Penny Hawkes received the best 50th birthday present ever. (Officially, it’s August 24th.) Winner of the MyHomeIdeas.com and Southern Living Choose Your Home Giveaway, this lucky entrant chose the Whisper Mountain's Whisper Creek Cottage for herself, her husband, Ken, and their family to enjoy.
Now residents of LaPlace, Louisiana, the Hawkeses have ties to the mountains and are finally getting a chance to come home. "I was born in Huntersville, and Ken and I met when we were both working in Charlotte." Their careers took them to California and then to Louisiana, but Penny says, "We always said we would retire to North Carolina."
Persistence paid off for Penny Hawkes. This devoted winner visited MyHomeIdeas.com and Southernliving.com every single day to enter the Choose Your Home Giveaway Sweepstakes. Her winning entry was chosen from more than 5,000,000 received.
“The Whisper Creek Cottage was the only house I entered for,” Penny says. “I called my friend, Arlene, and told her to enter too. I said, ‘Someone’s got to win, and it should be us,’ never imagining that it would really be me. I’ve never won anything in my life.”
The mountains have always held a special place in Penny’s heart. She’s from there, after all. Though she’s running LaPlace Optical, a thriving eye care business in LaPlace, Louisiana, she’s anxious to make an escape as soon as possible to meet her new home.
Her parents, North Carolina residents, are equally excited that the Hawkeses' dream of retiring to their home state will come to fruition. “When I found out I won, I called my mom and told her I was coming home,” Penny says.
The mountaintop community of Whisper Mountain covers more than 270 acres in one of the most beautiful and culturally diverse areas of the South. Just 17 miles outside of Asheville, North Carolina, the Blue Ridge Mountains have long been a go-to for outdoors enthusiasts and those who just need a cool, breezy retreat.
On the property, Penny and her family will find creeks, meadows, trails, and panoramas of the mountains and valleys below. The center of the community, Sky Valley Lodge, will serve as an extended gathering spot for the Hawkes family with its spacious decks and cozy gathering area around a stacked stone fireplace. ” I hope to make it up in time to celebrate my birthday,” Penny says. “And after that, I plan to spend as much time there as I can.”
With close proximity to Asheville, Penny and her family will have the best of both worlds: a private mountain getaway and a city center brimming with culinary delights and a thriving arts and music scene.
She’s likely to embrace local favorites such as Tupelo Honey Café, beloved for its shrimp and grits and pecan crusted chicken, Biltmore House and Biltmore Village, America’s largest home and adjacent shopping area, and the Blue Ridge Parkway Visitor Center, a LEED-certified building with interactive maps of the area’s sights and activities. “I’ve been to Asheville a couple of times, but I’ve never gotten to spend a lot of time there. It will be fun to get to know the city better,” Penny says.
Charmed by the house and its location, Penny says, “It looks like a little cabin in the woods.” She’ll find out soon that the house is just that -- set over a creek with spectacular mountain views. Perfect for a family getaway or just relaxing on the porches, Penny and her family may find themselves relocating sooner rather than later.
Designed in the mountain Arts-and-Crafts style, Penny’s new home is made of natural materials pulled from the site. Poplar bark dresses the facade, and the ceiling of the master bedroom. Locust tree columns support the front porch, rhododendron branches form porch railings, and salvaged barn roofing give that timeworn appeal that adds to the home’s indigenous look.
And because it’s a North Carolina HealthyBuilt home, it’s just as environmentally friendly as it looks. “I love that they used recycled things and composite siding,” says Penny. “I didn’t want a house that would require a lot of upkeep.”
“My daughter, Hannah, was in Gatlinburg when I got the call that I had won,” Penny says. “Everyone there said they were already planning Thanksgiving at Whisper Creek.
“I’m so excited about the kitchen,” says Penny. Part of the modular home system delivered to the site, the kitchen features cabinetry that wraps one side of the great room. A granite-topped island will suit casual meals for Penny’s family -- or serve as the Thanksgiving buffet.
“I love the area, and I love my family. We usually make it to the mountains two or three times a year, but now, we can all spend more time together,” Penny says.