On the sunny shores of Lake Hartwell sits a landmark of a house, one that any lake-goer knows by sight: it’s that one on the point with the tower in the middle. A little like a lighthouse, or an air control tower—a beacon on a hill.
This is the place where Louise Trammell spent her summers as a girl, and it’s where she still finds the most joy, filling its rooms to the brim with family and fun. More than that, it’s how her family honors their parents’ legacy.
Legacy is the tie that binds a person to memory, to place. Winding down the driveway to Ernie and Louise Trammell’s Lake Hartwell residence is to see that legacy realized.
“Just wait until you see the view,” Louise tells me on the phone before I get there. It is a take-your-breath moment: the sprawling ranch-style home knits itself into the landscape, honoring the sweeping, soft lines of the lush pastures and knolls around it. Expansive as it is, the structure itself seems to kneel in reverence to the lake’s shining waters, shimmering a full 180-degree arc around the grassy point.
“This land has been in my family since before the lake was even here,” Louise shares. She’s grown up here, riding horses and watching her brothers waterski on their homemade slalom course. Everywhere you turn in the home, there’s a story and a memory, as if it existed for generations.
Surprisingly, that’s not the case. Over the course of three years, Louise and Ernie Trammell, along with Louise’s brother Allen and his wife Suzie, reimagined the original, more diminutive ranch house into what is now a retreat for the entire bunch of them: children, grownups, friends … everyone has a place with space and that glorious view. The front door opens wide to a living area with beams soaring high above and floor-to-ceiling windows that can open to let in the breeze. This is a place built for gathering: a porch broad enough for long tables, grills, and a fire pit.
A Place to Gather
That peace and invitation was founded during a time when most felt a little aimless and solitary. But while the pandemic sent most indoors, the Trammels gathered a team of trusted talent to transform the property into a home for the entire family. Architect Ryan McKibbon (Mountain Architecture), builder Kevin Collins (Alair Homes Clemson), interior designers Kerry Pack (Mannings Design), and Brittany Howell (360 Designs) all agree that this project was a collaboration, a sort of family brought together to honor the legacy of this singular and special place. “This is certainly something I didn’t do alone,” Louise is quick to share. “Everyone balanced one another and I was so thankful for a project that kept me occupied and looking towards the future during quarantine. It kept us all hopeful…and busy!”
Space to gather while also finding rest and retreat was important to the Trammells. “It was crucial to me that we honor my father’s legacy but that we all would have room of our own,” she says.
A hallway nook includes a coffee station steps from the bedrooms. “This way, if you want coffee in the morning, there’s no need to go all the way to the kitchen. Brew it right here and go sit and watch the water,” Louise says.
The opposite wing of the house includes a child’s dream of a bunk room, with a bathroom big enough for a gaggle of kids and a shower built to get them clean all at once. Down the hallway is a cozy and warm play area, but it’s the black and white sketch by the doorway that demands a second look. It’s a drawing of the original home, the inspiration for the current house. Not a mirror image, but a homage.
Bunking in Style at the Trammell House
The original house was also a ranch, built parallel to the water to catch as much of the view of the point as possible. In the middle of the structure sits a tower, a turret, a widow’s walk—whatever the term, it’s a nod to Louise’s father’s occupation as a pilot. He could climb the spiral staircase and use his radio to listen in to pilots soaring above, and his kids and grandkids slung sleeping bags up there at night.
At first, the Trammells thought of simply renovating the original house, and plans were drawn. Builder Kevin Collins with Alair homes worked closely with the architect to translate plans into a home that could serve the family well into the future. “When the first plans were brought to us, it was important to help the Trammell’s realize their vision. We wanted to continue the legacy her father created here while providing more space for everyone. it was a joy to work with the team to provide that insight.”
The soaring walls of the living area and kitchen as well as the single sloped roof require structural steel beams which Alair then incorporated into the design. Weather on Lake Hartwell can turn harsh on such an exposed point, so the builders also brought in an engineer to approve of the design. And glinting at the center of the roofline? A cupola, honoring the original from the first house.
The landscape design is kept simple and as maintenance-free as possible so that the home can feel like a getaway, not a burden. Dabney Collins’s landscape design used spruces and cedars, stone and colorful sedums as a homage to Louise’s mother’s Texan heritage. And around the side porch? Texas bluebells nod in the breeze. A bubbling fountain brings a sense of tranquility to the space and doubles as a play area for the youngest children in the summer. A flat expanse of trimmed lawn quickly transforms into a volleyball court at a moment’s notice. This is a home built for fun.
For years, everyone on Hartwell has known “the house up on the point.” Standing on the back porch, Louise points out the spot where they shoot off enough Fourth of July fireworks that the water around the point fills with boats piled with joyful onlookers. She walks by a large sand-colored stone by the entrance. “This was one of the rocks my daddy dug out the land here, so we had it brought over here to keep a little more of the old place close by.” It sits near her mother’s cherished redbud tree, transplanted to a place of honor near the front, its purple leaves making the shape of a heart. Truly, in so many ways, this entire place is shaped out of love, too.
A beacon on a hill, a legacy for years and years to come, built upon history, collaboration, and an unshakeable family bond.
Photography by Aaron Hogsed