Dwell in the Swell

BY Danielle Boisse

Alongside Banks Channel lies a dwelling with an art-infused interior vibrant colors and a creative use of materials. Homeowners Jennifer and Robert Barker found inspiration for their condo from their travels around the world particularly from Jade Mountain Resort on the island of St. Lucia. After vacationing at the resort described as “a cornucopia of organic architecture in celebration of nature’s most alluring settings ” Jennifer and Robert were eager to pour their inspiration into a remodel of their beach home.

With two sons one daughter and another son on the way the Barkers travel from Raleigh to Wrightsville Beach on weekends and during the summer months to enjoy the beach and outdoor activities. The condo facing west across Banks Channel and anchoring a sandy beach near the causeway bridge was at purchase full of traditional brass hardware mirrored walls and gaudy light fixtures. They stripped down the space and redirected its focus into a simpler aesthetic with innovative customized features.

The Barkers began working with Jennifer Kraner principal interior designer at Big Sky Design over a year ago.

“They wanted their beach house to feel like a home and make it feel as warm as possible. They didn’t want it half-dressed; at the same time they wanted it to be their beach getaway ” Kraner says.

The Barkers share a contemporary vision driven by artwork color and the way light reflects off of materials. They worked collaboratively and brainstormed with Kraner and local artisans to develop out-of-the-box ideas then brought their concepts to the table. Big Sky expanded and refined them.

“I would call [Jennifer Kraner] with crazy ideas and she was fantastic about taking the ideas and making them come into life ” Jennifer Barker says. “We kept coming home with pieces of artwork that we would buy and I would call her from random places with more random ideas.”

Having already collected pieces from Australian photographer Peter Lik in their Raleigh home Jennifer and Robert decided to continue their collection at the beach. An ocean wave photograph with multi-colored illumination hangs on the right wall of the living area and many other Lik� photographs are used throughout the home as statement pieces. Jennifer and Robert purchased a blown glass semi-sphere with metal fish inside from an art gallery in Santorini Italy which is displayed on the left side of the fossilized concrete fireplace in the living area.

The couple used glass tiles from St. Lucia to create their own unique piece of art to cover the television in the living area. They collaborated with a woman at the Jade Mountain Resort gift shop who had worked with the original architect of the resort. After drawing sketches on a napkin the Barkers took the napkin home and used the design concept in their living area which quickly became the focal point.

Robert Barker was particularly inspired by the vibrant tiles and sourced them for his beach home. The kitchen backsplash and master bathroom reveal the exclusive multi-colored tiles in cobalt blue turquoise and orange. The textured tiles shimmer with iridescent and opalescent reflections.

“We tried to use tiles in areas that got sunlight. The kitchen gets so much light coming in from the windows. It looks like crushed glass with organic texture. They have a beautiful quality when the sunlight catches it and it shimmers ” Robert says.

Jennifer’s favorite space is the kitchen. The open facing island- done in teal — pulls from the backsplash tiles and the shape is mirrored in the soffit above. High gloss white upper cabinets were also used to reflect light while the lower cabinets are done in a wood tone that shows grain and creates more warmth. The designer concrete countertops by Carve Surfaceworks have seashells and coastal aggregates that integrate nature into the space.

One of the largest transformations during the renovation was the reconfiguration of the master bathroom.

“The master bath held up the entire project. It was a smaller space and Robert’s idea was to open it up and he wanted an infinity pool bathtub like the infinity pools in St. Lucia. It took us a long time to get it right and see how it would open up to the bedroom. My husband is an out-of the box thinker — he has beautiful ideas that take a long time to make happen ” Jennifer says.

A fireplace floats between the master bedroom and bath creates an inviting transition between the two rooms. The space is balanced with a glass shower enclosure on one side and an open minimalistic concrete vanity at the point of entry. A band of cobalt blue tiles produces a glowing current from the tub surround to the bottom of the shower. A large photograph of the moon hangs above the tub and peeks through the glass of the double-sided fireplace.

Jennifer and Robert were consistently inspired by innovative design ideas they found online or in magazines. They referenced a wood ceiling in Dwell Magazine and worked with Kraner to create it in their own way. Local carpenter Matt Hosmer inlaid stained blocks of wood on the master bedroom ceiling at varying heights and depths. The three-dimensional texture and organic warmth of the custom installation juxtaposes the cool and iridescent tones in the tiles from the fireplace and the adjacent master bath.

“Some people love their stuff. They love great design. They wanted everything to be very well designed. They don’t want a lot of stuff but what they have they really love ” Kraner says.

Color contemporary prints and efficient uses of space carry through the children’s bedrooms and bonus room downstairs. A Murphy bunk bed with incorporated ladders allows both boys to share a room and have plenty of floor space to play. The downstairs has a wall unit Murphy bed that displays artwork when the bed is pulled down. Jennifer’s favorite color orange dominates fabrics and wall colors in guest and bonus rooms.

Jennifer and Robert look forward to enjoying their outdoor spaces and relaxing in their new Adam and Eve pod chairs while watching their children play.

“I love looking out at the channel and seeing the sun go down. I love the outdoor spaces and how everything points to the water. Our overall goal was to have a place to relax as a family and connect as a family unit. That’s what the beach is about ” Jennifer says.