CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Sitting at a desk in his upstairs home office, Gaston Caperton looks out over the Kanawha River and two manifestations of his achievements.
He can see the glittering gold dome of the Capitol, where he served eight years as governor of West Virginia, and the hilltop office building that was the headquarters of McDonough-Caperton Insurance Co., which he headed for more than a decade.
"I always wanted a house with a view," he remembered telling the real-estate agent showing him a house when he decided to return to Charleston.
Margo Teeter told him to walk around the side of the house next door. He did.
"The view is such a surprise," he said.
"I can see my old office building, the Capitol, the green trees. I thought, This would be perfect.'"
And the 90-year-old English-Colonial house was for sale.
"It was in horrible shape," said Otis Laury, who has been overseeing the remodeling, decorating and landscaping at the South Hills house since Caperton bought it nearly two years ago.
For the past 15 years, Caperton has been living mostly in New York City, where he was president of the College Board until he retired in December.
"I think Charleston is one of the prettiest cities in the world, with its mountains, the river and the beautiful trees. It's very nostalgic for me," he said earlier this month.
To take advantage of the view, a wall of windows was installed in the living room. The view is the focal point of the adjacent dining room. Even an upstairs walk-in shower is all glass so the bather can look for miles upriver.
Outside, there are brick patios and strategically placed benches to gaze at the view and lush gardens filled with flowers, shrubs, trees and contemporary sculpture.
"Otis gets all the credit," Caperton said of his longtime friend. "He's amazing. He's a carpenter, a chef, a gardener, an artist."
He showed off a walkway along one side of the house lined with flowers, ferns and hostas, where only weeds grew before. "Now, it's like a magical walk. Otis did all this."
Inside the house, a visitor could spend hours studying the photographs, admiring the artwork and reading the framed quotations that inspire him.
It seems as if Caperton has surrounded himself with family and friends through the furnishings. He confirmed that sensation.
"It's a very comfortable house. It's all about West Virginia, family and friends," he said.
The handmade dining room table and chairs are by Gat Creek, the furniture manufacturing company owned by his son Gat, as are all the beds, dressers and his office desk. An antique desk and a marble-top shaving table in the living room belonged to his grandfathers.
Throughout the house are black and white photographs taken by son Jeb, a teacher and writer living in California.