A Forest Family Finds Rest and Recreation at SML
PHOTOGRAPHY BY DARYL CALFEE
What is it about water that resets us? Beckons us back, calls forth renewal and peace merely by its presence. As though by its mere glimmer, its understated aliveness, we will be bathed in something restful, something essential. It’s what drives us to make long trips and spend hard earned dollars every summer to be near it, in it, and around it.
For one Forest family, it was exactly this draw to the water that led them to seek out a nearby haven at Smith Mountain Lake. Busy as most families are with two teenagers, Brian and Kimberly Baker stopped a few years ago to take stock of the time left with their children, Makenna, 17, and Nick, 16, and decided to search for a place where they could make lasting memories like the ones they both created around lakes as kids themselves.
“Interestingly enough, we actually both grew up going to lakes in upstate New York, separately from each other,” Brian said.
“We both have really fond memories of spending time with our families,” Kimberly added. “Very low key. Very slow paced. You’re on lake time and you just enjoy each other’s company.”
After months of hunting with local realtor Liesel Lancaster, they found the perfect place in May 2019—a serene cottage steps from the water in Huddleston, and just 35 minutes from their own home in Forest.
“I think we knew right away,” Kimberly said. “Something we loved about this house was how close it was to the lake. Some of the properties we looked at had 20 to 100 steps down to the water and we loved that in five steps here you could be right on the dock.”
Another feature of the home was that it was move-in ready, and came fully furnished. While having furniture at the ready was attractive on paper, Kimberly is talented at interior design so Brian knew it was just a matter of time before she put her touch on the place. He just underestimated how quickly that would happen.
“We had two months before closing and as we are going through it and looking at pictures, Kim is coming up with ideas and all of a sudden our home garage is turning into storage. And by the time the closing date came, we had Habitat for Humanity here at the [lake]house and we donated darn near everything,” Brian explained. “So it went from fully furnished—we don’t have to worry about anything—to we are going to make it our own.”
The home started in many ways as a lovely blank canvas for Kimberly to paint her personality onto, with an open floor plan, built-ins in the living room, a master suite, and large screened-in porch on the main level. Below is a family room, game area, and the kids’ sleeping quarters. Outside, a large patio area under the screened porch offers space for larger groups to mingle without having to throw on a towel.
“We loved that [the home]was set up to entertain, we loved that it had a fire pit and a hammock and a screened-in deck and lots of outdoor entertainment areas. … I just want it to be a comfortable place where people can come and spend time and feel at home and for it to be cozy and not stuffy,” Kimberly explained of her design approach.
She quickly went to work customizing the home with her own chic lake decor. Jute, sisal, rattan, and rope accents flow through all manner of rugs, lighting, and accessories. Walls were painted Benjamin Moore Sailcloth, with Benjamin Moore Hale Navy accents in guest bedrooms. Designer finds mix seamlessly with vintage and second-hand pick-ups. Local and regionally sourced items range from a Greenfront Furniture light fixture in the kitchen to coffee tables from Virginia Furniture Market, a side table from Katrina & Co. Shoppe at James T. Davis, vintage signs from Reclaimed in Moneta, and club chairs in the living room from On Second Thought Consignment Shop in Forest.
High top stools at the kitchen’s breakfast bar and pillows strategically strewn throughout the home bring in fabric shades of blue and coral. Framed art of freshwater fish gestures at the recreation available outside, and also reminds the family of one of their favorite moments when Makenna caught a 15-inch largemouth bass off the dock.
Because of Kimberly’s clear vision, the home’s transformation neared its completion soon after they bought it, minus one important element that finally fell into place just a few months ago.
“I had this canoe in mind when we bought the house. I love the idea of having a canoe hanging out on the screen porch, so that was kind of the cherry on the cake getting that and hanging it,” she said. “The canoe is actually from Maine but the previous owner moved it to Roanoke and Brian found it for us. So that to me is the final piece, like, I’m happy, I’m done, I don’t need to do anything else!”
With the home’s decor complete, all that remained for the Bakers to do was name their spot on the water. Kimberly came up with “Anchored Cottage” after Hebrews 6:19 which reads, “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Anchored Cottage has already proven to be a memory maker for the family, including a sweet 16th birthday party, Brian learning how to wakeboard, and the first time they got a visit from the Ice Cream Boat, which is exactly like it sounds—frozen desserts for sale, cheesy music and all.
“[The driver] takes Venmo and I don’t even have to leave my float in the water to enjoy some ice cream!” Kimberly laughed. “The first time that happened I was floating in the water, listening to music, with my ice cream and I was like—I have arrived. Best day ever!
As for Makenna and Nick, the water has offered an endless playground for time with friends, water sports, and growing their own boating skills on the lake.
“They love to ski and wakeboard. Nick has his boating license and he likes to jet ski so he’s trying to convince Makenna to get her boating license too so they can jet ski together,” Kimberly said.
“He’s also tired of taking her everywhere!” Brian added with a laugh.
When it comes to the adults making memories, the couple thinks of the time they’ve spent hosting old and new friends as they stop by, soaking in mountain views from the dock, Kimberly kayaking all the way to the dam and back (Brian: “That’s impressive!”), and quiet evening boat rides.
“It’s the least amount of boats you’re going to see in the summertime and the water turns the same color as the sky at sunset, which is something I’ve never seen before,” Kimberly said.
For Brian, the memory he most consistently makes for himself is on the screened-in porch in the quiet of the morning, coffee cup in hand, looking out over the water—a childhood connection to the lake coming full circle for both him and the next generation.
“It’s peaceful. There’s no noise, there’s no boats out yet. When the trees fill in it almost feels like a tree house and you’ve got Huddleston’s biggest pool in your backyard,” he said. “Being out here and being on the water, you transport away from the mundane things of life and you get a reprieve. It’s unbelievable.”