At the pinnacle of 4,500 ft in Southern Appalachia, you will find an “island in the sky” with diverse plant communities, rare species, and a bark lodge from which every journey in this magical land begins. The stewards of this incredible property are Robert and Betty Balentine. They have expanded this reserve to 120-acres with a full complement of environmentalists dedicated to sustaining the natural ecosystems of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Featured in Our State Magazine, you can read more about the garden rooms of native plants and wild woods in the July issue or at the Southern Highlands Reserve website – where you can even plan a visit.
Like every aspect of this property, the Chestnut Lodge is maintained with intention and this structure reflects a story of life in the Blue Ridge. The Lodge was begun in 2005 and completed in 2008. It was named the Chestnut Lodge because the interior is paneled with over 17,000 board fee of wormy chestnut, reclaimed from nearby forests. It now dons Bark House® shingles made of poplar bark that is a verified product of Reclaimed Appalachian Wood Waste (RAW™). Only Bark House employs a chain-of-custody to the land from which the tree was felled. Every log has a disposition that ensures that no tree is cut for the bark alone. The manufacturing energy is derived from on-site solar power and no water is used in direct manufacturing. Click here to read more about Bark House Benefits and see how this product earned the world’s first and only Cradle to Cradle PLATINUM level product certification.
Project: Chestnut Lodge at Southern Highlands Reserve
Product: Bark House® Poplar Bark Shingles
Stewards: Robert and Betty Balentine
Architects: Platt Architecture Brevard, NC
Interior Designer: Liza Bryan Interiors Atlanta, GA
Builder: C&E Remodeling Atlanta, GA
Location: Toxaway Mountain, North Carolina
From an interview with Robert Balentine:
The goal was to blend the architecture and design aesthetic with the natural woodlands to celebrate both the landscape and natural history of early settlers and native people. While the gardens showcase plants native to the high elevation Southern Appalachian Mountains, we wanted the Lodge to celebrate the natural history of the area. The chestnut interior is a fitting metaphor for what can happen to our forests and the poplar bark exterior is consistent with that forest stewardship theme.
We love the natural look of the material. It’s perfect in our woodland setting. The Bark House® is a quality product. The thickness of the material and the way it is dried and cut is highest quality.
Details about the Structure:
The interior includes late 18th and early 19th century east Tennessee and western NC furniture and decorative arts and 22 pieces of hand crafted furniture built on site, along with numerous examples of NC pottery and Native American lithic material.
Stewarding the Forest Around Us:
One of our first projects was to locate all the hemlocks on the property and begin treating them for woolly adelgids, a practice we continue. Like the mighty chestnut trees of old which represented about 40% of the canopy on Toxaway Mountain, the hemlocks are in serious decline.