Their custom home in Governors Club features a speakeasy and stunning views they’ll enjoy for decades to come
Photography by John Michael Simpson
Jennifer Smith and Rocky Smith fell for Chatham County a long time ago. Jennifer grew up in Chapel Hill and returned to the area after attending East Carolina University. She knew she wanted to settle near her family, who still live nearby. The couple married at Fearrington House in 2012 and moved to Chatham shortly thereafter. For Rocky, a former Marine who has lived all over the United States, there is nowhere else he would rather call home. “I married a Carolina girl, and that changes your life,” he says. “You really can’t beat North Carolina. It is such a special place.”
So, when the opportunity came along to create their dream home in Governors Club, the Smiths didn’t think twice. Jennifer and Rocky worked with Bold Construction to design every detail. They chose a base plan they loved, then customized it with the future in mind. “Building a home is hard, but Bold was amazing to work with,” Jennifer says. “We knew we were planning for the long haul, so we had to think outside the box a bit.”
The one-of-a-kind home includes thoughtful elements to enable the Smiths to live there long term as well as entertain friends and family members of all ages and abilities. It features an entrance without stairs or ledges, an elevator and an informal, open layout that provides easy access to living, dining and kitchen areas.
Prior to the pandemic, Jennifer and Rocky frequently hosted parties and dinners, so the large kitchen island provides both overflow seating and plenty of food prep space. Their love of entertaining also inspired one of their favorite features in the house – the speakeasy. An inconspicuous bookcase built into a hallway hides a secret staircase, which leads to a door unlike any other in the house. Composed of aged wood and an iron grille, a wooden panel at eye level swings open from the inside so the hosts can ask guests for a password. Inside, a fully stocked bar, welcoming leather club chairs and a deck with sweeping views of Chapel Hill make for a perfect place to wind down.
Living Outside In
Rocky, Jennifer, their son, Henry, 2, and dogs, Sebastian and Louis, enjoy being outdoors as much as possible on weekends, spending time at the neighborhood playground, hiking the Eno River or hanging in their own backyard oasis. “It was important that we bring the feeling of being outside into our home as much as possible,” Rocky says. The living area opens directly onto the patio, which features cozy seating and retractable screen doors on all sides.
The backyard pool, which was installed by Gress’ Inc., invites guests to enjoy long afternoons outdoors, offering stunning views of the wooded backyard accented with landscaping by Agape Lawn Company. A separate restroom opens to the backyard so time away from the pool can be kept to a minimum, and eye-catching features provide a relaxing experience for adults and kids alike. “It was [Gress’ Inc.’s] idea to add the big rock to the ledge, and at first I thought they were crazy – but it turns out all our friends’ kids love jumping off of it,” Rocky says. “The forest environment also makes for great animal watching, which is great, because Henry loves salamanders.”
Their love of the outdoors inspired the Smiths’ building choices in more ways than one; thanks to dozens of solar panels and three Tesla Powerwalls, the home’s energy usage is nearly net-zero. “We don’t want to take more than we need to from the environment,” Rocky explains. “It also provides an extra layer of security, knowing we can keep the heat and lights on during power outages and storms.”
Thanks to higher temperatures, the Smiths are able to resume small gatherings with friends, including their Governors Club neighbors, Rocky’s fellow Pittsboro Rotary Club leaders, and of course, Jennifer’s family. And when they’re not cooking for a crowd, the family enjoys takeout from nearby restaurants Flair and Tarantini. “Restaurants like these make our community what it is,” Rocky says. “We are thankful to have them here – the food is delicious, but just as important, the [employees] make you feel like family. That sense of community is what helped us get through the pandemic and only reinforces our decision to build our forever home here.” CM