Monday, April 15, 2024

Where We Live: Southern Living ‘treehouse’ in Kingsmill

There’s building a house, and then there’s rolling up your sleeves and doing seventy percent of the work by yourself.

That’s exactly what Reggie and Sally Lewis did when they decided to relocate from Virginia Beach to Williamsburg in 1999.

Both graduates of the College of William and Mary, Reggie and Sallie always thought they’d end up back in the area, especially when their daughter attended their alma mater. Reggie, the owner of James River Builders, and wife Sally decided to build their own home in Kingsmill, on a pretty pie-shaped lot that opened up to Wareham Pond.

They chose lifestyle magazine “Southern Living” house plans in a French Country style called Provence, by William E. Pool. While the exterior was fairly detailed, “the inside was left up to what you wanted to do,” Reggie said.

Where many would see drywall, Reggie and Sally saw intricate Arts-and-Crafts style woodwork and natural touches wherever possible to compliment the views outdoors.

Even while working full-time with his company, Reggie carved out the time to work on their own house. He hired out about thirty percent of the work, including the framing and some foundation work. The rest he did himself.

Luckily, this meant it was easy to add custom touches to the plans wherever possible. Sally asked for a large walk-in pantry, which Reggie delivered. And when she suggested adding a back staircase, Reggie initially said there was no way.

“One night he woke up and said ‘I figured it out,’” Sally said.

The couple took inspiration from Greene & Greene, a well-known architectural firm on the West Coast. They opted for Craftsman-style straight lines rather than ornate moldings, which materialized in paneled redwood ceilings and cherry paneling and battens on the walls.

One of the home’s most original details is the columns in the main living space, all from felled trees and left in their natural state.

“You can see where a woodpecker pecked at the tree,” Reggie said, pointing out the notches in the bark.

Even though the exterior of the house was largely kept to match the “Southern Living” plans, the couple found ways to incorporate custom touches in the materials.

Reggie picked every piece of stone used in the exterior from a quarry in Toano. A tree from the Lewis’s property was used for one of the exposed beams shown in the drawings. And Reggie built the rafter tails—256 of them—by hand.

“It’s something no one would immediately notice on the house, but it’s a big detail,” Sally said.

Reggie even made the front door by hand, complete with a speakeasy.

“It’s bigger, heavier and stronger than any door you’ll find in the stores,” Reggie said.

Reggie began building the 4-bedroom, 5 ½-bath house in October 1998. By September 1999, it was ready for their family to move in. But there was still a lot of finish work left to do.

Sally made a photo album for Reggie called “The Story of 160 John Browning.” One picture depicts him laying wood flooring on the Fourth of July, fast asleep in the middle of the work zone.

The work eventually paid off. The couple enjoys their custom home, which is a nature-lover’s dream.

“One of the main ideas is we wanted all of the views to look like you were in the trees,” Sally said. In pursuit of this, they chose large windows with no mullions, so as not to obstruct the views. And in the winter, when the leaves have fallen from the deciduous trees, the family can enjoy views of the pond out back.

“It’s kind of like a treehouse,” Sally said. “Our daughter’s friends call it ‘The Lodge.’”

To learn more about this home, click here.

Where We Live is a weekly feature looking at homes in the Historic Triangle. Do you have a home, on or off the market, that our readers may be interested in seeing? Let us know at

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