Approaching Lynn and Ray Becker's modern-styled house, one can see the area is private. The visitor travels on a rising 400 foot concrete driveway with lighted steel guardrails. Upon initial viewing, visitors feel they've come upon a modernist sculpture built into a mountain. Stonework covers much of the exterior, with a multitude of windows, and a copper-hued metal roof, which joins in perfect balance to the asymmetrical design. A cantilevered triangular steel deck soars twenty feet above the ground, and its steel beams jut further into space above a beautiful valley edged in mountains.
“It's wonderful to see structural steel used in a residential project that has been influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright,” says Chris Faul, a real estate developer with Point 32 in Seattle, and a recent guest. “And it's so unique here where most homes are limited by traditional wood framing.'
This is Sky Valley, Georgia, a mountain golf community and city located two hours northeast of Atlanta. 'Georgia's Highest City' has an elevation of 3100', Sky Valley was developed in the 1970's as a ski resort. With the slopes closed now, the collection of mountain homes in Sky Valley cling to foothills of the Smoky Mountains to overlook a state-of-the art 18-hole public golf course and beautiful clubhouse with amenities. There is even a majestic waterfall within the small city's limits. The facilities are owned and managed by the residents.
Ray Becker, owner and retired businessman from Chicago, thinks that Frank Lloyd Wright was a natural inspiration for the design of the house. But then the challenge was to find an architect who could design like him.
Lynn Becker, who holds an art degree from East Carolina University wanted the house to look like abstract art, dramatic, but balanced and well-designed. Both Lynn and Ray liked the idea of using steel concrete, and glass in the structure. And they enjoyed designs using Mr. Wright's principles since they have always admired Frank Lloyd Wright's styles.
Through friends, Lynn and Ray found James Howard Fox who had an architectural firm in nearby Highlands, North Carolina. Mr. Fox understood the Beckers' desire for a novel house different from the designs of usual mountain homes. It made sense because they wanted a house that blended in with the mountain terrain and even became a part of the whole which is one of Frank Lloyd Wright's famous signatures.
Lynn and Ray said when strangers and friends alike stop by to stare, you know you've surprised them. And that's the kind of house they wanted.
The living spaces can be accessed from the ground-level interior using the angular, open steel staircase or a glass-enclosed elevator. Outside, one can easily use the low riser concrete steps to the terrace. Either way, visitors step into a main floor with a vaulted ceiling, and a soaring gas fireplace, which is completely rocked and tucked under a custom hexagonal skylight. Three other large skylights in the main floor are complimented by the black exposed steel beams which are piercing walls throughout. Even the master bath has a skylight where you can watch the stars or see clouds floating by.
Artist Kim Lilly painted a tall mural on the fireplace design, and added other touches throughout the house and on the terrace, reflecting Frank Lloyd Wright's art style and the home's angular architecture.
Faul says, 'It's certainly not your standard mountain cabin. The skylights provide balanced light and soften the lines between the interior and exterior spaces.”
Collecting the extensive mountain views are seventy-seven windows, many of them placed high up in rectangular fashion, another Frank Lloyd Wright feature. With their black frames, the windows' shapes and transparencies become their own pieces of art as they wrap around corners and pierce walls, bringing in the outdoors unexpectedly, in light and scenery.
Lynn pointed out that some glass panels open into crossing walls, so sometimes you can have glimpses into other rooms and out their many windows. She said you can see into two spaces at once.
Just outside, on the concreted terraced areas that meld into the mountain, Mrs. Lilly painted more designs on an extended bench, plus added soft textures and colors on retaining walls there.
In front of the outside bench sits an hexagonal gas firepit, all ready for S'mores, other delicacies or some drinks by the warming fire. Near the firepit a roomy wine cellar awaits, set directly into the mountainside, cool and eclectic. It is stone faced with gas lanterns inviting visitors to open the 400 year old oriental doors and explore the holdings inside.
The use of steel and stone work outside of the home continues to show Frank Lloyd's styling: that of pulling motifs from the exterior to the interior. Fox first used an angled steel beam structure to anchor the house into the mountain. He allowed the beams to travel throughout the living areas, most noticeably seen in the vaulted ceilings. This provided for large strong, unobstructed spaces, and the beams tied the house together, literally and visually. The house was rock-faced over the concrete and steel.
The Beckers began construction on the 3400' square-foot house in 2005. Three hundred sticks of dynamite and 400 plus yards of concrete insured that its base, pillars and structures would be safely anchored into the mountainside. Three consecutive years of construction speak of its development.
Along with two bedroom suites on the lower level, the main level features a unique angled master suite with separate vanities, built-in closets, and a walk-in shower, all set mid those extended black steel beams stretching high overhead. An office with built-in shelving and wide granite counters is also located off the main level. The open kitchen, again with generous amounts of granite and pendant lighting shares the scenes of the fireplace and skylights with plenty of mountain views for all.
Off the main level and outside those windows beckons the triangular counter-levered deck with that special valley and mountains, not too distant; a living portrait of nature and her colors. Frank Lloyd Wright could be smiling with you.
This mountain resort is cool in the winter, gorgious in the fall, insspiring in the spring and exciting in the winter.If you're a golfer you'll love the Sky Valley Golf Course. Look up