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The sprawling wooded estates built by Gilded Age magnates on the lakeshores of upstate New York inspired a family retreat in the Virginia mountains.
When Valerie Pickert and her husband Steve began planning for their mountain home, they looked to the Great Camps of upstate New York for inspiration.
“Steve and I both love Blue Ridge log cabin architecture as well as the rustic Adirondack style of construction that dates back to the Great Camp days,” says Valerie. “So we tried to combine both for our Virginia home design.”
At the beginning of the 20th century, America’s most illustrious families—the Vanderbilts, Astors, Guggenheims and Rockefellers—purchased lavish rustic retreats in the Adirondack Mountains.
Sagamore, situated on the shores of Raquette Lake, was home to Alfred G. Vanderbilt and boasted a tennis court, bowling alley, schoolhouse, six guest sleeping cottages and a boathouse. William Avery Rockefeller’s camp, called The Point, sits on a 10-acre peninsula in the Saranac Lake and functions today as a luxury resort.
Besides being sprawling, multi-building complexes for the rich and famous, the Great Camp estates shared a unique architectural style that incorporated native timber and stone. They were at once luxurious and rustic, built to blend into their surroundings.
Valerie and Steve Pickert’s home brings a sense of rustic luxury to the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where they both grew up and still have family. “I have a sister in Charlottesville,” Valerie says. “My mother graduated from Randolph Macon, and my father went to UVA, as did our oldest son and two cousins.”
It took a long time before they found the right piece of land on which to build their home.
“We looked for at least five years,” she says. “We love it because of the incredible mountain view, the rolling pasture which has recently been planted with a small vineyard, the creek and dense woods, perfect for carving trails.”
The house, completed in 2010, sits on 90 acres just outside of Charlottesville and consists of three bedrooms, three-and-a-half bathrooms, several outdoor balconies and a bluestone terrace overlooking the valley and mountains.
In keeping with the rustic Adirondack style, they used a great deal of reclaimed wood for both the structure and design elements, such as heart pine for the floors and rhododendron for the staircase. The reclaimed materials add touches of whimsy and character to the design and have easily become the homeowners’ favorite features of their mountain home.
“We love the twig staircase and the catwalk overlooking the family room,” says Valerie. “We also love the built-in bunk beds that were hand made out of standing dead lodgepole pine from Wyoming.”