Down by The Bay

October 1, 2009 | By More

Story by Dianne Edwards

When Robert and Virginia Edwards begin thinking about the perfect place to build their dream home and retire, the decision was easy. With family living in both the Little Rock and Fort Smith areas, Dardanelle was an ideal choice. 

Couple that with the fact that Bob was an avid fisherman with plans to further concentrate on his golf game, the Bay Ridge area was a perfect location.

The pair had previously lived and worked in North Little Rock since their three children were young. Bob retired from Mapco/ Williams in 1998. Virginia was employed by Glover Equipment in North Little Rock and also assisted Bob in his home office before his retirement.

They had maintained a small lake house at Round Mountain on Lake Dardanelle since the mid-70s. There the family water-skied, swam and fished, even duck hunted when the seasons permitted. The lake house was the perfect weekend retreat for a hard-working couple with teenaged children.

The family later grew to include their children’s spouses and grandchildren. With the thought of retirement in their future, the pair began planning their dream home. Virginia began collecting thoughts and ideas on paper, storing examples in a library of books for more than five years before the decision to build. She recommends that same process to anyone contemplating building a home.

The pair purchased 15 acres of undeveloped land on Bay Ridge Road in Dardanelle, just feet from the golf course and less than a mile to the Dardanelle Marina and boat launch. An additional five acres containing a small farmhouse located roadside of the property became available a few years later. They purchased that land and began using the house as a weekend retreat. The house served as ‘home base’ as they began clearing the property in anticipation of building their new home. The home was later sold and moved just north of its previous location when the new home was completed in September 1998.

Bob’s oldest brother Willis Edwards, a small equipment operator from Roland, Okla., spent hours on the ground work, moving and shaping the land before construction of the 3,700 sq. ft. home began in February 1998. Younger brother Dan Edwards, also from Roland, constructed two steel bridges that link portions of the acreage across a creek which meanders through the center of the property. Their work is especially treasured as Bob has lost both brothers since the home was constructed.

The Edwards’ dream home is located close to Lion’s Den Golf Club. Lion’s Den, known previously as the former Bay Ridge Golf Club, was the location where PGA champion John Daly learned how to play golf. He purchased the club in 2005, giving the location its present name. More than 230 members were recorded earlier this year.

Lion’s Den is a semi-private 60-acre, 18- hole course featuring 6,036 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. The club includes a swimming pool, clubhouse, and restaurant, plus a pro-shop (named Mama Lou’s in honor or Daly’s late mother.) The course is an easy golf-cart ride down Bay Ridge Drive for Bob.

A number of modifications were made to the original blueprints to further ‘custom-design’ the split-floor plan of the home. Arched windows were selected to accent the formal dining room and front guest bedroom. An outside dormer and barrel ceiling in the living room add more visual focus.

Music speakers are built into almost every wall of the home, a critical element as Virginia notes that ‘music makes work okay.’ The controls can be isolated by room. Each room in the house includes connections for phone, cable or satellite.

There is also remote lighting, accessed both by remote control and switch when desired. All doors were designed to clear any rug or carpet used in the home.

One room serves as the collection point for Virginia’s craftwork, which includes painting, handiwork and her sewing and hobby supplies. It contains a large closet with built- in shelving to house seasonal décor and decorative items. A talented seamstress and designer, she is responsible for the home’s décor and constructed the draperies and window treatments in the home.

A formal dining room, formal living room and large kitchen/dining area allow for the comfortable gatherings of large groups. Whether family or friends, the home easily accommodates the mix and mingle required by groups such as church, gardening, hiking club, social events and, most recently, a reunion/potluck of the Edwards’ side of the family. More than several dozen people have easily been accommodated in the spacious arrangement.

The kitchen is a cook’s dream with pantry pullouts, an appliance carousel, abundant cabinetry, Corian-like counter surfaces and three-compartment sink. Deep drawers conceal snacks and additional storage. A built-in desk provides organized space for a computer and bill-paying. It sits conveniently across from the large kitchen island and built-in stovetop.

Two skylights – another custom feature – provide ample lighting on all but the cloudiest of days. An adeptly-placed mirror above the kitchen sink substitutes for the lack of a kitchen window peering outdoors – the only real feature the homeowner misses.

“But it’s a great substitute and solved the issue,” added Virginia.

The elevation of the land afforded a convenient drive-in workshop/storage area for the golf cart when not in use. The workroom lies underneath the home’s 16’x20’ sun room – dubbed the ‘morning room’ by the couple who frequently read or watch television from a pair of comfortable leather recliners. Virginia personally designed the built-in oak wall unit that housed a wide-screen television, a gift received by Bob from co-workers upon his retirement.

“This home has more storage than any common person could ever use,” Virginia concurred.

The room is flanked by energy-efficient e-glass windows, a few more than the original plans. More than 14 line the sunroom alone. Their ‘tilt’ feature makes for easier cleaning, attest the homeowners.

Two sets of French doors can be closed to separate the morning room from the kitchen and formal dining rooms. A single door exits the back of the morning room and leads to a large deck running the length of the adjoining room.

On either side are exit stairs leading down to a beautifully landscaped yard. The couple, each long-time gardeners, took a Master Gardeners’ class in 2000 and recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about maintaining their lawn and plants.

“It is a necessity,” they agree.

Plantings include seasonal favorites such as iris, canna lilies, ecinacea, spirea, daffodils, jonquils, summer phlox, hollyhocks, herbs, hibiscus, Japanese maples… “too many to name but something is always blooming in the yard, no matter which season,” adds Virginia.

“And of course there are the day lilies, a summer favorite of the many deer that roam and cross the property.”

She has entered a number of plants and tabletop designs in previous Yell County Fairs, winning several blue ribbons for her efforts.

Landscaped burms – raised planting beds – were included to decrease the excess work of lawn upkeep. Two pecan trees and two oaks provide shade for the south-facing front of the house.

Irrigation is a prime concern when landscaping a piece of property as large as theirs, added the pair. They installed a sprinkler system with 50 watering heads on the property. Water is provided to the system through an existing water well which pumps 15 gallons a minute and has never been known to run dry.

Two separate entries lead from the double-door garage. One, which leads directly into the mudroom and nearby bath, is an appreciated feature. Though the home is mostly hard-surfaced tile covered with gorgeous room-sized rugs for easy maintenance, walking directly from the yard to the laundry area is a necessity, “keeping down the dust and dirt of gardening.” The bedrooms are carpeted for comfort.

Two walk-in closets in the Master Bathroom feature designed shelving for storage. However, the couple’s real favorite is the bath’s heated tile floor, operated by a wall switch when warmth and comfort are desired.

“It’s fabulous,” they echo. About 30 minutes before they take a shower or bath, they warm up the floors – “especially in winter when it’s absolutely wonderful.”

The whirlpool in the master bath, closets on half doors and the unusual angles in both the master bath and bedroom are other unique feature of the home. A cathedral ceiling draws eyes upward.

The home is all-electric but a propane-fueled fireplace adds visual and physical warmth to the formal dining room when desired. A geothermal system provides heating and cooling for the home. Split into three zones, the main living area can be isolated while the remaining two zones are unoccupied.

“The cost of the system paid out in about six years. It has been a tremendous savings on our energy costs,” Bob added. And would he choose geothermal again, “Definitely!”

Another of the homeowners’ favorite features is the portal window which looks out from the master bath onto the back yard.

It was from there Virginia recalled seeing the deer munching her ‘almost ready to bloom’ daylilies earlier this year. With a location as beautiful as this, wildlife can be seen at almost any hour of the day. Deer are plentiful; wild turkey and prolific bird life are frequent visitors – perhaps a small price to pay for a beautiful dream home.  

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