When you’re born into a family that flies, Jeff Brinckerhoff tells us, then all you do is fly. Raised in the Washington, DC, area, Jeff learned from his father George how to fly planes. For several decades until the late 1950s, George was the manager of College Park Airport in Maryland, the world’s oldest continually operated airport. During this time, George hosted airshows that attracted many well-known pilots and spectators to College Park.“He was an ol’ barnstormer,” Jeff says. “After he retired, I ran the airport for a number of years.” It was in DC that Jeff met his wife, Michelle, who was also in the aviation industry. The two eventually moved to Florida where they ran a number of businesses, including a charter service and repair facility for airplanes, before landing on their current company. “We have a business where we track maintenance for people who have jet airplanes,” says Jeff.
When Hurricane Wilma hit, one of their neighbors decided he’d had enough of the intense weather and decided to leave Florida for Hendersonville. Michelle and Jeff were also thinking of making a change. “I moved to the Keys, and I would get up every morning and see the palm trees and blue water and I would go, ‘Wow,’ but after 15 or 18 years, the ‘Wow’ isn’t as much of a ‘Wow’ as it was anymore,” says Jeff.
When their neighbor invited them to visit North Carolina, Jeff told Michelle, “You know what? We haven’t seen the trees change color in 30 years. Why don’t we go see the fall?” The two jumped in their little twin-engine airplane and, in about three hours, were in North Carolina. Once in the mountains, the “wow” factor returned, and they soon looked into purchasing a second home. In 2009, the couple bought the first lot in Grand Highlands at Bearwallow Mountain, and their house was completed the following year.
They continue to spend time between Florida and North Carolina, enjoying the best of both areas’ seasons. “Everything just grows here,” says Michelle, a gardener by hobby. “You just throw seeds out and it grows!” There are a dozen hummingbird feeders outside, and the Brinckerhoffs enjoy watching them from the windows. Michelle tells us that each day the hummingbirds go through about two gallons of the sugar and water mixture. As you walk through their garden, you’ll come to a greenhouse with a collection of orchids, and the 32-year-old ringnecked parakeet named Squeaky (who is given to announcing that he is a pretty bird when you walk in).
In addition to Michelle’s hanging plants and terrariums, other pieces of the home’s décor express the beauty of nature. The front doors are made of solid mahogany. Carved on their surface is the image of an enormous tree. In the kitchen, you’ll find individually hand carved leaves on the backsplash.
Tiffany Prudhomme of Prudhomme Design & Interiors assisted them in the home’s design and style. “Our theme of our house in the Keys is nautical … We have fish, boats, ship heads. But with this one, we were trying to stay with something that looks like Western North Carolina.” In planning the home, Michelle and Jeff wanted to make sure they could look out over the mountains from each room on the main floor. Although flying in an airplane is a thrill of its own, living at an elevation of 3,850 feet means you’re always among the clouds. It doesn’t get much better than that.