John and Patsy Hyatt's home in The Bluffs is featured on the Southern Living Home Tour. Visit 1-5 p.m. CDT today and Sunday. A $5 donation goes to the Weiss Lake Women's Club. For more information, contact Chris Dendy at 256-779-2252.
As summer approaches, John and Patsy Hyatt hope to spend some nights on the sleeping porch off the upstairs bedroom of their Cedar Bluff, Ala., home overlooking Weiss Lake. "The higher you go, the prettier (the view) is," Mrs. Hyatt said.
The Hyatts reside in The Bluffs development. It is 1,200 acres, with 330 acres developed into 101 home sites, 79 of which are sold. So far, seven of the lots have homes built on them. The Hyatts bought the development in 2002.
"People told us we were crazy," Mrs. Hyatt said.
Friends told them they had to install a handful of amenities - a golf course, a clubhouse - to get anyone interested. But the Hyatts - he's a former CPA, she's a former math teacher - were determined to sell the lots to build amenities, not build amenities to sell lots. By following the tenets of the fable "The Tortoise and the Hare," the Hyatts have been able to avoid debt and grow their development, little by little.
"We're slow," said Mr. Hyatt, "but we're still here."
The original plan, they confess, was not to live in the three-building compound built on one lot by their son-in-law, Wade Chapell, but to sell it. With the housing market not exactly booming, however, they decided to make it their own, a place their family could gather, where their five grandchildren, ages 4 to 8, can grow and play.
They decorated with the children in mind - hearty furniture in leather and heavy fabrics to resist spills and tearing.
"Our fabrics are grandkid-proof," Mr. Hyatt said.
The downstairs is decorated in shades of brown and green to reflect the outdoors. A stone fireplace is formed from stones off the property, and the wall of the stairwell is formed of wood from a pepper-curing barn in North Carolina.
"We wanted an Alabama farmhouse," Mrs. Hyatt said.
To add a bit of contemporary feel, they installed stainless-steel countertops to add a touch of contemporary edge to the rustic feel.
The green-and-brown color scheme extends to the portico, which overlooks the 30,200-acre lake and serves as an outdoor dining and living space.
Upstairs, a blue-and-white motif reflects the sky and the water, a stunning view of which is available from the sleeping porch off the bedroom. It is a peaceful serene space for one who might need some calm after contending with five grandchildren.
At night, however, the main house is quiet. Across a narrow breezeway is a small bunkhouse where the children stay, accompanied by one set of parents. The Hyatts have two daughters, and when both visit with their husbands and kids, the adults take turns staying in the bunkhouse or in the small cottage a few yards away.
The "totally indestructible" bunkhouse features a cowboys-and-cowgirls theme and is built for horseplay - a concrete floor, dark reds and browns, lots of leather and heavy wood.
When no one is using the bunkhouse, Mr. Hyatt said, they turn off the lights and water heater to reduce cost. The structures are built to incorporate elements of green living. For instance, 11-inch walls on the main house promote insulation, the river-rock driveway minimizes water runoff, and energy-saving appliances have been installed.
The Hyatts both grew up in Arab, Ala. They married 46 years ago, when he was 19 and she was 18, and built a life, and a family, together. They built their home in The Bluffs to have a space for their whole family to all be together.
This home, they said, will be their legacy.