Mike Wright is the fifth owner of a 1960's California rancher built on the highest point of Catoosa County, the pinnacle of a midcentury Ringgold subdivision called Beverly Heights. The 6,000-square-foot home's open concept and clean lines were futuristic when the home was built, and more than 50 years later still suit a lifestyle of entertaining and casual comfort amid extraordinary views.
Stretching 110 feet east to west, an enviable southern exposure brings views of the sunrise or sunset into every room. Substantial windows and multiple outdoor access points are hallmarks of the strong indoor-outdoor connection of Californian homes, and though the climate here is not as consistent, the link to the outdoors is relevant because of the views that come with the home's elevation.
The two-level house nestles into the natural hill of the double corner lot with the entrance on the main floor level with the circular drive and the daylight basement opening to the gorgeous 80,000-gallon pool down below. Together, the circular drive, three-car garage, and bonus lower-level concrete pad translate into a party's worth of parking.
Twin Midcentury Modern stained glass windows act as sidelights for the original double-door entrance, bringing color to the open foyer, which is also lit by an Old World-inspired hanging alabaster pendant. Straight ahead, the sunken living room boasts three large windows and steps lead up through an original geometric iron railing to the raised dining room.
One long hall gleaming with new wood flooring connects the bedrooms on the eastern end of the house through the foyer and living room and on to the den and kitchen at the western end. Along the hall are glimpses of the home's unique style, like solid wood transom panels above doorways and oversized round knobs on the shutter-style, accordion closet doors in the foyer.
Wright, who spends about half his time as a chief engineer on a boat off the coast of South America, has collected maritime themed décor for years, and his model ships fill the solid cherry built-ins in the den, which are original to the house. A Cutty Sark model he built himself graces the mantel, and its sails draw the eye upward to the midcentury wood ceiling beams that emphasize the gentle slope of the single-gable roof. Traditional leather furniture and a Persian rug complement a gorgeous Tiffany stained glass ceiling fan. The den opens out to a long deck on the back of the house with a grill, seat wall, and the best hilltop view looking north toward East Ridge and Ooltewah, with rows of blue mountain ridges in the distance.
Across the hall from the den, the kitchen has had a facelift with white cabinets and a Corian countertop with seating on a peninsula that divides the kitchen from the breakfast room. Original to the house, two charming corner built-in cabinets are still the highlight of the breakfast room. One wall is mostly glass with a sliding door to a slate-floored sunroom with access to the garage and windows overlooking the pool.
A simple rectangular shape gives the pool its timeless appeal, and the foot-thick concrete surround has stood the test of time with plenty of space to hold Wright's two umbrella-topped dining sets. Two wicker lounge chairs and an outdoor sofa cozy up to an original stone wall where an iron spiral staircase ascends to a patio on level with the main floor. The original geometric railing here matches that inside the house.
When it's time to come in from a swim, the lower level has its own full bath and changing room with a shower. The spacious day-lit basement is a perfect entertaining room with a waterproof floating floor, brick fireplace and built-in copper grill. A nice billiard table anchors the room, but there's plenty of space for the shuffleboard table and card tables too. Replacing the missing second kitchen that once catered to this room is one of the improvements on Wright's short list. Also on level with the basement and pool is a yet another outdoor living area shaded by the main level deck above.
Wright moved into the house in April of last year, but has already developed a great rapport with neighbors who have lived in Beverly Heights since it was new. One door down, Evelyn Skelton remembers the original owner of Wright's house, Bob Trebling, who owned a Ringgold business called Atomic Carwash among others. According to Skelton, Wright's house was called "The Boathouse" (a strong coincidence for the house of a sailor) and was built for $53,000, a lot of money in 1963.
Beverly Davis, namesake of the subdivision, lives across the street again after spending years away. Her father was Meredith Foster, the late owner and developer, who purchased Beverly Heights for $5,000 in 1960 with money earned from his second year as a Catoosa County commissioner. With the late Raymond Hale Jr., Foster later co-developed the adjoining Morris Estates subdivision and a list of others throughout the county.
Over the last five decades, each owner of The Boathouse has made changes, some of them not for the better. By the time Sheila and Steve Thompson bought it in 2007, the home was in such poor condition that their intention was to refurbish and flip it. They renovated bathrooms and the kitchen, repainted the pool, installed new Pella windows and in the process accidentally fell in love with the property.
"This house has so many unique things about it," says Sheila. "It's a house built for entertaining."
One of the Thompsons' projects was renovating the master bath with the help of Scarlett's Cabinetry, who refaced the original cabinets of the double bathroom vanity. The most remarkable new feature is the enormous travertine shower with multiple showerheads and controls, which epitomizes the luxury Trebling must have envisioned when he built the house.
Using the name "The Boathouse" may have been happenstance, but the Thompsons also used nautical décor in the house, like a lighthouse theme in the hall bath, which Wright has left in place. It's as if some sea nymph or Poseidon himself touched his golden trident to the pristine blue pool and blessed it with generations of good times and reflections of the sea. It's certainly a perfect port for a mariner trying to find his land legs.