Farm life for the modern family

08/08/2014 3:21 PM

08/08/2014 3:23 PM

Liz Priestly and Peter Metzner created Avalon Farm in 2004 for themselves and two girls – then 11 and 13. They wanted a place to have horses and access to trails as well as proximity to all that Chapel Hill has to offer.

Located at 3908 Fern Creek Lane on just under 10 acres of gently rolling land off Orange Grove Road, the farm is less than 15 minutes from the UNC-Chapel Hill when taking NC54 to Orange Grove Road. Orange Grove Road also connects to Dairyland Road, which is used by many recreational bicyclists and joggers.

Metzner, a psychologist by training, teaches at Vance-Granville Community College and provides leadership training to executives. Priestly has many business hats: wellness/leadership coach and yoga instructor, and her ever-growing touring company to villages in Provence, France.

The modern farm house the couple built with the help of Redfoot and Weber Construction Company has served the needs of their family and businesses well. There is a private office with a separate entrance Metzner uses to counsel executives. There is a parlor to the left of the front door that Priestly uses to teach yoga. Both of these rooms have beautiful views of the horses enjoying almost 5 acres of three-board fenced pasture and a quintessential red barn.

The homeowners say these are their favorite rooms in the house. And both said they love to sit on the front patio and watch the sunset in the evenings.

“We designed the house so that it would have distinct separate wings,” Priestly said, “with separate areas in the middle for work and relaxation.”

There are three large rooms and two baths on one side of the house “where kids can do their own thing,” Priestly said. The way the two bedrooms and the other large room are laid out, one of the rooms is truly another master suite that could be used for a mother-in-law, Priestly said.

The couple’s master suite on the other end of the house has a spa tub, separate shower, walk-in closet and a large bedroom with double doors.

The entire house is light-filled and airy. Cathedral ceilings and large windows afford beautiful views of the farm’s natural surroundings. Set well back of Orange Grove Road, the house and pastures have stands of mature trees buffering it on all sides.

The house was built using many green-building techniques and energy-efficient products, including radiant heat in the etched and stained concrete floors that shine through the heavy traffic of farm life. Dogs and cats especially love the floors that are warm in winter and cool in summer, Metzner said.

Avalon Farm is just one of more than 150 custom homes Brad Redfoot and Ron Weber have built in the Chapel Hill area during the past 25 years. Redfoot and Weber helped develop The Highlands, Southbridge and Lake Hogan Farms subdivisions.

“The company was great to work with and helped us bring our ideas of home into being,” Metzner said. “This is my dream come true kitchen,” Priestly said. “I would love to reproduce this kitchen wherever I move. It is absolutely perfect for multiple people to use.”

The 12.5- x 14-foot kitchen has a gas cooktop, a new stainless steel refrigerator, solid-surface counters and solid cherry Shaker-style cabinets. The simplicity of design and the multi-paned glass doors of several of the cabinets reflect the outside, as well as allow for display of favorite dishware.

The kitchen is open to a large family room with woodstove and sectional seating area. A wall of books invites children to grab a favorite and plop down on the couch to read or watch birds and other wildlife through large windows.

“Whenever we entertain, everyone gathers here,” Priestly said. “It is such a comfortable place.”

There is a spacious breakfast area. On the other side of the kitchen is a formal dining room with ample space to expand entertainment into the open foyer and parlor and out to the large patio with pergola at the front of the house.

“We have easily entertained parties of 120 people,” Priestly said. “This is just a great design for executive retreats or large family gatherings.”

By erecting a large tent on the flat riding arena, the Priestly’s eldest daughter held a spring wedding at the farm where she has become the main manager of the horses boarding there, as well as, teaching hunter-jumping riding lessons and maintaining other duties at local veterinary and horse farms.

Although Avalon Farm is currently used for horses, it could be converted to use for other farm animals or businesses in keeping with Orange County regulations. The farm’s close proximity to Carrboro and Chapel Hill make it a great setting for many opportunities, Priestly said. Three-board fencing is fortified with high-grade wire fencing – providing a double barrier without the need for electric fencing. The fully-lighted and flat, dressage-size ring is good for teaching hunter jumping, Priestly said.

The four-stall barn is laid out so that each stall opens to an enclosed paddock. There are two paddocks separate from the main pasture. The barn has hot and cold water, feed room, tack room, concrete wash stand and above it all, a 500-square-foot bonus room that could be converted to a studio or space for a farm manager. It is already pre-plumbed and connected to a septic system.

The one thing the farm cannot do is travel with them as they expand their leadership training and touring businesses. So, with their children raised, the farm is for sale at $589,000 through Allen Tate Company listing agent Patricia Roberts. Go to to see more photos.

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