A Charlotte family builds a small mountain getaway that’s big on style.
by Blake Miller
Lisa and Jason Leake’s goal was simple: Find a piece of land in the mountains where the couple and their two teenage daughters could escape the Carolina summer heat and go camping.
“We love the mountains and outdoors and love to hike,” Lisa says. “But the summers in Charlotte are unbearably hot.”
The land would eventually become the site for their forever home. But at this point, the Leakes weren’t exactly sure what they wanted their dream home to look like. It was about finding a lot they loved — and with great views — until they were ready to commit to building something permanent.
They found the land with the view, but after a test run one weekend when windy weather just about tore their tent and campground down, the Leakes regrouped. For test run No. 2, the family rented an RV for several weeks in the summer of 2014 and toured several national parks. “Everything in an RV, though, is as cheap as it comes,” Lisa says. “We really appreciate quality and good craftsmanship and nice design. We weren’t going to get that out of an RV trailer.”
It wasn’t until a friend mentioned that the couple should consider a tiny home that the Leakes began researching the possibility of building one themselves.
“We liked that a tiny home would be like a trial period on our land,” Lisa explains. “It’s nothing permanent, but we can see how much we use it and like it. And it’s small enough that, within budget, we could really invest more in higher-end finishes, appliances and design. We felt like we could make it the quality we wanted and not have it be permanent. One day, the idea is we’ll wheel it off, sell it, and build a more permanent house when we have a better idea of what we want.”
So, the couple began designing their tiny home with specs that fit their lifestyle. Lisa is the New York Times bestselling author of 100 Days of Real Food and runs a food blog by the same name, so the layout and functionality of the kitchen was of the utmost importance.
“Our goals for the design were to focus on the kitchen, and [we] also wanted it to blend in with the natural environment,” says Jason, operations manager for the blog. “We wanted to maximize the views and have it feel much larger than what you’d expect for 300 square feet.”
The couple enlisted Asheville’s Two Wilson Architects to design the façade of the home and Charlotte designer Kelley Vieregg to help with the interiors. Having previously designed the couple’s Charlotte home, Vieregg was tasked with helping the Leakes source finishes and lighting that aligned with the transitional-meets-modern aesthetic they wanted.
“They loved the look of their home in Charlotte, which was monochromatic, and they wanted to carry over that same feel into the tiny home,” Vieregg explains. “It’s really all about the view, though.”
A large, expansive window affords sweeping views of Grandfather Mountain and beyond. So as not to detract from that, the finishes and furnishings were intentionally kept simple, clean and streamlined. Hague Blue paint by Farrow & Ball was used throughout, along with simple, modern light fixtures by Schoolhouse Electric.
“The whole goal was to create a space that’s timeless, easy and comfortable,” Vieregg says. “It’s a vacation home. You don’t want it to be this complex, too fussy space.” Always the DIYers, Lisa made the privacy draperies on her daughters’ bunk beds, while Jason rigged the ottoman with a TV mounted to the underside for quick storage.
With a view like this, the Leakes decided to expand their original outdoor living space so that the patio is nearly double the interior square footage.
“We were very intentional about having our outdoor living larger than our indoor space,” Lisa says. “When we come up, it’s all about being outside and getting away. So we knew we’d spend the majority of our time on the patio versus indoors.” The Leakes hired landscape architect Wren’s Nest Landscape Design to enhance the property.
Since completing the home in 2017, the Leakes know they made the right choice. “One of the biggest things I love about the tiny home is that we spend so much time with our daughters here,” Lisa says. “There’s nowhere else to go. The four of us will curl up on the couch and watch a movie together. That’s something I hadn’t expected with building this. But we absolutely love that part of it.” SP