clients before their photo shoots. The staircase leading up to the landing and second floor features a decorative S-curve inlay that matches the one on the retaining wall outside. Red oak floors run from the main level to the landing.
Also upstairs is the space Jeff, a photographer by trade, uses as an office and studio. Some of his photography work hangs on the wall behind his desk. “He keeps it organized,” Lesa says of the room. The couple also uses the room for exercising.
This spare bedroom functions as Lesa’s office when it’s not being used by guests. Like the rest of the house, the room is doused in soft hues that give it a serene, cozy feel.
With a TV mounted to the wall and comfortable seating, the back screened-in porch is a great gathering spot for the Reases and their guests, allowing them to be outdoors, but still protected from the elements and bugs. When they want to be outside but not in the yard, the open-air part of the porch is their spot.
The Reases have likely poured as much time and effort into designing and perfecting their terraced backyard, landscaping and multiple gardens in the back, front and side yards as they have the interior of the house. In the back, they have a fire pit area with Adirondack chairs. Nearby, bird feeders draw different types of wildlife, including bluebirds and hummingbirds, to the yard. “We’ve also brought plants from Louisiana to bring my home here,” Lesa says. “The yard is our favorite.”
Jeff recently built a wooden arbor for the side yard that will one day be covered with roses. Natural stone walls provide the needed support for the terraced backyard. Camellias, George Tabor Azaleas, and limelight and oak leaf hydrangeas provide pops of color, while spruce trees bring deep, rich green to the landscape. “I love gardening,” Lesa says. “I’ve never had to plant a yard this big. I had to work with (my landscaper) and do it in sections. It kind of evolved, and each section of the yard has its own little nook.”
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BEHIND THE SCENES
Builder: Scott Masters of G.S. Masters
Landscape Design: John Mardick of Alabama Lawn Sprinklers and Lesa Rease (he designed the yard with me, and his company installed rock walls in back)
Interior Design: Lesa Rease