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 Friday, May 22, 2015
Serving The Land Between the Lakes - Philpott and Smith Mountain News Search   


The Franklin News-Post
P. O. Box 250
310 Main Street, SW
Rocky Mount, Virginia 24151
Fax: 540-483-8013

Autos By Nelson - Click for Website
SML Charity Home Tour
Homeowners: ‘Exhausting but rewarding’
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Courtesy Photo: Homeowners Rick and Pam McKown add a strip of molding to the office fireplace mantel in a room they’re finishing in preparation for their home’s showing on the 24th annual Smith Mountain Lake Charity Home Tour, Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 11-13.

By NANCY MARSHALL - Special to the News-Post

It's a sure bet that right now there's lots of bustle occurring at the eight beautiful homes, which will be featured on this year's SML Charity Home Tour this Columbus Day Weekend, Oct. 11-13.

This year's crop of giving homeowners -- the 24th in the tour's history -- are offering up their hospitality to make this another successful year for the charity benefit, and they are already busily preparing.

One previous tour homeowner said, "Anyone who has done this will attest that the commitment forces you to get your 'to do' list completed." Another couple noted that, eight years later, they still see evidence of what they hustled to complete in time for their home's weekend in the spotlight.

There is a persistent legend that claims the Home Tour hires service providers to help homeowners prepare their properties. That surfaced for 2005 homeowners Jerry and Ferne Hale when friends consoled, "Well, at least you get your windows washed." Another friend thought the house would be cleaned and the landscaping tuned by tour contractors.

No such arrangements exist. Tour administrators make every effort not to expend funds that can instead be passed on to the eight participating charities, a philosophy that the homeowners endorse wholeheartedly.

Nevertheless, the preparation can be daunting. Jeanne Wagoner, the Charity Home Tour's founder, tells of an early homeowner with waning energy who needed to rest during one of the days her home was on display. The only place she could find to disappear was in her closet with the door closed. To her embarrassment, some tour visitors opened the closet and found her napping. Memo to guests: It's best not to open closed doors!

"Exhausting but rewarding" summarizes the experience for many homeowners. They agree that making things as perfect as possible both inside and outside the house involves a major commitment of time, sweat and expense.

One homeowner remembers saying, as his wife was adding a number of decorative improvements, "I think I am being taken advantage of." Jerry Hale recalls his assessment: "By about July, Ferne had me working on touches I was sure no one would notice."

Homeowners for this year's tour Rick and Pam McKown, however, are setting a most extreme example of a lengthy preparation for Home Tour visitors. They have been personally building their beautiful home in Park Place for 10 years. It's a show-stopper, and though they maintain it is still more "built less than Biltmore," when you see it, you'll agree that terming anything about this 9,000-square-foot home "less" seems understated.

"It's about the details," said Rick, whose engineering knowledge and exacting construction abilities have been the driving force for this masterpiece. "Hundreds of them. My enjoyment stems from putting the engineering details into it. I start something, leave it a while, think about it, then add more details next time I work on it."

According to Pam, the McKowns brainstorm and develop many of their creative ideas jointly. The design and construction is always evolving, meticulously rendered with Rick's architectural design software. Every detail has been lovingly thought out and meticulously crafted. Nothing is allowed to be even 1/16-inch off.

Brainstorm ideas brought to reality in the McKown home include hidden passages behind some walls and a secret panel to access one. It's location won't be divulged, Rick said. Visitors will just have to guess.

After 10 years of construction dust, dirt, labor and patience, the McKowns -- both recently retired -- say that their Home Tour deadline provides the motivation to complete certain projects that they've been eager to finish. They'll have the scaffolding down and their multitude of tools stored away, and the main two levels will be completed. The lake level, however, will not be open to tour-goers.

"It's just not ready," Rick asserts.

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