LAKE HOMES: Home with a heart


Doug and Amy Morrison were living the good life in a comfortable home on a sheltered bay of Lake Ontario, a wakeboard boat at their dock and both with good jobs.

“In Rochester, [N.Y.], summer only lasts three months; then it’s over,” said Amy. Doug added, “It’s part-time lake, part-time ice field.”

“We had often visited my parents here at the lake, and we loved it so much that we adopted a five-year plan to move here,” said Doug.

Five months later, he lost his job.

“We toasted the event with a bottle of champagne and saw the situation as an opportunity to make a change,” said Amy, noting that the five-year plan immediately became the “right-now plan.”

Fortunately, Doug quickly found a better job with Melillo Consulting, a company that works on large-scale information technology projects. Best of all, nearly all of Doug’s work could be done from home, so he could choose to live anywhere in the U.S.

The Morrisons sold the boat, listed the house and embarked on a crash house-hunting excursion at SML. The couple looked at 30 homes in four days. Although they passed the entrance to Emerald Bay in Franklin County numerous times, they didn’t turn in until real estate agent Debbie Shelton suggested they take a look at the community’s model home, a 5,400-square-foot contemporary cottage design. The development was in bankruptcy and owned by BB&T. Listed at less than half the original asking price, the Morrisons said they thought the home sounded like a real steal.

“I cried when I walked in the house; I loved it so much. I knew this was the place for our family,” said Amy.

Although Emerald Bay was developed in 2007, the Morrisons became its first residents when they moved into their home in 2011. Since then, all of the completed homes in the community have been sold.

“It took us about a year to feel like we really owned it, and it was OK to make our own mark,” Amy said. “We are our own designers.”

Originally, the home featured dramatic, dark wall colors. When the bank took over, the color scheme was changed to blue tones.

“It looked bad because the columns, ceilings and trim were cream colored, and that clashed with the blue,” Doug said. “We had painters change it to more like the original color scheme we heard had been used in the model.”

The main floor has an open kitchen and great room, dramatic dining room, office and master suite. The master bath includes an elegant infinity tub that fills from a spout mounted on the ceiling. An adjacent bedroom and bathroom is the domain of son Matthew, 6. A covered deck stretches the full length of the home’s lake side — a perfect spot to chill out and enjoy views of the lake.

Upstairs is an oversized guest suite, a combination living room and bedroom with its own bath. The lower level family room, which the Morrisons use primarily for games, features a circular bar and a plush theater room. There’s also a wine cellar that the couple, who recently took up winemaking, said they hope to put to good use.

The home also includes numerous high-tech components.

“We love the ‘smart home’ features – integrated systems to control lighting, heat, alarm system, TVs, gas fireplace, music speakers – from cell phones or  tablets,” Doug said. “The only problem was that there were no instructions for any of that technology. I had to figure it all out.” 

The family also takes advantage of the home’s landscape and easy access to Smith Mountain Lake.

“We’re definitely a family that loves the water,” said Doug. “Matthew likes to surf and wakeboard; Amy surfs and likes to ski, and I surf, enjoy stand-up paddleboarding, and still wakeboard on occasion.”

The Morrisons so enjoy on-water activities that they don’t even winterize their boat. Instead, they use two heaters — one to keep the engine from freezing and the other to warm themselves during chilly outings on the boat.

“If it’s a nice day, we love going to dinner by boat, no matter what time of year,” said Amy.


Most Unexpected Element

Amy hand-painted a favorite prayer on the stairway leading to the second level. “The prayer has the same number of lines as we have steps,” she said.        

The Smart Factor

Doug said the home has integrated HVAC, security, lights, locks and speakers. More than 40 different macros are triggered based on a combination of factors. For example, when the security system is turned on, the home’s deadbolts lock, lights and speakers turn off, the garage door closes and the thermostat sets to a specified temperature.  

Favorite Family Spot

The kitchen table. “We eat our meals together every day. We discuss our day, play, do homework right there. It’s the heart of our home,” Amy said.