Betsy Brown’s namesake Alabama-based interior design studio crafts homes that are an authentic reflection of those who live there – a philosophy cultivated in the designer’s own home. Betsy Brown’s home sits nestled among North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains and is the embodiment of her personality and design approach. Enlisting architect and longtime friend Paul Bates to help reimagine the 1960s build, Betsy has realised a home that feels, in her own words, “humble, ageless and rooted to the drama of its setting.”
Betsy’s home reveals her affinity with nature and the materials it evokes; in the kitchen, reclaimed white oak and stainless steel integrate seamlessly with the gorge below.
Paul added black steel-framed doors to elevate the home’s connection to the outdoors – and convey the essence of a ranch or farmhouse.
Betsy was drawn to the Blue Ridge Mountains region for its proximity to her children – all of whom own water adventure businesses centred around the famous Green River. She vividly describes the area: “The air here is always fresh, crisp and cool. The days are mostly sunny, and the trees are unbelievably green; so healthy.”
In recalling her very first visit to the house, she says, “We (my daughter’s family and I) walked around to the back, and everyone was speechless. They have lived in the mountains for many years and had never seen a panorama as dramatic as the one we were facing.” Her search for an idyllic site of reconnection – with nature, family and herself – was finally complete.
“Earthy and rustic, yet refined” is how Betsy describes the style of her home. Natural timbers are the focal point throughout, from the steps that lead to the front door to the bedroom walls. “Betsy wanted to preserve the existing language of hand-sewn timber as a nod to the cabin’s history,” Paul says. The scope of the timber, combined with the black steel-framed doors and slanted ceilings, conveys the essence of a ranch or farmhouse.
“Our goal was to respect the origin of the house while adding a layer of simple, rustic imperfection,” Betsy maintains. She cites the Japanese art of Wabi Sabi as her primary source of inspiration, centred around finding beauty in simplicity, imperfection and impermanence. For this reason, the palette was kept very minimal, with chosen materials having a direct line to nature.
“We wanted the atmosphere to be warm and authentic, with objects that have been collected over time.”
– Betsy Brown
The house is oriented around a wide central corridor, which also doubles as a dining hall. A five-metre-long dining table, coupled with Charlotte Perriand Dordogne chairs, stretches the space and directs attention to the spectacular view.
Sitting at a modest 139 square metres, the one-level house is oriented around a wide central corridor, which also doubles as a dining hall. Those that approach the home from the front are met by the view at the end of the corridor – the very one that left Betsy lost for words. The kitchen to the left and living space to the right both take in uninterrupted views of the gorge below. The main bedroom, guest bedroom and bathrooms, situated at the front of the house, face the surrounding landscape of mature green hardwoods. “The biggest challenge was repurposing the rooms and deciding how to capture the view of the gorge,” Paul says.