Originally created 05/14/00

Couple build home to suit lofty lifestyle



"James Brown comes over and plays the piano," Carol Bradley said, pointing to the antique 1842 Harrington wooden piano in her living room.

Al Bradley and his wife frequently have famous visitors at their Aiken County home.

Mr. Bradley, a judge in the Aiken County General Sessions Court for 10 years, now works as president of James Brown Enterprises.

Perched on the corner of Green Pond Road and U.S. Highway 278, Mr. and Mrs. Bradley's 12,000-square-foot home sits atop four acres overlooking the highway and the Kool Spot convenience store.

The Bradleys own the convenience store and chose to live there because Mr. Bradley grew up near the area.

Mrs. Bradley, a registered radiology technician at University Hospital for 11 years, now spends her days playing with her grandchildren and overseeing the completion of the house.

Mr. Bradley affectionately refers to his brick, two-story home as the "Southern Rose Estate." He said he calls it that because he loves roses. He has hired landscapers to create a large rose garden at the side of his house. The garden should be complete in a couple of months.

When driving on Highway 278, it's hard not to notice the Bradley house. The home's enormity dwarfs surrounding dwellings.

The Bradleys are in the process of completing three backyard gazebos, which are clearly visible from the highway below. One will house a spa area, one a bar and the other a cooking area.

The gazebos face the Bradleys in-ground swimming pool and tropical fish pond, which son Blair, 19, helped build.

Mr. Bradley said he and his wife of 20 years began planning the house 13 years ago. Construction began in 1990.

"We drew it, and we started building it," Mr. Bradley said. "I wanted a home that was custom-made for our needs."

Those special needs include a play area for their grandchildren, a separate downstairs bedroom suite for guests and a formal dining area.

The Bradleys say they cannot single out a room they like most.

"Each room is unique to us," Mrs. Bradley said. "I don't think I have a favorite."

Mrs. Bradley decorated the house in what she calls "a complete mix of styles." The decor includes antiques and priceless heirlooms as well as furniture she found at flea markets.

"I did it all myself," Mrs. Bradley said.

Mrs. Bradley said that she and her husband did not argue about the furnishings.

"My husband dreams," she said. "He's a dreamer, and if I find it feasible we do it. Our minds work together. We hardly disagreed on anything."

One thing that Mr. and Mrs. Bradley did disagree on was the carpet in their downstairs guest rooms and hallway.

"We almost divorced at the carpet store over this carpet," she said, pointing to the off-white specked carpet. "I thought it was too light, and he said it was fine. A pipe froze this winter and leaked all over the place. But we are going to change the carpet to all wood soon."

The downstairs sun room, which is 400 square feet, is furnished with ivory wicker furniture. It opens onto the large entertainment area, complete with a fully stocked bar, saltwater tropical fish tank and a place designated as a home movie theater, with a film projector, a wall-size screen and several sofas.

Old album covers line the back wall of the room. Framed pictures of Mr. Bradley with Mr. Brown, Donald Trump and other celebrities make the area look more like a trendy restaurant frequented by superstars than a room in a house.

The wine cellar is being stocked. Mrs. Bradley says it has about 20 European wines so far.

A buffet-style, deep-pink granite-top table lets Mrs. Bradley or Annie Batiga, their full-time housekeeper, set out food in the formal dining area. The formal dining room seats 12. The dining table is made of dark oak with a light wooden inlay. A French crystal chandelier hangs over the center of the table.

The gathering area of the Bradley house is furnished with a floral chaise. The most eye-catching furnishing in this room is the armoire, which is filled with expensive, collectible figurines from Thomas Blackshear, titled "Ebony Visions."

"My husband likes black history," Mrs. Bradley said, pointing to figurines of George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. "Some can cost up to $6,500."

The main bedroom suite has a separate sitting area. The side area has a couch and a television. The room opens up to a balcony that overlooks the pool and gazebo area.

The master bathroom has a large walk-in closet, an oak vanity for Mrs. Bradley and two lavatories.. The bathroom, decorated in red and green, has a Jacuzzi with eight jets and a separate shower area.

What's amusing about the bathroom is that the Bradleys put in a telephone beside the toilet.

"Since my husband is constantly on the phone, we decided to put one in right next to the bowl," Mrs. Bradley said.

The den has a blue and silver Venetian mirror. Mrs. Bradley thinks it is from the late 1920s. She found it at an antique shop in Augusta.

Finishing the tour of the house, Mrs. Bradley looks up and says half-jokingly, "Are you lost yet?" adding, "I don't want any more (house). Annie doesn't want any more."

Reach Barnini Chakraborty at (706) 823-3332 or barnini.chakraborty@augustachronicle.com.