Hue Horizons Better than Beige

Following a global career and a lifetime of living in other people’s often bland spaces, Len and Marlene Rubin’s custom-build in the Reserve at Lake Keowee brims with personality.


Len and Marlene Rubin moved a dozen times during his 37-year career with Exxon, quickly settling into far-flung locations like Singapore, Hong Kong, New York, Florida and, most recently, Plano, Texas. So hen it came time to retire, they knew exactly what they wanted — and what they didn’t want.

“No beige,” says Len.

Work transfers often meant moving into what was available, and what was available tended to be nondescript neutrals. Their Reserve at Lake Keowee home, where they’ve lived for one year, eschews the shade in favor of grays, whites, and blues, selected with assistance from Kim Jackson at ID Studio Interiors.

The five-bedroom home was designed and built by Dillard Jones, and the Rubins appreciated the collaborative nature of the process. “With design-build, it was seamless, and it worked out really well,” Len said. “We went back and forth about room configurations.” Building on a cost-plus basis allowed the couple to get exactly what they wanted throughout the process.

After living so many places, the Rubins took their time before settling on the Reserve. They loved South Carolina and visited numerous communities, but kept coming back to the Reserve because of the lake, the mountains, the golf course, and, most of all, the people.

They also wanted a place that would tempt their three grown children and two grandchildren to come visit more often — a ploy that seems to be working. “They love coming here,” says Marlene. They can enjoy the boat, the lake, an outdoor firepit and hot tub, a rec room, and a fully outfitted movie theater, among other enticements.

After two years of construction (held up when the Vermont slate for the roof got snowed in) the Rubins moved into their dream home, which incorporates their favorite materials, including an exterior of stone and northern fir with a butterscotch stain. A massive walnut door leads to the living area designed to showcase the lake view. Sweeping arches draw attention to the 450-pound chandelier, one of several hand-made pieces in the home by Heirloom Stair and Iron in Campobello. 

The great room features a 450-pound chandelier, custom made by Heirloom Stair and Iron out of Campobello.

“They were amazing,” Marlene says. The couple was even able to visit the Heirloom workshop while the team was making the lanterns that line the paths outside. Len Rubin found the fireplace stones online and discovered the oval accent design on Houzz. He liked the stones so much that they added another wall of them near the stairs.

“We wanted this house to be not modern, not traditional, but something in between,” Len says. “And we wanted a lot of light.”

The kitchen was designed to Marlene’s specifications by Dillard Jones, with a huge assist from Taylors-based Jose Florez of Florez Fine Woodworking, a New York transplant to the Upstate who created cabinetry, furnishings, and more throughout the home.

Marlene didn’t like putting dishes in hard-to-reach upper cabinets, so she had Florez build sturdy drawers for plates, pots and pans, and more. He even created a large drawer with vertical storage for large spoons and ladles. The separate Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer creates more capacity and adds symmetry to the room.

Florez also created the table in the kitchen, the built-in storage in the butler’s pantry, and the walnut paneling and octagonal ceiling in the office. The master suite features fabrics, furnishings, and accents selected by ID Studio. Marlene said Jackson gave her options via email, and all selections were made having never seen the fabrics in person. “It worked out really nicely,” Len says.

A disco-ball-style light fixture adds a bit of modern flair in the master bath, which is full of Carrara marble. Florez created the cabinets and vanity, as well as the entire master closet, where the couple hung a century-old, intricately carved Chinese window shutter purchased during their time in Asia.

The Rubins spend most of their time in the kitchen and living room or outside, but when family and friends arrive, the lower level awaits with a wealth of spaces for entertaining and relaxing. The rec room — accessible by stairs or elevator — offers a gas fireplace, a large television, and a kitchenette with refrigerator, dishwasher, and beverage center. The adjacent wine room was a last-minute addition and features a unique floor made of wine barrels.

A wine room, located adjacent to the lower-level rec room, was a last-minute addition and features a unique floor made of wine barrels. A secret door from here leads to a theater room.

Through a secret door in the wine room is the the theater room, offering plush seating, acoustics-enhancing walls, and a big screen with a 4K projector installed by Simply AV. If the Rubins or guests are in the mood for golf but can’t hit the links outside, the golf simulator recreates holes on 30 courses. The exercise room offers workout equipment and easy-to-clean SwissTrax flooring, or they can choose the endless pool, a small indoor workout pool that uses current to keep the swimmer in one spot. The pool even includes an underwater treadmill.

After years of traveling the world and settling in new places, the Rubins appreciated the opportunity to create a home perfectly suited to their needs and desires. “We had a lot of talented local craftspeople working on the house,” Marlene said.

The team effort paid off with a decidedly non-beige home the Rubins, family and friends can enjoy for years to come.



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