Todays Custom Homes
Amid gently rolling, tree-covered hills, ivy-encased ruins of a stone chimney gracefully emerge from the grass-covered remnants of a long abandoned hunting cabin's cracked terra cotta floor. As the furor of a sudden summer thunderstorm gives way to the gentle patter of raindrops falling into a meandering stream, it's easy to imagine that this thickly forested space is miles from the hectic rush of Atlanta. Amid gently rolling, tree-covered hills, ivy-encased ruins of a stone chimney gracefully emerge from the grass-covered remnants of a long abandoned hunting cabin's cracked terra cotta floor. As the furor of a sudden summer thunderstorm gives way to the gentle patter of raindrops falling into a meandering stream, it's easy to imagine that this thickly forested space is miles from the hectic rush of Atlanta.
Yet builders Lisa and Scott Justus of Benchmark Homes have captured that tranquil feeling on a property located just minutes from a busy retail center and highway interchange. Their own English Country Estate-inspired home graces the site, where it effortlessly combines rich architectural detailing and rustic styling with an innovative floor plan that addresses their family's needs.
That combination of an inviting setting, welcoming exterior and a practical plan is indicative of the way the family-owned company has approached every home it's built in its more than three decades. "My father and mother (Larry and Elizabeth Boggs) started the company in 1971," explains Lisa. "There's something to be said for a builder who's been around for 34 years; it's tried and true." Lisa's brothers Kirk and Stephen Boggs are also builders with Benchmark, as is Kip Berry, an old family friend. A closely held family-oriented company that's been around for over 34 years in the Atlanta market is truly remarkable.
Also proven are Lisa's insights into building and designing homes, which begin with the first impression a house makes on visitors. "The elevation has to say welcome," she stresses. The Justus' own home features an impressive Old World exterior with myriad details. Intricate stone and brickwork blends with touches like copper roofing and gutters. Delicate antique rusted iron railings on twin Juliet balconies soften a massive arched entry door, while features like a distressed pine plank ceiling in the porte cochere and antique light fixtures collected from all over the world convey the impression that no detail has been overlooked.
Benchmark's neighborhoods - which range from moderately priced homes in Cobb, Carroll, Douglas and South Fulton counties to Vinings-area residences priced from the $700's as well as luxury retreats along the Florida coast - also are designed to convey a welcoming impression. Through the very accomplished talents of Al Anderson, the designer whose vision is reflected in all aspects of Lisa and Scott's homes - from the raw land to finished interiors - each home tells the story of its neighborhood's and owners' character, charm and personality. "The neighborhood and hardscapes are so important. The green spaces, sidewalks and roads work together to frame the homes and enhance
the design," she says.
Yet the interior is where Benchmark's homes really come to life. "Once you walk into the house, as a woman, you look at aspects like how it feels, is it inviting, do you want to stay - which goes back to attention to each of the details. You can incorporate large spaces with 12' ceilings into a home, but they have to feel comfortable, "Lisa explains.
Their own home, for example, features a spacious open kitchen and keeping room with a breakfast room placed off to the side. "It was very important to have our family gathered in the same place," Scott says of the plan. Details such as a rustic stone fireplace, deep colors and 150-year-old reclaimed wood columns and beams give the large and towering area an intimate feel. The resulting Colorado keeping room is Scott's favorite space and where the family spends most of its time.
Lisa's female perspective on building is evident in every aspect of the floor plan. "The way I think when I'm building is the way most women think," she says. "So I build in the aspects we like in a home - like ample storage space and closets as well as sunlight-filled spaces." In the makeup area in Lisa's master bath, for example, she included two strategically placed small windows "so I can see my children playing in the courtyard below and also let in natural light," she says. "Our house is unusual in that the master bedroom is upstairs. The design was very purposeful; we wanted to be where our children are. If it was a spec home, we wouldn't have built it that way, but for us, it's much more private. The elevator takes away the negative aspects of having to use the stairs constantly and the upper level offers a view of the treetops."
From the master suite's private terrace overlooking the trees to the lower level living space that leads out to the natural backyard and a meandering stream, to the formality of the French dining room and English library, to the charming secret English Garden with its boxwoods and soothing bubbling fountain just off the kitchen that offers a respite from a busy day in the heart of the city, the house is a study in detail and contrast that offers a surprise around every corner. As Lisa says, "Benchmark homes are warm and inviting. They have a gracious southern element that makes you want to stay."