23 Years of family craftsmanship
Camden, just a few miles off Highway 34, a picturesque estate comes into view. Framed by mature live oak trees and swaying Spanish moss, the home is beautifully perched on a gentle incline, inviting a passersby to slow down and smile. This estate, evolving over a span of more than 20 years, is the product of Christine and Randy Bock’s vision, skill, and patience.
The Bocks had admired the property, envisioning a white, colonial style house on the hill where they would raise their family, and decided to purchase the land in 1990. A builder/developer team by trade, they did not need a blueprint to make their dream home a reality. From sketches, Christine and Randy went to work as time allowed, which usually meant evenings and weekends due to their young family and his full-time career (at this point she was a stay-at-home mom). Without a blueprint, the building, crafting, and measuring began — and today what many people refer to as the “Bock Estate” is a beautiful reality.
In 1991, before the actual house construction began, Christine, Randy, Randall, and Ryan rolled up their sleeves and planted 23 young one-and-a-half inches in diameter live oak saplings on the barren hill, spacing them 50 to 60 feet apart, to encircle their future home. Several established oak trees were already on the lot; now they are all the same height.
Christine says, “We actually got the Spanish moss from the Wateree River years ago and hung a little on each tree. We fertilized and watered, and despite some bad storms and weather, it all took off.” At a later date the family would tackle more yard work when they started on the lawn. “Randy, the boys, and I sprigged every bit of that centipede grass,” notes Christine.
As soon as the current garage and bonus room above it were completed in the summer of 1992, the family of four moved out of their 1,500-square-foot home in Camden and into their new property. The boys, then 7 and 9, roomed in the garage downstairs in bunk beds, and a kitchen area was set up along one wall. Up a narrow, polished heart pine staircase, Christine and Randy made their bedroom. All four shared one small bathroom — the only one the house was to have for four years — and the adventure was on. Christine remembers living among stud walls, drop cloths, and saw horses.
“It was quite convenient to work on the house in the evenings after supper, since we lived in the garage,” she says. “The moldings took a lot of time to make, install, sand, stain, and coat with lacquer. I remember holding the boards while Randy did the routing or nailed them to the walls.”
Today, the original kitchen area in the garage comes in handy as a small second kitchen, and the craftsmanship, paneling, and molding of the original master suite gives even the current exercise room the feel of a beautiful mountain lodge. A circular granite marker is located in the floor of the area that previously was the center of the house but is now the garage. Beside motorcycles and cars on the far north side of the house, a stone commemorates the home with the words, “Bock, established 1992, Builders Randy Bock, Wife Christine, Children Randall and Ryan.”
The approach to the Bock home from the front street resembles a walk in a vast garden. Handsome brick columns flank a gracious straight walkway up an incline to a fountain. The brick path widens to encircle the fountain, flowers, and low wall, and then resumes its straight path to the front porch. Through the front door, guests step onto a harlequin black and white marble floor. In the center of the home, the main staircase winds up to the second and third floors. From the floor level the eye moves past the white pickets, hefty banister, and bright yellow walls to the Renaissance-style ceiling mural.
The family bedrooms are now on the second floor. The boys’ rooms have not changed since they occupied them as children, and on the third floor, beds are tucked beside and under eaves created by the dormer windows. An antique crib resting against a wall at one time or another held all four grandchildren.
Off Christine and Randy’s gorgeous master suite is an old-fashioned sleeping porch. This screened-in nook is used quite frequently in cooler weather, and looking out offers a close-up view of the wooden shingles that compose all the roofs of the structures on the property.
Various rooms and projects, such as additional columns, sidewalks, even the sleeping porch, were added along the way. Today the Bocks usually park and enter their home through the door on the north side, also the side where the current free-standing garage is located. On this side of the home a hallway leads to the much-used spaces of pantry, bathroom, mudroom, laundry, and office. Connecting all of these rooms is traditional rectangular paneling that Randy carved and stained in a deep, rich brown. Flooring in the hall and adjacent rooms includes tile, slate, marble, and inlaid hardwood. Each type of flooring gives off a particular sheen or hue, adding much interest.
Beyond the wainscoted laundry room and partially functional wall phone that dates from the early 1900s, an antique grandfather clock stands like a sentinel. “We love antiquing,” Christine explains. “We have bought nearly everything in this home from antique stores in South Carolina, Georgia, New York, Virginia, and beyond. Randy and I have worked as a team to fill in a lot of spaces, room by room. When we see what we are looking for we just know it. We still have more finds to make.”
Through Bock family visits to historical sites, they realized they love Colonial style homes. Christine adds, “We have joked many times that we’re living in the wrong era.”
The final room in this part of the house is the home office, but before stepping inside visitors are sure to notice the painted ceiling. Sky blue is crisply offset with white beams that meet to form rectangles. Another antique find, a domed light fixture with dangling crystals and a spherical copper base, lights the way.
In the office, light enters through two large windows, one facing the back yard, the other the side driveway, and then shines onto a free-standing vintage desk. This 50-inch-tall desk faces the door, yet offers privacy due to its high-grooved front. A round antique table in front of the desk provides space for the Bocks to meet with clients, and pigeonholes cover the front wall, all full of Randy’s drafts and blueprints.
Because all of the woodwork in the office is stained the same hue, the custom wood floor, laid in short pieces in a style resembling herringbone, seems to travel to the walls and up to the chair rail. After some blue wall space, the wood ornamentation continues with bookshelves. Hanging from the coffered ceiling, also stained in the same warm tint, is another antique chandelier.
As each of these chandeliers is notable for its individual size, shape, and purpose, so is each room in the Bock home. Back down the side hallway and into the kitchen, the counters and island are topped with granite that was quarried from Saudi Arabia. The appliances, working island, table, and collection of hanging copper pots leave plenty of room for a central sitting area and a fireplace with a wood burning Buck Stove. Beyond a nearby door, a pile of chopped wood provides the fuel. “With seven working fireplaces we’ll go through all that wood and more,” says Christine. “We get all the wood from the trees on our property.”
Next to the kitchen is a spacious, rectangular dining room with a row of arched casement windows that overlook the patio, fountain, pool, and pool house. In fact, the Bocks recently knocked out the wall and windows and then rebuilt them farther out. This allowed for a larger dining table to accommodate their growing family and the addition of an antique piano. Charleston, the oldest granddaughter, is beginning to learn how to play. Above the piano hangs an oil painting of a Camden classic — horses.
The family realized it would be nice to have a nearby powder room, so they created a half-bath behind a diminutive doorway. The space they utilized for this is actually the underside of a stairwell.
The dining room ceiling is wallpapered with a heavy, glossy, white-textured paper, sporting a dimensional pattern that gives the feel of a 19th century plaster ceiling. The only other room with a similar wallpaper ceiling is the master bedroom.
French doors open to a parlor, and a gorgeous handmade crèche rests on a table. Christine smiles as she explains, “The boys made this for me for Christmas. They have their father’s talent.” The parlor leads to a cozy den with a huge fireplace and a balcony library with a reading nook. Randy created the gleaming heart pine woodwork from the floor to the vaulted ceiling, including the ornate fluted mantel, staircase, bookshelves, beams, and doors; thus, this room’s nickname is “Pine Room.”
In the library, a muralist named Janice Cozzens painted a playful scene of Christine and her Maltese, Molly. In the mural, Christine is reading her favorite book, Gone with the Wind. The other walls in the room also display murals, which replicate the actual scenery around the home.
From the pine room entering the expansive billiard room, there is a unique half bath with a tall pull-chain-style toilet. This addition was completed in December 2016. The billiard room is the largest room in the home at 25 feet wide and 35 feet long. A huge fireplace is at the far end with a wet bar at the opposite end near the entrance. Randy built the doors complete with transoms and sidelights, and wavy, “restoration” glass — supplied specially from Classical Glass — to achieve an old look. The leaded glass windows complete the effect, but the most breathtaking aspect of the room is the ceiling. It alone took a year to complete, and the overall effect is that of a 19th century ballroom. The pale green coffered ceiling is wrapped in a soft cream color and studded with hand-carved acorns. The painting technique, known as pickling, gives the acorns a color that subtly blends in for an overall dynamic effect.
“During this process, so many friends have asked me how I’ve handled living in the midst of construction for 20 years, but I am so appreciative for all the hard work Randy has done,” Christine comments. “I know what he has put into it.”
Closer to the fireplace, near a sitting area, stands an old Victrola. “And it works!” says Christine. “I love to listen to it.” An inconspicuous narrow staircase in the far corner, flanked by demi-lune latched windows, descends to the wine cellar. This room, too, feels like it has been there for hundreds of years, yet it was completed just before the billiard room. The convex brick walls are punched from floor to ceiling with holes where bottles rest in their cool terracotta piping. Some of the wine was made from the grapes grown on the arbor outside.
The plentiful doors around the house lead to various porches, patios, and green space. Many of them have unique doorbell ringers that are almost irresistible to test. In fact, one special bell hangs high in the gazebo. It is from the vast collection of Raymond Bock, Randy’s grandfather.
“At one point he had the largest bell collection in New York,” Christine says. She obligingly pulls on the thick rope until the bell starts ringing like one in a country steeple. “When we have weddings here, we ring the bell when it is time for the bride and groom to have their first dance in our gazebo. It’s very special.”
Christine’s favorite porch is not the front, which runs the width of the house, nor the smaller porch stacked above, but a side porch on the south end that overlooks the arbor, garden, pond, red chicken house, frequently used guest house, ducks, lawn, trees, and a treehouse. Christine remembers, “The boys spent so much time up there doing their homework or playing video games; it was great.”
Christine points to the numerous spots photographers have filmed individuals, classes, teams, brides, and wedding parties. In 2012, their younger son, Ryan, was married on the front steps of the home, and the May wedding featured flowers flowing from the second story window boxes as well as a horse and buggy — in keeping with the historic feel. Plus, their home has been featured three times on Camden’s Candlelight Tour of Homes. The Bocks graciously offer their home of more than 6,500 square feet to their many friends and family, and now that the home is registered as a potential movie site, many more people will have the opportunity to slow down and smile at an amazing accomplishment of hearth and home.