As their home state of Florida began to lose its unique appeal, along with the rural landscapes they once cherished, Paul and Linda Fleming decided to move. “We chose the New River Valley for its natural beauty, pleasant people and Virginia Tech,” Paul relates. “The school had the best reputation in the southeast for computer engineering, which just happened to be what interested our two sons, Todd and Brett.”
Creativity runs deep among them, and the family of four designed and built their house on 32 isolated hilltop acres of woods and fields with nice views. “Since we owned a construction company in Florida, we were able to complete 90 percent of the work ourselves, hiring only one carpenter to help with the framework,” Linda explains. “Our intention was not to build a dream house but to live simply in a rural mountain setting. Every decision about the house and property was guided by our respect for this inspiring place, its history and the views.”
Linda was the home’s designer and drafter, Paul the engineer, and the family of four comprised the labor force. They came to the area in June of 1991 and moved into their new abode in September. Along the way, they saved an old log cabin built in 1850 which was slated for a planned burn. It houses Paul’s extensive woodworking shop from which he milled most the trim work in the house.
Linda designed the landscape to be simple, flowing gently into the natural surroundings. Abundant flowers and vegetables proliferate through three seasons, and her timber frame potting shed, built by Paul as an anniversary present, is used for seed starting, record keeping and tool storage. The adorable white cottage is a detached garage designed to convert to living quarters if necessary.
Garden edibles serve as their main source for fresh, canned and frozen organic produce, sustaining the couple throughout the year. Todd and Brett have moved out, of course, but they live and work in the NRV and are both VT alums. Their rooms upstairs have served as teen bedrooms, offices, drafting space and guest accommodations.
“Our hope is that our farmhouse would sit gently on the land in the way farmhouses are supposed to,” Paul states. “Because it is situated central to the property and we don’t have passing traffic, it was designed so landscape features can seen from inside the house. It is wonderful to look outside in winter at the quaint little buildings, fences and paths.”
The 2-story home features a glorious open concept main floor with a cathedral ceiling, copious windows and Brazilian teak floors. No one is left out of the conversation for its seamless space loosely defined by furniture placement. A charming sitting room, office and the master bedroom are also on the first floor, and the wood burning fireplace has been converted to gas. The paint is creamy with a hint of moss, and Linda says the idea for that choice was so it would not compete with what they see through the windows.
“The base of the kitchen island is oak that was harvested from trees downed in an ice storm,” Paul points out. “Linda and I built and carved it. The stove countertop edge and corbels are walnut from another ice storm casualty, as is the base of support posts, the sink drain board and many of the window sills. The tile around the stove is black granite.”
The Fleming property is a little hamlet unto itself with all the tranquility and rural retreat qualities they desired. It’s been a labor of love to develop and maintain the grounds embracing the natural contours of the land. Their conscientious attention to detail resulted in a simple yet sophisticated house in a lovely, natural environment, and there is not one single thing they would have done differently in hindsight.
Text by Joanne M. Anderson | Photos by Tom Wallace