By Kelly McCall Branson


The 2007 Showcase for a Cure home accomplishes its mission on so many dimensions.

The Casa Lucca was designed as a showcase to increase awareness about blood-related cancers and to raise funds to aid in the research and treatment of these diseases. And this Hidden Lake waterfront Tuscan villa also serves as a showcase for a modern take on a distinctive architectural style not often seen in the Triangle. Stepping up its mission yet another level, this state-of-the-art house is also a showcase for the myriad ways in which a top-of-the-line luxury home can be as easy on the environment as it is on the eyes.

In its eighth year, the annual Showcase home was conceived as a project to generate both attention and funding for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, the world’s largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding research, education and patient services for the more than 130,000 people diagnosed annually in the United States with leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma.

Hidden Lake’s developer, Crescent Communities and Bost Custom Homes, teamed up with architect Christopher Phelps, designer Lisa Grimes of Floral Accents and Interiors, Stock Building Supply and an entire cadre of designers, suppliers, subcontractors and more to generously contribute time and materials that resulted in the project’s exceeding its goal of raising $300,000 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. “Bost Custom Homes and Crescent Communities are not only leaders in their industry,” says Tiffany Drummond Armstrong, executive director of the Eastern North Carolina Chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, “but for our organization, too.  Their contributions of time, talent and treasure are saving lives in our community.”


The setting for this Tuscan-style retreat is appropriately nestled in the rolling hills of Youngsville, just north of Wake Forest, in Crescent Community’s new gated, lakeside neighborhood, Hidden Lake. This environmentally sensitive development encompasses some 600 acres, including a 75-acre private lake and 227 acres of open space. Crescent Communities is working closely with Audubon International toward Hidden Lake’s designation as an Audubon Three-Diamond community, its highest level of certification for environmentally sound development.

Situated on 1.55 wooded lakefront acres, the 7,871-square-foot, five-bedroom Casa Lucca was designed to complement its natural surroundings and to incorporate the colors and textures of its landscape, in both its exterior and interior. And its construction was likewise carefully planned and executed to minimize disturbance or degradation of the land.

Rex Bost, President of Bost Custom Homes, gathered inspiration for this country retreat during a recent visit to the countryside towns of Northern Italy. Authenticity to the Tuscan style was paramount to Bost. While so-called Tuscan and Mediterranean-style homes are becoming more and more prevalent in the Carolinas, Bost’s vision for Casa Lucca was not an Americanized version of Italian architecture. He was determined to remain true to the rustic simplicity of the true Tuscan home.

Bost collaborated closely with Charlotte architect Chris Phelps (who donated his services) to design a home with the generous proportions, the courtyard configuration, the connection with its natural surroundings and the unpretentious, but stately, ambience of an authentic Tuscan villa.

“One of the things that really struck me about the homes we saw in Italy,” says Bost, “was that they were built to last a thousand years. I wanted something solid, a home to stand the test of time. Italians build their homes to last and then they take care of them. This is not a throw-away mentality.” This old-fashioned durability, Bost contends, is actually one of the primary fundamentals of green building. A home that endures for generations, by its very nature, requires far fewer natural resources than a house with a mere 20 or 30-year lifespan.

So masonry framing, a passion for Bost, was a must for Casa Lucca. “There are so many advantages to a house built this way,” says Bost. “strength, thermal efficiency and sound-dampening qualities, as well as resistance to termites and fire.” Masonry framing makes the structure of this home incredibly solid, rendering a stronger, quieter and more energy-efficient house than a wood-framed house.

The naturally pigmented, creamy stucco finish and antique brick and stone accents evoke the gracious villas that dot the Italian countryside, and again, represent a level of permanence and a communication with the natural surroundings.

And the home’s many-leveled tile roof, while it echoes the terra cotta tile roofs so prevalent throughout Tuscany, is actually a concrete tile. These Hanson roof tiles are structurally superior to traditional shingles, are wind, pest and fire resistant and provide greater insulation than other shingle materials. And they are also more environmentally friendly than asphalt composition shingle or metal roofing, manufactured without chemical preservatives from non-toxic materials: sand, cement and water.

The layout of the Casa Lucca, a large capital “I”, creates protected courtyard spaces, enabling the home’s interiors to embrace its outdoor environs while maintaining a cloistered privacy. The pool is wrapped on three sides by the master wing, the entry gallery and the terrace, and the double two-car garages create an out-of-sight motor court.

The transformation to another time begins as you pass through the wide brick and stone-arched gate house. “I really had to work with my stone masons,” laughs Bost, “to get the kind of time-worn effect I was after. It was not quite the perfectly regular work they were accustomed to.”

This cool passage gives way to a small courtyard with a grotto-style trickling fountain and fragrant herb garden, framed by gracious unadorned columns and arches. And wide arches are repeated in the wood-trimmed windows and massive mahogany entry doors adorned with hand-hammered wrought iron.

Entering the Casa Lucca, you are immediately struck by one of its signature features. Forgoing the usual grand foyer giving way to formal living room, Phelps instead designed a wide sweeping arcade, with soaring 12-foot ceilings featured on front cover. This long, dramatic space is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the courtyard pool and its loggia of columned arches to the right and the massive staircase and arched dining room entry to the left. Floors in this singular space are wide oak plank, inset with hand carved and whisky-glazed travertine tiles. This airy gallery is grounded in the warm patina of the glazed plaster walls and rich wood trim and serves as a sweeping invitation to the grand room into which it leads.

Bost took recycling to a whole new level throughout the Casa Lucca. Century-old heart pine timbers from a Georgia warehouse were used extensively, as ceiling beams, as cabinet doors in the outdoor kitchen, as a chunky wine-tasting table and custom doors in the wine cellar. These heavy, richly grained timbers are not only a green material choice — requiring no new harvesting of natural resources — but their age and antique hue add an authentic aura that just can not be manufactured.

Also used to the same effect inside and out of the Casa Lucca, are handmade antique bricks, salvaged from a 1904 Tarboro warehouse. And the grand staircase was crafted from solid heart pine slabs salvaged from a local lumber mill. “I can tell you one thing,” says Bost. These stairs will never squeak.”

Yet another green strategy, notes Bost, was the choice of clear yellow pine for all of the home’s trim. “We used to use Canadian lumber, but realized that the transport of all this material thousands of miles was, in itself, an unnecessary expenditure of natural resources. Lumber harvested and milled within a few hundred miles just makes more sense, from a green-building perspective.”


Follow the entry arcade past the staircase to the formal dining room with its tall flanking windows overlooking a courtyard. And the powder room beyond is a fantastic collection of Old World touches. A rustic brick ceiling complements glazed plaster walls, and a triple arch, created by Lisa Grimes, was inspired by a cathedral in Pisa. Reflected in the antique-glass mirror are fresco-style Roman numerals — the year the home was built.

Finally the sweeping arcade opens through a brick-lined arch into the eminently warm and lived-in looking grand room and kitchen. A massive field-stone and brick fireplace provides the robust focal point for this room, which features views of the pool courtyard, the terrace and the lake beyond.

The kitchen echoes the rich finishes and well-worn patina of the kitchens Bost enjoyed in Tuscany. Footed cabinets with aged-look bubble glass evoke the

ubiquitous open cupboards of traditional Italian kitchens. But even these Old European-style cabinets adhere to Bost’s commitment to building green. They are constructed of eucalyptus, a highly renewable and sustainable hardwood. And Bost custom designed a weather red pine kitchen table as a unique cap to the breakfast bar — as an oversized lazy Susan mounted on a boulder taken from the property. All of the Viking appliances are Energy Star.

Indeed energy-saving features can be found throughout the home — from the tightly sealed building envelope and state-of-the-art Icynene insulated attic, to the high-efficiency Carrier heating and air conditioning system, to the insulated hot-water pipes and recirculation pump. And all of the home’s recessed lights are LED. Using only 11 watts of power, these lights generate almost no heat (unlike traditional incandescent bulbs) and are guaranteed for an amazing 20 years.

The grand room flows seamlessly onto the airy terrace, with its vaulted tongue-in-groove ceiling, Archistone outdoor kitchen and spacious seating area, complete with fireplace and wide-screen TV. Gracious columned arches frame a spectacular view of pristine Hidden Lake. And stone steps lead to the courtyard pool with its neoclassical statuary, fountains, waterfall and spa. An outdoor shower is tucked, grotto-like beneath the terrace.


Sequestered from the gathering areas of the house, the master suite lies, from the entry gallery, at the end of another, slightly smaller, but still grand, arcade. Here again, floor-to-ceiling windows line this palisade, incorporating outdoor views through the loggia’s arches into the interior space. Opening first to an elegant library with a herringbone wide-plank oak floor, wood-timbered ceiling, and amber-glazed rough plaster walls, this warm room is made even more inviting by a cozy fireplace with Archistone surround.

At the end of this long arcade, the master suite’s vaulted 14-foot ceilings are plastered and softly lit with a wide, hand-glazed light rail. A corner fireplace in the spacious seating area features a massive carved stone-look surround. The carpeting in this room is manufactured with recycled materials and contains no VOCs (volatile organic compounds — gasses emitted from many construction materials). And the walls are coated with American Clay, a naturally pigmented plaster.

In the spa-like master bath, an enormous copper soaking tub offers, not only an antique, rustic patina, but also the therapeutic mineral benefits attributed to copper. A glass walled shower leads to even more relaxation possibilities, with an adjoining steam shower.

Here too, Bost’s green side shines through. The toilet (like all the home’s toilets) is a European-style dual flush model that averages a mere one gallon of water per flush. But the water conservation doesn’t stop there. For the first time, Bost has expanded his FreeRain system to supply water for flushing toilets. This innovative rain-harvesting system collects rainwater runoff from the home’s roof, its yard, its driveway, even condensation from the air conditioners’ coils, into a series of underground filtration and storage tanks and uses this water to irrigate lawns and now — to flush toilets. Bost has been named to the state’s newly formed task force to explore this ingenious water-conserving effort.


Downstairs, a massive door, handcrafted of reclaimed timbers and outfitted with heavy hand-wrought iron, leads to a charming wine cellar. Large enough for intimate dining, this cellar features locally grown and milled cypress racking for more than 600 bottles of wine, and also doubles as a safe room in case of hurricanes or tornadoes.

Upstairs, the sweeping arcade is repeated, with open views of the pool courtyard below. Three bedroom suites occupy this space, along with a media/game room. Here, a unique brick-lined, arched hearth serves as a rustic entertainment center, with this effect repeated across the room in a butlers kitchen. And, as in the master suite, carpets here are of 100% recycled content and are free of VOCs. (In addition, all of the paints and finishes used in the home were low or no VOC-emitting.)

A covered balcony leads to a versatile space. This large room, with spectacular lake views is outfitted as an exercise room, complete with sauna, but could easily serve as an au pair suite (it is plumbed and wired to accommodate a kitchen), or even a home office.

Above it all, an observation tower overlooks the courtyards, the rolling grounds and the lake beyond.

True to its Tuscan heritage, the Casa Lucca is a country retreat built for the ages.