Gray Gables Retreat

BY Simon Gonzalez

It was love at first sight for Jeff and Cindy Babka.

Jeff had just been recruited to be the new chief financial officer at nCino the Wilmington-based cloud banking company. The couple came to town to look at houses and the first one they saw was in the Gray Gables neighborhood off Airlie Road.

“We came down this street which I fell in love with ” Cindy says. “The house just had this wonderful positive family vibe to it. We went to look at 12 other houses. I told the real estate agent take us back to the first house. I just had a feeling.”

They loved the mature trees in the neighborhood the rocking chair front porch and the screened-in back porch. The brick patio and fountain was an ideal oasis for relaxing and entertaining.

The proximity to the Gray Gables Yacht Club a boat slip on the Intracoastal and being walking distance to Wrightsville Beach helped clinch the deal.

“We had lived in golf course communities in Atlanta off and on for about 15 years ” Cindy says. “We saw Landfall and what it presented in beautiful homes. We just thought we’d like to try something different. We’ve always been beach and water people.”

The Babkas hired Lindsey Cheek of Gathered to redecorate the interior of the home.

“We gave them our vision ” Cindy says. “We gave them the color schemes we wanted what we were looking for to transform this house into our home.”

The painting over the fireplace by Mary Rountree Moore became the template.

“She tailored the whole downstairs based on those colors ” Cindy says.

Some of the colors are obvious — the blue sky reflected in the chair rug and lamps. Others are subtler.

“This piece of artwork has some colors that are unexpected in a living room like the pinks and the purples ” Cheek says. “We didn’t make that a feature in the furniture but it lent itself to those lighter colors as well.”

The narrow entryway was dark when the Babkas purchased the home. Cheek brightened it — and the living room — through light wallpaper and white paint.

“The house was very dark and heavy and very neutral ” Cheek says. “The front and the back porches as great as they are they take away a lot of natural light. We put white on the walls and ceiling to brighten up the space. Once we created this clean palette we were able to see the porches as a plus. There’s a lot of greenery in the front and the back of the house. We wanted to bring that in.”

The open concept floor plan was important with kitchen dining and living being a continuous room.

“I remember our first homes kitchens were just a self-contained room that the cook was in ” Cindy says. “Another thing that drew us to this home was the open flow. It feels like a nice soft wave going from my bedroom into my living room into the dining area and then the kitchen area. I like having that flow with just spots of colors here and there.”

All of the furniture in the home was made in North Carolina.

“They’re not from here but that was something Cindy and her husband really loved ” Cheek says.

Jeff Babka loves to cook and the kitchen is his favorite room.

“Without a doubt his most important room is the kitchen ” Cindy says. “I find men to be better chefs than women because he likes to experiment more and I’m more by the recipe. And he loves the view from the kitchen. You can see the outside but also the living area because of the open concept.”

The granite countertops are new replacing existing butcher-block surfaces.

What was a small sitting nook adjacent to the kitchen was enlarged and transformed into a butler’s pantry and wet bar complete with a beer fridge.

“My husband wanted it so the guys could come here and have their beer or their wine ” Cindy says. “We can use this as our breakfast nook instead of using the big table all the time.”

Doors leading directly to the patio make it another great place for entertaining.

“It works out perfect because we can use the grill outside here and come straight into the kitchen area ” Cindy says.

With light bright colors predominating the living area Cheek and the Babkas decided to create a more masculine space for Jeff. The room they call the cozy den features blue wallpaper and dark furniture that matches the existing dark wood louvered doors and transoms.

“Jeff loves this room ” Cheek says. “We wanted it to still match speak to the rest of the home but we wanted it to be different. We wanted to give him a cool space that matches his personality. He can watch a game with his friends or entertain clients in a really comfortable setting.”

The large dining area is perfect for entertaining.

“We have a nice big table so we can have 8 to 10 to 12 people sitting around the table and breaking bread ” Cindy says.

The sea fan light fixtures add to the coastal motif.

The master bedroom presented a challenge because of the narrow wall widths. There was no room for traditional side tables beside the bed. Instead there are tiny tables with sconces above them to provide reading light. The furniture adds function and visual interest.

“It finishes the space beautifully ” Cheek says.

The sitting area and shelves help transform the master suite into a comfortable retreat and contribute to the home’s comfortable feel.

“We had been exploring different retirement places ” Cindy says. “We never would have even thought of this until the job brought him here. After being here he’s like ‘I think we’ve found our retirement place.’ We’ve got everything that we need here. The ocean which we love. We have the harbor. We’ve got a boat. We’re members at Cape Fear Country Club so we have our golf and our tennis. So he said somehow the job made our decision for us. We’ll be here for the duration probably.”