News & Publications

A Grand Cottage

stahl-3-rzPerched on one of the highest ridges at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove community, the “Eagle’s Nest” residence comes by its name naturally. The home overlooks a heritage sweep of pasture land and distant mountains.

“You cannot waste these views. They cannot be mishandled.” That’s what residential designer Mark Shattuck of Cornerstone Design + Build Solution told his clients, even before the ground was broken on the Asheville-area home.

And so every room that should have a picture window indeed does.

“For this project, we maximized everything possible on the site,” says Malcolm Morgan of Morgan-Keefe Builders. “It doesn’t get any better than that.”…

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A Shingled South Carolina House Featured in Architectural Digest Filled with Stunning Detail

IKB home tour south carolina_08Architect Thomas A. Kligerman of Ike Kligerman Barkley designs a stately home that reflects its wooded surroundings


My childhood experience of shingled cottages in New England was a formative influence on my development as an architect. But nearly as significant were the years my family spent in the Southwest, where we lived in an adobe house under the cottonwood trees in the Rio Grande Valley. My parents had a getaway in the Jemez Mountains in New Mexico, and that vertical terrain—so different from the gentle coastal horizons of the Northeast—also found its way into my work, first in Colorado and then in several mountain houses in South Carolina….

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View From the Top

Perched perfectly amongst the North Carolina mountains, this natural retreat boasts a beautiful design — from the outside in.


Nestled within the spectacular foliage that draws people to the mountains of western North Carolina, you’ll find the Bowdens’ equally spectacular timber home — or then again, maybe you won’t.

Intentionally positioned on the property to blend seamlessly with its natural surroundings, the Bowden house is somewhat of a hidden gem — a characteristic both dictated by the homeowners wishes and the Balsam Mountain Preserve where the house is located.

“In this area, you’re really there to see, not to be seen,” explains M. Shawn Leatherwood, owner of The Architectural Studio, P.L.L.C., in Waynesville, North Carolina, and the architect on the project. “This idea really led to the way the house was designed to ramble around the property, and the look of the house was somewhat dictated by the architectural materials native to the region.”

View From the Top Full Article

Congratulations to IKB on their new book.

The architectural style of the classic American summer, the shingled house can suggest the beach, the countryside, the mountains, and even the city. AD100 architects Ike Kligerman Barkley, one of the most successful firms practicing in a traditional style today, presents 14 houses that celebrate the simple wood shingle’s infinite flexibility—ranging from richly historic to sculptural and experimental.

The New Shingled House includes examples throughout the fabled seaside resorts of New England—Martha’s Vineyard, Block Island, and the Hamptons—as well as houses in California’s Bay Area and Point Loma, on a pristine mountain lake in South Carolina, and a Scandinavian influenced family residence in Connecticut. All are characterized by a sense of graciousness and generosity that makes them unique spaces for the owners and enviable spaces for readers.

The versatility of the shingle style allows the designers to explore formal ideas and to respond to client preferences and taste. The houses thus achieve the architects’ fundamental goal: when their clients enter their new house for the first time, they should feel as though they have always lived there.

This stunning visual presentation features new photography by noted interiors photographer William Waldron, who has captured the graciousness and generosity of the elegant interiors and welcoming porches and terraces that make these houses so inviting and timeless.

“In this dreamy coffee table book, the distinguished design firm of Ike Kligerman Barkley shares 14 of its most stately and iconic homes built in the classic American shingle style. From a lodge in the Blue Ridge Mountains to a beachy stunner in the Hamptons, these houses offer up aspirational eye-candy of the best kind.”

Prairie Style on a Perch

A steep grade offered both challenges and opportunities in a North Asheville home


Situated on a steep, dramatic site, the Harmon house hugs a north slope of Town Mountain minutes from downtown Asheville. Low-pitched roofs and bands of windows capture the essence of Prairie-style architecture. Stone work is by Steep Creek Stoneworks.

Photography by J. Weiland

Frank Lloyd Wright liked to use spatial tricks in his homes to delight clients and visitors. He’d hide entrances, shrink door sizes, and compress rooms. Then he’d open the structure up into flamboyant, grand spaces, capitalizing on the drama of big changes in scale.

Those types of design elements mattered when Clay and Lynn Harmon decided to build their empty-nest home in Asheville, rewarding themselves for years of hard work and success. Their intense urban life in Houston, full of long commutes and packed schedules for three daughters, had run its course. From their screened-in porch, a short drive up Town Mountain Road, Lynn wonders if it took them too long to get here.

Clean and simple, the kitchen is the focal point for entertaining. Generous circulation areas and a nook for easy chairs encourage guests to appreciate the owners’ hospitality and cooking. An enthusiastic singer, Lynn Harmon frequently hosts events for the Asheville Choral Society.

“We’ve never, I think, been in a place where we were so happy. It just feels so right. It’s just home, peace. We go down that driveway and everything just melts away,” she says.

Clay adds, “Living here makes vacations feel like work.”

Similar to Wright’s dramatic flair, the Harmons’ 6,500-square-foot home is an expression of opposing forces — a serene custom residence in a wooded setting against a backdrop of demanding careers that afforded the transition. Visually, many contrasts stand out. On one side of the home, a moss-covered wall of rock flanks the carport. On the other side, from overhanging porches, sweeping views await. The steep three-acre lot in Wildcat Cliffs subdivision presented obvious challenges in construction and natural lighting — not exactly conducive to the Prairie-style architecture the Harmons had dreamed of.
“Sloped prairie,” Clay calls it.


Intricately detailed, the dining room captures the spirit of Wrightian architecture with tasteful mahogany trim details, clerestory windows and straight lines. Sconces are reproductions of fixtures found in the Robie House, one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s masterpieces in Chicago.

Prairie style earns its name from homes designed by Wright and others at the turn of the 20th century. They featured low-pitched roofs, long horizontal facades, ribbon windows, and distinct wings. The Harmon house vertically hugs the slope, slightly curving to meet the terrain. Its profile remains below the treeline, a true testament to Wright, who worked with nature rather than dividing and conquering it.


“It’s not a manufacturing process,” says Malcolm Morgan, owner of Morgan-Keefe Builders, the bulder. “It’s an evolution.”

Collaboration, he says, succeeded in creating this contemporary Prairie-style home on a mountain. The right elements of Prairie were folded into the design: trim details, clean lines, three hearths, warm tones (cypress, oak, and mahogany), and muted colors. Light fixtures in the formal dining room are reproductions of sconces in Wright’s Robie House in Chicago. A backlit decorative screen — a laser-cut copy of Wright’s design — is built into a dining-room wall. The Harmons brought along pieces of Stickley furniture and other Arts and Crafts touches.

Throughout the home, the Harmons decorate with modern, sometimes retro, touches and local art. One of the happy outcomes of moving from Houston to Asheville included discovering a vibrant artist community to support.

They feel so comfortable in their new home that they sometimes stay put for days. That lifestyle works for Clay, whose spacious office and photography studio anchor one end of the house. A light-filled catwalk separates the living quarters from his studio, which he uses both professionally, to telecommute as a geophysicist, and recreationally, to indulge his hobby of minimalist photography. To set apart the studio, Prairie details give way to modern ones — steel banisters, a curved handrail and staircase, slate and concrete floors.

“I don’t want to overstate the Wright influence,” the builder says, “but the way the trim and the materials fold into each other is key to how the whole thing looks in the end.”

The home occupies a special site. The steep driveway down to the carport and front door is the first clue. Malcolm Morgan says it’s among the top five most challenging sites in 35 years of business, and architect John Legerton of Legerton Architecture believes it’s the steepest site he’s ever worked on, period. Kloesel Engineering, the structural engineers, worked in tandem with Kessel Engineering Group, which provided geo-technical support on the crucial foundation plan, opting to use reinforced steel (atypical on residential foundations).


Due to the steep site, privacy throughout the home is built-in. The first floor sits 14 feet from the ground. The master bath rests high in the canopy, so a soak becomes a secluded affair. The floor is Bluestone slab from Texas. Tub is by Ferguson.

“It is unusual, but when you are going to be working on a house on that kind of slope, you’re going to be running into big amounts of concrete and a lot of steel,” says project manager Martin Fletcher of Morgan-Keefe.

The first winter of construction brought such bitter conditions that the builders considered using thermal blankets to keep the already-difficult foundation work moving along. Perimeter foundation walls, in some places 20 feet high with footings ten feet wide, were built after months of freezing forecasts — enough time for the architects and owners to finalize other decisions. Despite its steepness, though, the site presented opportunities.

“On a sloped site, you’re going to end up with a lot of space down below equal to that first-floor footprint, and to use that for storage, well-lit, ventilated bedrooms or family rooms, makes a lot of economic sense,” Legerton, the home’s architect, says.

Amiable and open-minded, the Harmons decided early on to take Legerton’s advice. They added more rooms. Instead of cathedral crawl spaces, they added extra accommodations for guests and leisure activities. A kitchenette, library, workout room and living room with a large-screen TV expand their quality of life and privacy. Natural lighting, already a concern on the main floor due to the site’s northern exposure, was the second most challenging feature of the design. Upstairs, bands of clerestory windows and eaves (calibrated for maximum winter light penetration) solve many low-lighting concerns while remaining true to the Prairie style. Downstairs, rows of tall and wide windows provide relief from darkness.

Throughout the home, the Harmons decorate with modern, sometimes retro, touches and local art. One of the happy outcomes of moving from Houston to Asheville included discovering a vibrant artist community to support.

Lynn, who took a significant role in interior decisions, wanted the house to be truly livable. Although the home is highly detailed — from the full-length 22-foot window seat in the great room to the intricate hardwood trim, a Wrightian motif — the house is far from feeling too put-together. A modern homey aesthetic bleeds through, fit for full-time living, entertaining, and an enthusiastic young Weimaraner.

“I just wanted a house that felt like a home,” she says. “I get irritated when I go into a house that you can tell a designer has been in, and it’s perfect. It’s cold to me. It doesn’t reflect the personalities of the people in it, and I think that’s what we tried to accomplish.”

Without exception, the Harmons, Legerton Architecture, and Morgan-Keefe Builders agree the design and construction process succeeded because of mutual cooperation. It’s not quite what might have happened, given the steep site, northern exposures, and out-of-state clients: a triumvirate of potential pitfalls. Even after almost two years of construction, the designers and builders admit they miss hanging out at the place.

“Everything came together,” says Curtis Walk, project architect, “more than any other projects I’ve worked on.”

Clay Harmon reiterates, “The drawings didn’t leave anything up to chance. It made the process a lot less daunting and scary, because when you’re not here, you can’t see what they do.”

Both born and raised in the Midwest, Clay and Lynn are glad to return to a landscape that is distinguished by wildlife, wildflowers, and four seasons. Since the keys were handed over four years ago, their lives have changed. With the skyline of Houston far behind them and views of Elk Mountain Ridge in front of them, new horizons have opened.

“It took a while to slow down because you are just always on the go,” Lynn says. “I can actually sit and read a book for two hours if I want. There’s nothing wrong with that.”

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How Two Families Made Their Long Distance Dreams a Reality

Cliff’s Seven Magazine, Issue 2 
June, 2015


For The Billings,
Pictures Spoke a Thousand Words

Absentee owners Ruth and Ron Billings would wait at their home in Houston every Friday night for photos to arrive from the project manager overseeing the building of their new home at The Cliffs. It was a much-anticipated way of keeping up with what had been done that week.

“It was a fun process,” Ron recounts.

When it had come time to think about retirement, Ron, who had spent time as a youth with relatives in the mountains of western North Carolina, thought that was where he’d like to be. A colleague at work had a property at The Cliffs and suggested the Billings take a look at the website.

“Next thing we knew, we were buying a homesite,” he says.

His colleague had started building one home and then another, both using Morgan-Keefe Builders.

“We drew on the confidence of having two colleagues ahead of us in the process who each had great confidence in Morgan-Keefe. We just lived for those Friday nights when the photos arrived. It made the process easy. But it was a little depressing when we stopped having the pictures to look at.” Any tinge of depression ended as soon as the Billings arrived at their new home.

“It’s such a welcoming community,” Ruth adds. “Even though people are from all over and have different backgrounds, we all have this thing in common called The Cliffs.”


For the Stahls,
All It Took Was Just One Look

When Massachusetts residents Michele and Kent Stahl first started to think about a getaway home that would later become the place they retired, they planned to look around at a number of communities all across the country. But one visit to The Cliffs changed that.

“We arranged a Stay & Play Golf package at The Cliffs, fell in love both with the amazingly beautiful property and Asheville, and after only two days we decided to buy a lot. Kent loves golf, so the option to play seven different golf courses was a key factor in our choice to buy in The Cliffs,” Michele says, explaining why they looked no further.

“We were building from afar, so we needed a builder that we didn’t need to babysit and could count on to do quality work without us being here to oversee every little thing. The process went very smoothly because we chose Morgan-Keefe Builders up front rather than bid out the design. We wanted our builder involved from the very beginning of the architectural process to give input on the design as it was being drafted. We flew down every five weeks to meet with the architect and builders team.”

“Morgan-Keefe had many great insights from their years of building experience. They knew what worked here, what didn’t, and what other clients had done that was unique. That collaboration took all the stress out of building.”

Michele expressed her feelings about her new home at The Cliffs in a few words, “Everyone who lives here has embraced us, it’s absolutely gorgeous, and the weather’s great. I can’t imagine a better place on earth.”

Morgan-Keefe Builders Receives
Best of Houzz 2015 – Client Satisfaction Award

Annual Survey and Analysis of 16 Million Monthly Users Reveals Top-Rated Building, Remodeling and Design Professionals, the leading platform for home remodeling and design, today announced the community’s picks for Best Of Houzz 2015, a homeowner-to-homeowner guide to the top home builders, architects, interior designers, landscape pros and other residential remodeling professionals on Houzz from tile, stone and countertop pros to painters.

“Houzz connects people with the best home professional for their project by providing the only 360-degree view of a professional, from their portfolio, client reviews, awards and accreditations to their work style and expertise based on their participation in the Houzz community,” said Liza Hausman, vice president of Industry Marketing for Houzz. “We’re delighted to join our community in recognizing the talented professionals on Houzz who are delivering incredible designs and delightful customer experiences.”

The Best Of Houzz award is given in two categories: Customer Service and Design. Customer Service honors are determined by a variety of factors, including the number and quality of client reviews a professional received in 2014. Design award winners’ work was the most popular among the more than 25 million monthly users on Houzz, known as “Houzzers,” Winners will receive a “Best Of Houzz 2015” badge on their profiles, showing the Houzz community their commitment to excellence. These badges help homeowners identify popular and top-rated home professionals in every metro area on Houzz.



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Meet Ron & Ruth Billings!

From the Walnut Cove Realty Winter Newsletter, 2013

My husband Ron and I lived in Texas for 10 years before moving to Asheville. After many corporate moves, this was the first time we were able to make a lifestyle decision on where we wanted to live. We chose Asheville primarily because of its location near our daughters and the mountains where Ron’s grandparents are from. Moving here brought us closer to his roots while still offering the amenities of a thriving city. Mild weather also played a part in our decision–it’s a welcome change from the rough, humid summers we experienced in Houston. We were referred to The Cliffs at Walnut Cove by one of Ron’s coworkers. We didn’t find any other community within close proximity to Asheville that really measured up to Walnut Cove. After just a couple of months, we decided to purchase a lot.

A few years later, we started the home building process in 2010 when Ron was closer to retirement. It was good timing because materials were less costly and we were gaining confidence in the economy. Ron had a couple of coworkers who shared their great experiences with Malcolm Morgan from Morgan-Keefe Builders. It only took one meeting for us to decide that he was the right guy for the project.


As absentee owners, we had to place a lot of faith in our builder to deliver what we envisioned. They provided weekly updates with pictures and we spoke with the team on a regular basis. Having a devoted project manager on site every day also made a huge difference. Throughout the process we were very comfortable and never felt hindered by the distance. The builder’s meticulous attention to detail far surpassed our expectations and we have been very satisfied with the final product.

Ever since we moved into our new home last year, the Walnut Cove community has been so welcoming. The friendliness and inclusion that we’ve felt from everyone has led us to become more social. We’ve enjoyed the hiking trails, fitness center, and just about every amenity offered here. It’s also wonderful to have the golf course just five minutes away and though we haven’t tired of it by any means, we look forward to experiencing the other golf courses available to us through The Cliffs Communities.

Our new lifestyle is quite different from the bustling city life we were used to. Instead of streets and buildings, we are surrounded by the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. The views from our home are just incredible and it’s so neat watch the sunrise each morning. We’re delighted to be a part of this community because we know that it doesn’t get any better than this.

A Luxury Home Grows with its Owners

Twice Charmed

Morgan-Keefe Builders is dedicated to exceeding expectations. Which explains why Morgan-Keefe’s clients invariably say they would “do it all over again” and often maintain long-standing friendships with the Carolina mountain builder.

While homeowners consistently enjoy the process of building their custom homes with Morgan-Keefe, not many have the occasion to do so twice.

For one Lake Keowee couple, the prospect of welcoming their first grandchild provided the perfect opportunity.

 “When we started thinking about building our addition, there was never any question that we would use Malcolm and Morgan-Keefe again,” the homeowners share. “Malcolm and his team are tops in class.”

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A Lakehouse Transformed

A dramatic makeover infuses a waterfront dream home with old-world elegance

The announcement of an impending grandchild accelerated the redo of a ten-year-old dream home at Lake Keowee. Although the house’s owners say they were “still in love with the rustic interior,” the exterior needed a little 21st-century panache. “It didn’t quite match the spirit of the location, or create the ambiance we wanted when we drive up to the house.”

Plans were made to create a second-floor guest suite over the garage and to re-work the exterior of the home in a fresh new style. The renovation by Morgan-Keefe Builders of Arden — who also built the original home — took more than a year. But the homeowners say they are “extraordinarily pleased” with the result. “Both the look and feel of the house is great…just what we wanted.”

For a printed version of this story, please call (888) 446–4491 or email


Carolina Home + Garden Magazine

Summer 2013

Project Elegance
By Kate O’Connor


It all began with the antique Biedermeier secretary. For Margie and Rich Kluska, it embodies the aesthetic that they admire — perfectly proportioned and effortlessly elegant, with the classic elements of the period: crisp lines, polished dark wood, ebony accents…and a touch of sparkle. As they conceived the interiors of their dream retirement home, this was the template.

There were other considerations, of course. There was Rich’s enviable collection of military memorabilia — everything from medals to firearms, full dress uniforms to helmets, ranging from the Civil War to World War II, not to mention a substantial library of works on military history. That grounding in strategic planning would come in handy for the Kluskas as they moved forward.

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Morgan-Keefe Builders
6 Legend Drive
Arden, NC 28704

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