Never say never; just ask Gail Bunch. Gail and Robert, her husband, lived in the same home near Crayton Middle School for 34 years. Robert worked as a general surgeon, while Gail took care of homemaking and the day-to-day adventures of raising their sons, Robert, Jr., and Lucas. In time, the boys grew up, graduated from college, married, and had two children each. “I never planned on moving,” says Gail of the home where she and Robert raised their sons. Lucas emphatically agrees, stating, “She always said she’d die in that house.”
Lucas, after earning undergraduate and graduate degrees in business administration, sits at the helm of three different companies: Secure Lock Solutions, Creative Tile, and B&B Homes, LLC. Through B&B Homes, a custom home building and renovation business, Lucas purchases homes, renovates them, and sells them, with help from his wife, Kelly, who is a reading intervention specialist at Brennen Elementary School. “He has the vision,” says Kelly. “He creates the floor plans and oversees construction. I help with the finishing touches, like lights and countertops.” Kelly consults with Christy Edens of Verve Interiors on interior choices when Lucas renovates high-end homes.
Sometimes the couple and their young children live in the homes for awhile to customize and enjoy the spaces before they decide to sell. Such was the case involving a four-bedroom, ranch-style house that Lucas purchased on Forest Lake in November 2016. The neighborhood had personal appeal because Gail grew up on Spring Lake Road and enjoys happy memories of her time there. Her father, Lucas Lafaye, was president of Lafaye-Tarrant Construction Company and, among many other projects, built the Forest Lake Club clubhouse.
Set on high ground, the home’s main asset is its view of Forest Lake. When he began the renovation project, Lucas’ goal was to maximize this vantage point in every way possible. He started with the heart of the home where dark walnut cabinets in the small galley kitchen completely blocked the beautiful view. Lucas removed the kitchen wall and vaulted the ceiling, creating a huge open space. Now, visitors entering through the front door enjoy an instant and stunning array of lake views through the windows and doors at the back of the house.
Lucas replaced a covered steel beam at the entrance to the living room with an in-ceiling beam, providing an unobstructed view of the lake from the dining room through the living room windows. He also removed columns and railings between the two rooms, allowing free movement between the spaces. The living room ceilings are 18-feet high at the tallest point, and the walls and doors facing the lake are all glass.
To the left, glass front shelves over a built-in bar invite the thought of an afternoon cocktail. Anchoring the room is a massive 5-by-10-foot island painted Sherwin Williams Iron Ore and topped with white quartz. Christy selected two large mercury glass lanterns to light the space overhead. To the right of the bar area, Lucas added a powder room, and Kelly lined the back wall of it with a gold antiqued mirror to complement the kitchen lanterns. Christy advised Kelly and Lucas to paint the kitchen cabinets pure white and the remaining walls Sherwin Williams Greek Villa.
Outside the French doors, a wooden deck beckons. In the dining room, a cased opening allows easy access to the kitchen, where Lucas turned an office into a large walk-in pantry. A window-lined hallway leads from the kitchen to an office on the left and a guest bedroom and bathroom on the right. Lucas and Kelly used quartz countertops and porcelain tile in the spare bathrooms. At the end of the hall is a den with another attached bathroom. Past that is convenient access to the two-car garage, above which finished open space offers many possible uses. Seeking to improve the home’s curb appeal while including a degree of practicality, Lucas added a covered flagstone walkway from the garage that borders the entire left side of the house, turns right, and extends all the way to the front door. When desired, one can park in the garage or driveway and walk under the porch to the front door before entering the house.
Previous owners of the Forest Lake home added the sunken living room onto one side of the house. Lucas noted how the addition made the home look unbalanced from the lake. “I like symmetry,” he says. “I bumped the house out on the opposite side as well, where there was an old patio, and added a master bedroom.” He turned the former master bedroom into a master bathroom, including a freestanding soaking tub and a large walk-in shower. The wide vanity, bathroom walls, and herringbone-patterned floor are all Carrara marble. Between the master bedroom and the living room, Lucas added a charming covered porch, complete with wood-burning fireplace. He topped this fireplace and the dining room’s gas fireplace with hand-hewn wooden beam mantels salvaged from family property in Edgefield County. “The beams were taken from the house my great-grandfather was born in,” explains Lucas. “No one knows how old they are, but the floors were wood plugged. There were no nails.”
After about eight months, the renovation was complete, thus Kelly and Lucas moved in with their two boys. They enjoyed living in the home for a little more than a year. “You don’t feel you’re living in the city when you’re there,” Kelly says. Later, when the couple’s thoughts turned to selling the house, Gail and Robert snapped it up.
“They’d wanted to downsize for some time,” says Robert, Jr., of his parents. “After living in the same place for so long, I think they didn’t quite know how to go about it. It took Lucas renovating that house, in that neighborhood where Mom grew up, to help them decide. It’s fun to see them so excited.” An environmental consultant, Robert, Jr., lives in Columbia with his wife, Katie, and their 6-year-old twins.
Welcome transition assistance came to Gail and Robert in the form of longtime family friend and Verve Interiors owner Ford Bailey. “She’s the greatest,” says Gail. “She helped me with my other house as well.” The daunting task of paring down 34 years of collected furniture and memorabilia to fit a home half the size of the Bunches’ previous one proved effortless for Ford.
“Gail was so easy to work with — the happiest client I think I’ve ever had,” says Ford. “She agreed with my suggestions about what furniture to take to the new house, and it all went smoothly. We used everything we could. I think we only added two swivel chairs — that was it.”
Ford made a few tweaks to personalize the house to Gail and Robert’s tastes. With Gail’s love for the ocean and ocean-inspired blues and greens in mind, Ford used turquoise cotton draperies from the old house in the new master bedroom. She topped their mahogany rice bed with a white matelasse coverlet and four turquoise European-sized pillows. The bed sits on white carpet opposite an upholstered white chaise. The look came together perfectly. Still playing on the ocean theme, Ford also installed a wooden-beaded chandelier above the kitchen table. “The house is so them,” she says. “It’s great for entertaining.”
In the master suite, Gail put Lucas back to work. “There wasn’t enough closet space for her,” he says with a laugh. He converted an adjoining bedroom into a large walk-through/dressing room closet. Beginning at the master bedroom where there is space for Robert’s clothing, the closet flows through to Gail’s wardrobe. A vanity sits against the far wall in the light of a window. They can walk through a door to the right of Gail’s vanity and access the front hallway leading to two of the home’s bedrooms, a bathroom, the laundry room, and the kitchen. In each guest bedroom, Ford used white matelasse coverlets on antique mahogany beds that once belonged to Gail’s grandmother. The beds are paired with matching Victorian-style chests of drawers.
In the formal dining room, Ford laid a leopard print rug under Gail and Robert’s antique dining table. She framed the windows flanking the sideboard with blue linen draperies over woven Roman shades for added privacy. The dining room opens to the living room at one end, with its floor to ceiling windows. Here, Ford used a sofa and two loveseats from Gail and Robert’s old house to create two distinct conversation areas. In Robert’s den near the garage, she placed a tan sofa from the couple’s previous den under a hunt-themed portrait of Robert; Robert, Jr.; and Lucas by Michael Charles Taylor. A leather chair and ottoman sit beside the sofa on a tan patterned rug.
The many features of the lakeside home gave the Bunches compelling reason to move. Now, they enjoy living in a cozier space that is all on one level. Also, the bright, white palette throughout the home lends itself perfectly to Gail’s beloved Caribbean blues and teals. The Bunches incorporate the ocean into their decor in other ways as well. Nearly every room is decorated with sea-inspired paintings. A shell-encrusted box tops a chest opposite the living room, where a glass front cabinet displays Gail’s jeweled shell collection. A driftwood candelabra centers the kitchen table. Shiplap lines the kitchen walls and, from there, turns the corner and extends down a dining room wall, visually joining all the spaces together.
While she appreciates many aspects of her new home, Gail particularly loves the covered porch. “I love being out there all year long with the fire. I love reading and looking at the ducks and the birds,” she says. “I can hear the water falling from the lake spillway. It’s peaceful.”
From the porch or the deck, Gail and Robert can appreciate the work Lucas put into landscaping the backyard. “It was overgrown and so steep that it wasn’t functional,” says Lucas. The wall he constructed extends far enough out from the house to make the yard useable. Like the new master bedroom, the wall added symmetry to the house. It also provided an element of safety benefiting all four Bunch grandchildren, ages 6 and under, during their frequent visits with “Mimi and Doc,” as they call Gail and Robert.
Besides the home itself, an additional treasured advantage of the Bunches’ move is the fact that lifelong friends are near. Alice and Beau Powell live in the house next door. “They lived in the same neighborhood as we did when our children were growing up,” says Gail. “We’ve been friends for many years.” Being near the Powells and other friends and knowing that Gail is back where she enjoyed her childhood are two aspects Robert likes best about their new home. “It’s a wonderful neighborhood,” he says. “We enjoy being on the lake and cruising in the pontoon boat.” Sometimes Gail and Robert take their boat over to Forest Lake Club for dinner. The lake is also a popular attraction for Robert, Jr.; Lucas; and their families. “The grandchildren all love being together, riding on the boat, and swimming in the lake,” says Robert, Jr. Gail agrees. “It’s fun for the whole family.”