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Extreme home makeover
Rather than tear down an ugly house, the Chatmans got creative and then got busy remodeling
0810architects1 RW
Tony and Cyndi Chatman sit in the kitchen of their lakefront home, located off Browns Bridge Road in Forsyth County. The couple spent about 15,000 hours renovating their own home, doing all the work themselves except for the roof and a few other small projects. Their home will be featured in September's issue of Architectural Digest, which comes out Tuesday.


Tony and Cyndi Chatman talk about submitting their home for the magazine's design contest.

The Lake Lanier home went from being what Cyndi Chatman described as a "Barbie Doll house" to a mahogany-framed, nature-embracing labor of love.

Cyndi and Tony Chatman spent some 15,000 hours of their own time in the transformation and now are basking in the house that serves as more than just as a home. They will also be rewarded for their efforts when the home is featured in the next edition of Architectural Digest.

"I have about 75 copies," said Tony Chatman, proudly handing out one of the magazines.

Architectural Digest is profiling the home on Beaver Trail, off Browns Bridge Road in Forsyth County, about a couple miles from Hall County, in its September edition, which hits newsstands Tuesday.

The publication is showcasing the home as part of its "Open Auditions," in which professionals and amateurs submit home design projects to a panel of the magazine's senior editorial staff.

The magazine accepted designs in New York, Florida, California and Texas.

Tony Chatman, a 1988 Johnson High School graduate, and Cyndi, a Columbus native, lived in Alpharetta at the time they bought the 20-year-old house in 2002.

The couple wanted to live on the lake and said they looked a long time for the perfect site. When they pulled up to the house on a quarter-mile driveway flanked by trees, they knew they had arrived at their home.

Halfway down the long drive, "we said, ‘This is it.' We didn't even know what the house looked like," said Cyndi Chatman.

"It was the lot," said Tony. "You can do anything to a house, but you can't build a lot."

After buying the property, the couple originally planned to raze the house and build anew.

But, after living in the yellow and pink stucco

home for about three months, they decided to go a little more lightly on the makeover.

"We decided ... there was nothing wrong with this house and we didn't need more space," Tony said. "Let's just keep this house and see what we can do from a creative standpoint."

The Chatmans relied largely on their engineering backgrounds to remodel the home.

They were the owners of Emullion, a software company that featured a computer application they invented that automates design and manufacture of architectural doors and hardware.

Industrial giant Ingersoll-Rand bought the company about four years ago. The couple still work as consultants for the company.

They lived in the home while they tackled the reconstruction, and estimate that if they had turned the work over to general contractors, they would have spent about $1.5 million on materials and labor.

Although, the Chatmans did hand over some work - particularly the roof covering the 3,300-square-foot home - to contractors.

The home features rosewood floors and solid mahogany beams supporting wall-length windows opening to a spacious deck that includes a saltwater-fed pool and waterfall.

Gone is the stucco. In its place is a siding made of cedar shakes. The walls supporting the deck are built with stacked stone.

Interior touches include double doors leading to bedrooms, high ceilings and a 135-pound marlin over the mantle of the fireplace. Tony caught the fish while the couple vacationed in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. (For the record, Tony adds, his wife also caught a marlin - 1 pound lighter.)

Tony was at an airport flipping through a copy of Architectural Digest when he first discovered the publication's "Open Auditions."

When he saw that one of the stops was in Miami, he took a trip to the lake house and "for one day took all the pictures and put together a portfolio."

He submitted the work a couple of weeks later to judges, leaving almost dejected because he received no immediate feedback. No shocker there, though, as the line of eager designers was long.

"Four weeks later (in March), they called and said, ‘You won,'" he said.

According to the magazine, judges saw about 1,000 design projects and selected more than 50 for publication. September's magazine features the first four finalists, with other finalists to be profiled in future publications.

The article on the Chatmans' home focuses on the work the couple put into rebuilding it. The house sits on four wooded lakefront acres and boasts a cliff-like granite overlook the Chatmans say stems from Stone Mountain.

The piece also features exterior shots of the home and before and after photos of the extensive project.

The couple said they still have some work to do on the house - about two weeks' worth - but they now have turned their attention to restoring a home in Key West, Fla. They return to the lake house for about one week every six weeks.

Tony said the couple has "no regrets" about the huge undertaking, "even though we are considering selling the house" or turning it into a vacation property.

"Even though we are extremely emotionally attached to the house, because of all the work, it's just a house at the end of the day," Tony said.

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