By Emily Williams
During the past two months, the Lake Martin home of David and Tammy Lee has tested the limits of its intended purpose: offering enough space for a full Lee family vacation.
The Lees sought refuge in the secluded lakeside home when the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S.
The Lake Martin home-away-from-home was built with one key ingredient in mind – room for the couple, their four children and their three grandchildren.
“We’ve got plenty of space so people can spread out,” Tammy said. “Everybody got their own bedroom, and everybody got to choose how they wanted their bedroom to look as far as bedding and colors.”
Tyler Lee Martin, Tammy and David’s daughter, is a third grade teacher at Inverness Elementary School and taught at Edgewood Elementary in Homewood before her current position. Martin and her husband, Cale, have two children, Mabry and Crawford.
Kendall Lee is a civil trial attorney alongside her father, both practicing with Parsons, Lee & Juliano. Kendall has a 10-year-old daughter, Addison Lee, who attends Greystone Elementary School, remotely at the moment because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Allyn Lee Quinn is a former Edgewood Elementary School teacher who left the position to travel with her husband, Heath Quinn, a former Oak Mountain High School and Samford University baseball player who now plays in the San Francisco Giants’ minor league system.
The Lee’s only son, Peyton, is an athletic trainer with Encore Sports Medicine, where he works with student athletes from Fairfield High School.
While their children were growing up, David and Tammy would spend their time on Lake Martin at the home of David’s brother, Mark Lee, also an attorney with Parsons, Lee & Juliano.
As their family grew, Tammy began looking for a spot to call their own.
She found it in a lot in The Ridge on Lake Martin.
“I love that it is a safe area,” she said, adding that the neighborhood has sidewalks and streetlights. “It’s its own little community with tennis courts and a swimming pool and then it’s connected to the Ridge Marina, which is a newer marina.”
The Lees’ lake home was constructed with help from Birmingham-based builder Bob Harris and takes full advantage of its views.
“When you enter our front door, a double front door, the view is nothing but lake,” Tammy said.
The main den area boasts about 20-foot-high ceilings, walls of white-painted pine and an enormous wall of windows.
In addition to the den, the main level includes two master suites with en suite bathrooms, a half bath, kitchen, dining area and a large covered porch.
In the lower level of the home, there are three more bedrooms, a bunk room, a second laundry room and a covered patio area with stone arches and, of course, lake views.
All of the bedrooms face the lake, Tammy added, “They can lay on their bed and see the lake from every bedroom.”
Some of Tammy’s favorite aspects of the home came from places where she got a great deal.
Yoder Cabinets out of Sylacauga created every bit of cabinetry found in the home. Tammy would simply find a bathroom cabinet she loved, and the company would deliver something nearly identical.
“He is really talented,” David said. “He did just a terrific job and was very reasonable in price.”
In addition, Tammy said sourcing the granite in the home from Lakeside Stone in Childersburg was a fantastic experience.
“If you ever need stone, that’s where you’ve got to go,” she said. “They beat the prices of anybody around.”
When it comes to decorating and outfitting the lake house, Tammy sought help from her daughters to create a farmhouse-inspired, casual feel throughout the home’s shared spaces.
“We just wanted to go into the house and feel comfortable and casual and not feel like we couldn’t touch anything,” she said.
Vacation Outside the Door
When it is time to clock out, David and Tammy said they typically go into vacation mode.
“We do enjoy getting out on the water most every afternoon,” David said. “The grandchildren really like to fish, so we’ve enjoyed doing that with them.”
The family has also taken to feeding their resident ducks, Doc and Dolly, who have had ten ducklings.
“We can hand-feed the ducks,” Tammy added, laughing.
David noted that it isn’t unusual to see some sad faces when it’s time to go home. “Our youngest granddaughter sometimes cries when she has to leave,” Tammy said.
All of the activity has been quite appreciated as of late and a welcome distraction for the Lees and their kids during the pandemic.
When they first arrived at the lake to distance themselves, David and Tammy did notice a flurry of activity on the water.
David recalls that while at the marina waiting for their boat to be summerized, one of the staff members mentioned that, at one point, the marina had 500 open service tickets with people trying to get their boats serviced.
Though the lake has been crowded at times – especially during spring break, with the beaches closed – the Lees have found that Lake Martin has ample space to spread out and socially distance.
“It’s so huge that there can be so many people, but your docks are so spread out and the houses are not on top of each other,” Tammy said.
It has had its downsides though, mainly that the restaurants were shut down up until a couple of weeks ago.
“I’ll tell you one thing, we’ve done a lot of cooking,” David said. “We’ve tried a lot of new recipes.”
The grocery store they go to, Captain’s Market, allows a limited number of patrons at a time, and only one family member at a time can go in. Shoppers also are required to wear both gloves and a mask.
Two of the Lees favorite Lake Martin restaurants are Chuck’s Pizza and The Landing. Both establishments remained closed throughout much of the pandemic, opening a couple of weeks ago for takeout only. Tammy calls it “dock-side pickup,” rather than curbside.
It was a blessing to Tammy when restaurants reopened, as she was growing tired of cooking.
“The good thing is that we have two dishwashers at the lake,” she said. “So, that helps, but when all of the kids come down it is challenging to fit all of those dishes into two dishwashers.”
Company at the Retreat
Since the coronavirus pandemic struck the U.S., the Lees have been spending longer periods of time at the lake house than they have in the three years they have owned the home.
At first, Tammy said, it was just her and David. The kids and their families pretty much kept their distance.
Eventually, one of their daughters arrived with her children, then another went after the first one had left. David noted that their family has been fortunate to have remained healthy during the pandemic.
“They were taking their turns so everyone wasn’t all here together,” Tammy said. “Recently we have all been together, and it was fine because we’ve all been quarantined, and we made sure to be safe about that.”
Though Tammy muses that David’s blood pressure typically drops about 20 points on the way to the lake, the real world has taken hold of the vacation house, which has become a remote office for the entire family.
The farmhouse dining table has served as a classroom for grandkids and teachers, study space for Peyton in pursuit of his master’s degree, as well as a courtroom for David and Kendall.
“We have a swing bed out there that the kids love to lay on,” Tammy said. “Our granddaughter likes to go down there and do her reading for school; and David was on it the other day doing some of his work.”
“Until I fell asleep,” David interjected.
Tammy prefers to sit at the kitchen table with her back to the lake view.
“If I get outside, I’m going to get distracted,” she said. “I’m fine just sitting at the table on the side that isn’t facing the pretty lake.”
When in town, the Lees’ son-in-law Heath keeps up his workouts.
“He had to leave spring training to come home,” Tammy said. “They drove all the way home from Arizona. They quarantined themselves for a couple of weeks and then they started coming down to the lake for two to three days at a time.”
Heath will set up a makeshift batting cage in the driveway or jog to a nearby field to practice throwing.
He’s a professional baseball player,” David said. “Our daughter Allyn grew up playing softball, so she can catch and she can throw, but she’s on the receiving end of these long throws.”
The Lee’s son, Peyton, also spends time checking in on his students, making sure they are doing their exercises.
David counts himself “extremely blessed” to be able to continue to work from the lake, though he said it has been quite a transition.
“I’m a trial lawyer, and I’m used to getting out, taking depositions, visiting with clients personally and trying lawsuits. That has been the biggest difference,” he said. “You’re working remotely away from your office. You’re having to conduct meetings via Zoom.”
He said judges have been doing a great job keeping trial dockets moving. David has even started gathering depositions via video chat.
“There’s nothing like being able to talk to a witness face-to-face in a deposition,” David said. “It’s hard to connect with them via a computer.”
When it’s time for a trial, David and/or Kendall dress to impress – mostly.
“We actually had a hearing in front of a judge the other day at our lake house,” Tammy said. She even snapped a picture of David, dressed to impress – but just from the waist up. From the waist down, it’s all lake-living.