Photos by John Harpring
I t takes courage, real courage, the kind not often found, to do what they did. Sure, lots of people make fresh starts, but few make them without bringing all the baggage from the past. Lynn and Mark Nine, however, have filled their Estates at Rhodes Farm home with objects and furniture and artwork that they assembled in preparation for their new life—together. And they were both willing to let go of everything from their previous homes to do it.
She didn’t want to blurt it out in front of the real estate agent, but something about this property was different from the many, many others she and Mark had looked at. It was 2006 and the couple was newly engaged and house hunting. Lynn bridled her enthusiasm until they got in the car to leave. When Mark started the engine, she could contain herself no longer. This was it—The house. Mark put an offer on it the next morning.
“This was the one house I walked into that I immediately loved,” says Lynn. The Estates at Rhodes Farm, along with its sister subdivisions, Rhodes Hill and Rhodes Farm, is located on Columbia County land once owned by the Rhodes family, who raised Hereford beef cattle there along the Savannah River from 1946 to 1986. Much of the property remains undeveloped. Part of an old barbed wire fence still runs along the boundary, harkening back to a rural past.
Within walking distance of the Savannah River Head Gates, but also within a few minutes’ drive from shopping and Mark’s work and family, the home is located in an area that boasts convenience paired with no-hustle, no-bustle. “I could see us living here,” says Lynn. The open, airy, light feel of the house appeals to her, as does the backyard perfect for a pool, which Lynn and Mark have since installed.
Arched front windows match the curve of the portico and extra-tall doors add to the spaciousness of the home’s interior. Plus the three upstairs bedrooms, each with its own private bath and walk-in closet, are perfect for hosting Lynn’s grown children when they visit.
And just as Lynn imagined upon first seeing it, the home pulses from the great room, a combination of the kitchen, a dining nook and a seating area arranged around a gas fireplace. It opens onto a brick porch overlooking the pool and outdoor kitchen. This is where the Nines start their mornings and wrap up their days. It’s where they entertain their family and friends and make folks feel comfortable and welcome. It’s all as Lynn pictured it back in 2006.
While Mark moved in right after the closing, Lynn remained in North Carolina where her son completed high school. Over the course of their four-year engagement, which joyfully ended in marriage in July 2010, Lynn and Mark made multiple trips to Columbia, Charlotte and Knoxville to find the right furniture, the right artwork, the right accent pieces for their home. “When we were doing all of this, we would have said our style is French Country,” says Mark. Lynn finishes his thought, adding, “But now we’d say its eclectic, Transitional French Country.” Every item was thoughtfully selected. Each design choice echoed their personality as a couple.
Four years is a long stretch. It gave them plenty of opportunity to consider the details. Not only did they partner in appointing their home, they also amassed memories. Mark says, “Because it took so long and was such a journey, everything tells a story. I can look at a piece of artwork or furniture or a vase and recall when and where we got it and what else we did that day.” He points to a grouping of lovely antique water jugs imported from China, which make a unique statement juxtaposed against the glossy granite counter tops and old-world finished cabinetry in the kitchen, and recollects peeling the authentic wax seals off of a set on loan from a dealer. He and Lynn share a laugh over Lynn’s shock when she discovered what he had done and the sigh of relief when the dealer allowed them to return the jugs.
overlooking the pool and outdoor kitchen.
Guests enter the Nine home across a threshold surrounded by arched sidelights into a wide foyer dressed in oak flooring, which extends throughout the entire first floor. The hallway genteelly presents the library on the right and the dining room on the left. Drapes fastened with Trudy holdbacks highlight the arched windows in each room while light and shadow converge to cast arched silhouettes. In the dining room, a white chandelier with crystal flowers and pendants playfully dances above the long table with seating for 12. A large china cabinet, in distressed white, stands against the far wall.
Soft neutrals with splashes of color create continuity throughout their home. Though Mark admits he’s partial to blue, he concedes that Lynn’s instincts to stay away from saturating rooms with bright hues were spot on. Smartly minimalist, but endearingly comfortable, the first floor master bedroom is anchored by a king-size cherry sleigh bed. Seafoam green walls soothingly blend with fabrics in tones of cream and gray. Side tables double as bureaus. The inspiration piece for the master bedroom, however, is an imported white crackle-finish mahogany armoire. Everything else falls into place around it.
In the master bath, a deep soaking tub positioned beneath large windows offering a view to the backyard and the precious, white pool house, promises soothing relaxation. Cream-colored tumbled ceramic tiles set off the tub and the stand-alone shower. His and hers vanities, in old-world finish matching that of the kitchen cabinetry, are topped with granite. Clean, uncluttered coziness flows throughout the master bedroom and bath.
The formal living room’s double French doors open onto the brick porch and present a marvelous view of the landscaped backyard. Mark designed the rock retaining wall that stretches along the house side of the pool. It matches the stone diving rock, giving it a sense of place, and anchors plantings that include camellias, foster hollies, cypress, autumn crimson azaleas and Indian hawthorns. A Japanese cut leaf maple serves as a focal point. Even during winter months, the scene from the living room pleases the eye.
An upstairs balcony overlooks the living room and draws attention to the row of arched windows, a repeated architectural detail, set above the French doors. A bird’s-eye view reveals the symmetry of the room below. Built-in bookcases flank the gas fireplace. A sofa situated perpendicular to the fireplace faces two upholstered chairs. A mirror above the mantle reflects the Nancy Schultz magnolia print on the opposite wall, over a marble-topped buffet. The balance makes the commissioned print pop.
On the wall across from the French doors is one of the only items in the Nines’ home that either of them owned before their marriage: Mark’s grandfather clock. Other than that, everything, yes, everything, is a product of Lynn and Mark’s distraction while passing the days, weeks and months of a four-year engagement. “There was high anticipation of finally living in it,” says Lynn, who quite literally made a clean break from her old life to this one. When she packed her bags to move to Georgia, she didn’t bring any baggage with her. “The only thing in my life that’s the same,” she says, “is my dog. There’s definitely a line of distinction.”
This kind of commitment, this kind of complete letting go, of jumping without a safety net, takes courage, real courage not often found in real life. Nonetheless, Lynn and her dog, Brandie, have acclimated quite well to the home she and Mark lovingly and carefully pulled together to be the foundation for their fresh start. “It’s totally us,” Lynn says, capturing the essence of what a home should be—an expression of the people who live in it.