Story by Savannah King
Photos by Scott Rogers
A large, detailed drawing of a tree hangs on the living room wall inside the Wilheit family’s new home on Lake Lanier.
“This tree is on the property, it’s up on a hill,” Mary Hart Wilheit said, pointing to the art. “It’s three trees that grew into one. It symbolizes our family. We’re just all here together. Our children had that drawn for us. We love it.”
Like the three-trunked tree, the 170-acre lakefront property the Wilheits call home is shared by three families: Philip and Mary Hart Wilheit and their two children’s families.
While the other two families plan to start building on the property soon, Philip and Mary Hart’s impressive home was recently completed. The couple moved in last July.
“When we decided to build it, we didn’t need a big house,” Mary Hart Wilheit said. “But then if a grandchild (inherits) it one day, they’ll need a bigger house for their families.”
The four-bedroom home was built with family in mind.
Upon walking through the front door, visitors get a view of the lake from the windows in the formal living room. An adjacent formal dining room is decorated with family crests and a handmade table built by Philip’s father. Much of the furnishings inside the home are antiques and family heirlooms.
The significance of the couple’s heirlooms was taken into consideration when the home was built. In fact, the study was designed around an antique desk.
Wilheit said she and her husband often spend their time in the study, but it’s the large kitchen and sitting area on the other side of the house where they do their “living.”
The room is spacious and open. The windows reveal an outdoor patio and kitchen area. A waterfall leading to a koi pond is decorated with four bronze statues of children playing, each representing one of the couple’s grandchildren. Another bronze statue dips a leg into the small backyard swimming pool. In the distance, a picturesque white gazebo with heated ceilings and fire pits can be seen nearer the water’s edge.
“When we’re all here, we’re 10 people between grandchildren and children,” Mary Hart said. “We try to do something together maybe once a week.”
The large kitchen is perfect for entertaining a crowd. The sizable island allows for plenty of extra counter space when preparing a big meal. Food storage isn’t an issue in the kitchen, either. The pantry is tucked away down the hall across from an office,
making the kitchen seem even more spacious.
Mary Hart Wilheit’s welded copper wire artwork hangs over the stove.
Just down the hall from the kitchen is an office that doubles as the artist’s home studio and a place to help grandchildren with homework.
Wilheit said she hesitated to build her husband, the president of Wilheit Packaging LLC, his own home office.
“I didn’t want Philip to have an office — he’d work all the time,” Mary Hart said. “But the architect (Steven Hill) insisted he need one. So they tucked it away in a corner of the house.”
The room has a rustic feel. The flooring is made from reclaimed wood from a mill in Thomaston. With a deep inhale, Wilheit says she likes the room because it smells like the woods.
The home is large but maintains a cozy and inviting feel. Through the windows a view of the landscaped woods make the home feel more secluded than it actually is.
Fockele Landscaping keeps the woods breathtakingly clear. An orchard of miniature fruit trees is nestled on one of the hilltops.
Philip said one of his favorite things about the house isn’t necessarily inside.
“It was nice last night when I got home I had seven turkeys eating at a feeder,” he said. “And this morning when I left for work, I had seven turkeys eating breakfast. We’ve got plenty of deer. I’ve seen a bobcat and a fox. We’ve got all the wildlife in the world out here.
“We love being out here. Obviously, I think it’s going to be a great place for the grandkids to grow up. We’re excited. This is home.”
“We’re very happy here. We’re very comfortable and have everything we want,” Mary Hart added with a smile.