Lake Wylie custom builder Doug McSpadden grew up spending his summer days and winter weekends boating, skiing and exploring the nature-filled shoreline around the lake. He and his wife, Laurie, also have raised their two teenage sons on Lake Wylie with an active lifestyle made up of boats, Jet Skis, canoes, kayaks, wakeboards and camping. So when HomeArama, Charlotte's premier new home exposition, chose The Sanctuary on Lake Wylie as its 2006 neighborhood, McSpadden knew he had to be a part of it. His $2.5million prairie-style home with 9,600-square-feet under roof and 6,700-heated-square-feet took six awards at the prestigious show held this spring. Among the honors: Best Overall Home, Best Floor Plan, Best Outdoor Living Space, Best Master Suite, Best Media Room and Best Interior Design. "It was a neat dream," he says. "As an avid boater, lake lover and custom builder with Lake Wylie as my primary market, it was a natural progression to participate in HomeArama. It turned out better than I ever expected." McSpadden's Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home features four bedrooms, five full baths and two half-baths divided into three levels. The master suite and main living area are on the middle floor, with three individual suites and shared living space above and a tricked-out media room and resort-like outdoor area below. One of six homes at the show, this house was actually among the smallest. But living on the water at Misty Waters - a few minutes by boat from The Sanctuary - gave McSpadden first-hand experience in what an upscale lake house needs and doesn't need. "We didn't want to be the biggest house, a castle-style home or a Montana lodge," he says. "What we wanted was a really cool house that made the most of the space, that grew out of the earth and integrated itself with the environment. We wanted the house, since it's set back in a cove, to have an almost cavernous effect on the lower level, but have this beautiful sun-drenched conservatory on the upper level." McSpadden drew the design from scratch and fine-tuned the plan with Christopher Phelps & Associates. Stone and cedar shakes accent the exterior, which features Wright-inspired windows, a glass cupola on top of a staircase tower and a rounded stacked-stone area with a water feature. The main living space spreads across the lake side of the home, with a double-sided fireplace and an open, contemporary feel. Glass walls and glass ceiling panels replaced what would have been a screened porch to create a light-filled conservatory in the great room. "It was an after-thought that became a major feature," says McSpadden. In the master suite on the main level, black hardwood floors are a dramatic contrast to the peacock blue and cream linens and pewter accents. A large walk-in closet features floor-to-ceiling built-in cabinets and a plasma television. "It's easy to see why McSpadden's master bath took top honors with the garden tub's full glass view of a stacked-rock waterfall, trees, plants and a pergola. The walk-in shower with no door is worthy of a spa with its multiple heads and wands. On the other side of the main living space, the kitchen stretches from the front to the back of the home. One of the main attractions of the house is downstairs where lake living is enjoyed to the fullest. A huge built-in television with three smaller plasmas above creates an open media room. A wrought-iron grill surrounding a picture window sets off the adjacent wine room. There's also a poker table, bar, kitchen, exercise area, billiards table and full bath. Step outside and you're in Shangri-La. The fantastic outdoor living space with stacked stone walls features a double-sided fireplace with comfortable chairs on one side and an infinity-edge Jacuzzi and waterfall on the other. Two canopied day beds, a bar, a dining table, rockers and a love seat create different conversation areas. Rustic lanterns, copper accents and a dcor of slate gray and sage green help the area blend in with nature. "The outdoor space is my favorite thing about the house," says McSpadden. "This nearly 1,000-square-foot covered area wraps around the house, so even from the inside, you can experience the outdoors. The waterfall cools the space with breezes off the lake. And with the spa and the fireplace, it can be used all four seasons." Upstairs, the rooms use playful colors of wheat yellow, orange and lavender in a teen girls' room, a serene blue for a guest suite and a nautical theme in a boys' room. "The recurring comment we heard was that it was the most livable house people visited," says McSpadden. "It has a tremendously open floor plan, richly appointed details, soft warm colors and tremendous integration with the outdoors. Then we divided into three very logical levels. It has a great flow." HomeArama visitors also were impressed with The Sanctuary, which is uniquely environmentally minded with 200-foot setbacks, a full-time Audubon International liaison and incentives for builders who use "green" techniques. Developed by Crescent Resources, The Sanctuary sits on the northeast side of Lake Wylie about 25 minutes from uptown Charlotte. The 1,300-acre community features 188 preserves ranging from two to 13 acres and run $180,000 to $2.1 million. Of those, 46 are on a seven-mile stretch of waterfront. The Camp, a 17-acre neighborhood gathering spot, includes a 5,000-square-foot John James Audubon Lodge, six tennis courts, a competition pool, fitness center and a full-time activities director. More than 400 acres at The Sanctuary will remain common open space. In addition, buyers are attracted to the neighborhood's proximity to Charlotte, Lake Wylie's lower population and friendly feel, and the charming small-town atmosphere of nearby communities such as Belmont. Forbes.com recently named The Sanctuary on the Top Places to Live in the United States. Originally, Crescent planned 3,500 homes, two golf courses, a hotel and a marina for the land. "We want to be known as a developer of upper-end communities, but we also want to protect Lake Wylie," says Craig Martin, sales manager for Crescent Resources South Division. "We thought there would be a market for large acreage in a deed-restricted community, in a place with clearing limitations and as much of a low impact as possible on the water. People are truly enamored with the decision, and we've had a phenomenal response from the community." "But I think the bottom line is that Lake Wylie has all types of people along its shore-line and that's what it will continue to draw," says McSpadden. "I know one thing-it's going to be interesting to see how it develops."