Sometimes, life offers a glorious surprise when it’s least expected. For Ann and Laine Ligon, one of those surprises occurred in 2007 when the couple was about to begin work on a home located within the heavily wooded hunting property they owned near Ridgeway. “We’d decided to site the house at the top of a hill,” explains Laine. “When the area was cleared, we discovered an absolutely gorgeous view of forests and hills rolling toward Lake Wateree. Until then, we had no idea how far we’d be able to see. We decided right then that we’d name the house High Hill.”
The story of High Hill began long before it was named. With their two children both married, Ann and Laine wanted to create a place where the growing family could gather for holidays and other occasions. With specific ideas in mind, Ann took on the first phase of the home’s design herself. “We knew that we wanted the main floor to encompass one large room that we could divide into sections,” she explains. “And a large back porch was a must!”
In the end, the Ligons decided to work with a contractor, who found a modular system that could be built to their specifications and further customized once it was in place. The resulting structure looks as if it’s been sitting on the property for decades rather than just a few years. Even the garden, a formal layout of boxwoods and an arbor created by landscape designer Ruthie Lacey, seems timeless.
Supported by thick cypress beams and set with a bench and collection of sturdy walking sticks, the front porch is generous and welcoming — shutters and a pair of concrete statues of French peasants flanking the front door add an artful touch. Inside, a recessed nook holds a sizeable collection of hats, camouflage jackets and mud boots, including a granddaughter’s tiny pink and yellow pair tucked into a corner.
Just beyond, the foyer opens into a great room dominated by two massive cypress columns, so perfectly sized that they resemble a sculpture, and an ornate stacked-stone fireplace. Just as Ann envisioned in her early plans, the space has been arranged into separate areas, with groupings of comfortable sofas and chairs, instead of walls, setting the boundaries. The furnishings share their stories of a home: the pine dining table, graceful and well-used with hundreds of family dinners; a piano, used during evenings spent singing carols; and a glossy desk of letters to friends.
Throughout the room, family antiques, arrowheads discovered on the property, a bowl filled with Ann’s mother’s horse brass collection and lovely artwork add character and interest. Upstairs, a bunkroom is the perfect hideaway for the Ligon’s four grandchildren, and a bedroom and bathroom at each end of the space lets parents keep an eye on things without sacrificing privacy.
Situated near the front door, the sunny U-shaped kitchen was built for cooking. Honed Carrara marble tops the counters — and pale wood cupboards, a pickled wood floor, vaulted ceiling and lots of windows keep the tone bright and cheerful. Three cleverly placed windows overlook the back porch and, when opened, give the cook a handy slide-through from the kitchen to family members seated around the dining table.
“When the weather is good, this is where we usually eat dinner,” says Ann as she looks around the shady porch. With its handcrafted joggling board, cushy seating and large dining table, the L-shaped terrace functions more like an outdoor room than a porch. It looks like one, too, thanks to the colorful hand-loomed rugs on the floor, framed artwork on the exterior walls and lamps set here and there.
And then there’s the view, which stretches over a grassy field and extends over the trees for miles. “I can’t tell you the number of people who have fallen asleep on this porch,” Ann says with a laugh. “It’s also a wonderful place for wildlife spotting. We’ve had up to 16 turkeys at one time in the meadow. The biggest one is here so often Laine named him General Beauregard.”
Within those trees are miles of walking trails, each leading to a different part of the creek-strewn property. Hand-lettered signs placed at the trailheads delineate the name of each path. “We named each trail after a grandchild, but let each of them choose the name,” says Ann. “Coming up the hill, they go from oldest to youngest: Adger’s Alley, Hazle’s Hike, Wilkins’ Walk and Mae’s Meadow. They’ve found everything from pottery shards to pieces of quartz to arrowheads on their walks, all of which we’ve saved. They love to spend time in the woods so much that they’ve set up teepees!”
When the family isn’t hiking or hunting for the doves, deer and turkeys that live on the land, they can often be found on Lake Wateree, which is just a five-minute drive away, zooming through the woods and around the house on four-wheelers, or just enjoying the quiet space.
“Dawn and sunset are so peaceful there,” says Laine Ligon, Jr., Ann and Laine’s son. During holidays, when the family is joined by dozens of friends, the festive atmosphere is boosted by hay rides and laughter. “We often have 30 people here for Thanksgiving,” says Ann. “It’s a wonderful celebration of friends and family.”
The Ligon’s daughter, Sazy Johnson, agrees. “It’s a wonderful, sweet tradition,” she says. “The children love it and so do we — we’ve taken our supper club there, and I’ve used the house for weekends with girlfriends. High Hill feels further away than 35 minutes, but since it’s so close, we can go just for the afternoon if we want. It’s the ultimate quick getaway.”