Southern Masterpiece

by Melissa Sutton-Seng
November 2019

Home of Distinction

Carriage House and main house draw on the south's roots

On the south end of Figure Eight Island near Mason Inlet staMelissa Sutton-Sengnds a new home that is at once a classic beach house, a Southern architectural throwback, and a modern coastal retreat.

Homeowners Carol and Tim specified that the home should feel organic and embrace the ocean and then gave their team freedom to create and elaborate on that theme. Architectural designer Mark Wesley Parson of Southern Pines innovated on a style created in the South before the advent of air conditioning: the breezeway, also known as the dogtrot.

A breezeway house was traditionally a one-story home with a wide, open-ended hallway in the center and living spaces on either side. Combined with well-placed and plentiful windows, the design created airflow to combat the heat of long summers. For the Mason Inlet home, Parson employed three breezeways, two in the main house and one in the carriage house in what he says is not "a direct copy of a historical design, but it has the influences."

On arriving at the house, guests drive through the breezeway of the carriage house, which serves as Tim's office.

"When you drive through the carriage house, you look straight through the [main] house to the Intracoastal," Parson says.

A single-bay garage on the bottom floor of the carriage house is Tim's workshop. On the opposite side of the breezeway, stairs lead up to a small balcony and the entrance to the office suite. Complete with built-in bookcases, a large custom desk, and a kitchenette, it's the perfect setting for productivity that's only steps from the water.

There was a '50s-'60s era house on the lot that the homeowners lived in for their first summer on the island. When it was demolished, they salvaged the pine and repurposed it in the carriage house.

"With its distressed gaps, it has the old beach feel," builder Adam Butler of Kingpost Design and Construction says.

The cedar shake exterior of both the carriage house and the main home are painted a pale coastal gray. Shake siding, louvers, balconies, breezeways, and a clipped roof all come together to complete Parson's design.Although present, hurricane shutters are not visible from the perimeter of the property.

It is a shingle-style influence, typically what you would have seen along the coast, with a flared element at the bottom," Parson says. "I love the flares, the movement. When you drive through the carriage house, that ceiling, it has that radius."

Butler notes the structural integrity of the home, built to stand the test of time with solid construction and quality finishes.

"It is designed to last; the concrete goes all the way to the first level," Butler says.

Parson's design maximized outside living space, and designer Cathy Maready completed those spaces with furnishings that are both beautiful and comfortable. On the ground level, a large outdoor living room with an inlet view is furnished with couches and swing beds, the breezeway creating a cooling stream of air on even the most stifling summer days.

The outdoor bottom level breezeway flooring and patio is concrete mixed with crushed shells, polished to surprising smoothness and shine. The process is labor intensive, but the results are both beautiful and durable, the perfect setting for a soundside living space.

An outdoor shower and ground floor mudroom make trips to the beach -- and the post-beach cleanup -- even easier. At every turn, opportunities abound for connection with the island and water. There's a covered deck off nearly every room on all floors, each furnished with couches and rocking chairs, inviting homeowners and guests alike to enjoy the salt air.

Inside the home, Maready and her team at Elephant Ears Design continued the organic, nautical theme with a calming spa palette, a combination of soothing coastal colors in muted tones that create a peaceful, relaxed atmosphere. Shiplap walls and carefully placed touches give subtle nods to the beach and waves of the island.

The third floor is the main living area, its high ceilings and open floor plan creating a generous and welcoming space. Tall windows allow natural light in throughout the day and give gorgeous views of the island, inlet and sound.

A bright sunroom off the main living area offers a tranquil space to read and soak up the first beams of morning light. In every room, Maready selected colors that would give center stage to the people in the room and to the homeowners' art collection.

In the living room here, tall windows provide a spectacular vista. The view would have been partially covered by standard sofas, so a custom couch was designed by Hickory Chair for the space. A wool, ocean-blue rug from Nepal stitched with swimming fish adorns the floor. The TV is hidden in a custom cabinet, raised with an electronic lift only when needed. This is a feature repeated throughout the home, keeping the focus on people, art and the outdoors.

A custom chandelier of three interlocking circles hangs above the large dining table. The continuous rings of LED light brighten the space for late-evening dinners. The teakwood kitchen island countertop by David Simon of Nautical Woodworks is 12-feet-long, providing ample space for cooking and socializing. A line of barstools invites guests to pull up a seat.

Maready selected unique hardware for the kitchen, bath and built-in storage cabinets. Coat hooks shaped like octopi and drawer pulls in the shape of seashells call to mind the nearby ocean. Dustin Braudway of Blue Water Surfaces created custom concrete counters for the kitchen and several other spaces. He incorporated oyster shells into the kitchen countertops.

Just off the kitchen is a spacious butler's pantry complete with a wine cooler and built-in china cabinet. At the entrance to the butler's pantry is a "doggie cantina," created especially for food and water dishes for Carol's German shepherd, Greta. A green desk sits in its own nook below the pantry window, with small art pieces hung on each side.

Just beyond the office nook is a small powder room with elegant coastal touches including a mother-of-pearl sink and delicate white seashell trim on the curtains.

The master suite, also on the top floor, evokes the feel of a coastal spa retreat. Linen textiles and grass wallpaper give an organic feel. Custom rugs were designed and crafted with acoustics in mind as well as color and texture -- the balance of wool and silk provides both softness and durability, and rugs absorb sound and create a more inviting feel, Maready says.

In the master suite, transoms can be opened to create air flow and reduce the need for air conditioning, another throwback to traditional coastal Southern home design. Paintings by Wilmington artist Sandy Nelson hang here and in several other spaces in the home. Built-in cabinets frame dual vanities, hers with tiny glimmers of seashell shine. Overhead, a small chandelier of recycled sea glass lights the passageway from bedroom to bathroom. The bathroom floor is tiled with Italian marble in hexagonal shapes and light sea-green tones that mirror the nearby ocean.

The second floor was designed for frequent guests, with three bedrooms situated on one side of this level's breezeway and a full guest suite across the open space. Two louvered teak barn doors by David Simon were created to open and close off this space.

"A great deal of teak and mahogany were used in the home, a lot of it painted," Butler says.

In the first guest room, a window seat invites visitors to relax and read with a view of the sound. The bathroom glistens with muted coastal whites in the herringbone-pattern tile, mother-of-pearl drawer pulls, and Italian marble countertops. On the shower wall, tiles in deeper shades of ocean blue are reminiscent of sea anemone.

Light coastal blues give the second guest room a distinct feel while maintaining continuity with the spa palette. Soft textures in the linen bedding and Japanese rice paper on the walls bring warmth. A bone mirror over the dresser adds to the organic feel. In the bathroom, the blues continue in a striking natural quartzite countertop the color of a light Carolina sky.

In the guest suite bathroom, a figure eight knot graces the sink, calling back to the sea and the island. Blue glass tile accents the shower, and tiny white penny tiles cover the floor like smoothed pebbles on the shore. A headboard of woven seagrass is complemented by curtains adorned with marsh birds. Completing the guest suite is a large laundry room to make cleanup easy after a large family beach day.

A fourth guest room was designed especially for Tim and Carol's grandchildren. Brightening the palette for the kids' room, Maready used coral and teal along with a vibrant fish-theme wallpaper in the bathroom. In the bathroom vanity, a turtle "swims" in the form of a custom sink stopper, and tiny fish adorn the drawer pulls.

Two sets of bunk beds and a trundle make sleepovers for five easy and fun. Over each bed is a "porthole" built into the wall, opening to a tiny cabinet in which treasures can be stored and the Tooth Fairy can leave her gifts. Each of the beds also has a "periscope" nightlight to facilitate bedtime reading and scare away sea monsters.

French doors open from the second-floor hallway onto a central deck above the ground floor breezeway. A large, circular swing bed hangs ready for lounging at one end, and a fully furnished living space overlooks the sound on the other.

With its peaceful atmosphere, spectacular coastal views, and classic architectural touches, Carol and Tim's home on Figure Eight Island brings together many of the things that make life in the Cape Fear region like no place else.

 


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