Home of Distinction: Phantasmagoric

BY Marimar McNaughton

An enclave of three waterfront cubes linked by open decks and courtyards plastered together with oyster-shell tabby seamed with copper could be a modern mirage or some vine-covered relic recently reclaimed. Capped with sloping pyramids the rooflines float above the horizon framed by mitered mahogany beams like ship timbers dredged from the sea bed. Aged or new age the house on Ocean Ridge Drive appears like a mystic sanctuary in a neighborhood known for its restrained architectural values.

Alluring passersby beguiling boaters captivating golfers from the fourth tee box of Landfall’s Ocean Course and pushing the owners into a new comfort zone architect Michael Kersting designed this home for Jerry and Patty Van Schaick uprooting the couple from their Georgian sensibility nudging them into an über southeastern-transitional nautical-inspired prairie-style-influenced contemporary dwelling anchored to the natural setting.

“I absolutely love it ” Patty says.

“It’s a collaboration ” Kersting says. His wife landscape architect Pamela Kersting and project manager Mark Wilson contributed to the design process as did others at the firm. “We all work together to get these things designed. The owners are very much a part of it of course.”

“Every house we had lived in was traditional red brick. We wanted something outside the box ” Patty says. Pointing to Kersting she adds laughing “He’s outside the box.”

“We found the property first ” Jerry says. “It really started off with a blank slate with no preconceptions at all.”

“We walked the property as I recall and talked about the kind of house that could take advantage of not only the action on the golf course but also the distant view and also the waterway as well ” Kersting says. “The view is stunning in my opinion. Something special needed to go here.”

Something special was inspired by an Andrew Wyeth painting “Christina’s World ” in which an invalid girl rests in the foreground in a barren field gazing toward the upper ridge at the horizon line and an old farm house. “It occurred to me that ‘Christina’s World’ had that image of a house that looks part of the landscape but is still very much a house. The rough grass closer to the house smoothes out and becomes a little bit more controlled. That became an important part of the motif ” Kersting says.

“Because this land had been undeveloped for so long in my opinion the property almost became an extension of the golf hole itself ” Kersting says. Surrounded by an undulating berm the sensitive but articulate landscape design buffers the course fairway where the house rises out of the rough.

The paved walkway leads to tabby walls that screen the main entrance. “I always try to create a journey ” Kersting says. “Rather than be so obvious about where the front door of the house is make the experience of approaching the door a nice experience. You’re forced to encounter the landscape a little bit.”

Lured into the courtyard visitors might pause to drink in the beauty of the design before approaching the covered entry. Inset into the front door is a stained glass window a symbol of the house embedded with clues like a secret key.

Inside the foyer guests are greeted by a surprise view of the water. To the right the carriage house; to the left the interior. Risers lead to the main level down a long corridor to the heart of the home where interior walls open to the kitchen where from the Van Schaicks’ perspective the design process started. “I wanted a place where when I did dishes I could look out and see ” Patty says.

Her view across the waterway stretches to the far shore and the Wrightsville Beach oceanfront. The centerpiece of the kitchen is an unconventional island designed like a freestanding counter with table legs. On the food prep side a granite countertop a prep sink and built-in cookbook shelves; at the other end an elegant maple tabletop with seating for informal dining.

Because the Van Schaicks their three adult sons and Patty’s mother Kay share the house sometimes all at once the family required a fair amount of square footage.

“Instead of doing some large box we broke it into smaller boxes smaller pieces that came together. There’s a main box that may have been here longer than the others. We kind of rationalized that a family built a home and then they had a carriage and they had to have a place to keep that and that became the garage. And then ” Kersting continues “they needed a room where they could really be out in the landscape so we abstracted the idea once again.”

The glass pavilion is what Kersting calls the overture statement for the entire house.

The copper-sheathed pyramid roof hovers over a halo of glass. Inside the clerestory windows are supported by what the architect calls “table legs ” mitered mahogany floor-to-ceiling support beams. The primary walls are glass. The cantilevered floor system supports extensions off this block one for a dining area on the west another for a sitting area on the east and an open deck to the north.

The glass room was originally just designed to watch the golfers the tee-to-green shot. In theory you could see a boat coming down the waterway look out farther and see the ocean without getting out of your chair Kersting says. “We were kind of inspired by the boats that go by and the nautical motif of this house kind of led us to think of some of the pieces like an old Chris-Craft motor boat with this beautiful mahogany wood. We wanted to use materials that felt like they were harvested right here off the property ” Kersting adds “with the oyster shell tabby similar to how Pembroke Jones built his lodge here years ago.”

With a limited palette of color and texture natural coquina shell white shiplap siding red mahogany maple and cherry Crema Marfil marble Solarius granite and copper patina the architects explored their nautical themes in detailed built-in cabinetry and finishes that morph into fixtures. “We feel that too many places get over-done on the decoration. We think if you really limit your materials and the forms to some extent that there’s complexity that will evolve ” Kersting says. “The house itself becomes the decoration. We kept exploring these themes in different ways.”

Most of the living occurs on the main floor of the large three-level central box. On the ground floor an enclosed walk-out basement outfit with den and full bath wine cellar and a gateway to an outdoor living room on the north end by the fourth green. On the upper level guest bedrooms and Jerry’s study drink in views of the surrounding landscape. Projecting from this core are a sunroom and adjoining patio the master bedroom suite and adjoining courtyard.

Furniture purchased for the house leans to the conservative treading on the idea that traditional furniture shows better in a contemporary home because it’s not competing with rich ornamentation elsewhere. A few signature pieces traveled with the Van Schaicks from their previous life — the dining room table the grandfather clock and the Schimmel baby grand piano. So did their three house cats — Smudge a gregarious Siamese; Cinnamon an aloof Abyssinian; and Maxwell a timid Maine Coon.

Anchoring the floorplan is the open staircase a masterwork of shiplap siding and mahogany trim that implies the unclad ribbing of a ship’s hull or the rigging expressed in finely crafted wooden details. A subtle ellipse opens on the starboard side of the staircase allowing light to penetrate from the upper floors or decks down below. “This device ties all three floors together ” Kersting says “and somehow hints that there’s another floor.”

The sunroom adjoins the kitchen. Furnished for sitting or dining glass walls frame the views of the Intracoastal Waterway. Through sliding glass doors the Van Schaicks can slip outdoors onto an open deck where Jerry slides into his endless lap pool for his daily swim.

The master bedroom comes off the main block of the house and counterbalances the sunroom. Furnished sparingly with an upholstered Chippendale headboard a floating highboy that doubles as a television cabinet on the interior side and Jerry’s bureau on the opposite side the emphasis in this room is on the glass walls to the north and south where Pamela Kersting has created private courtyards planted in ornamental shrubs and flowers around water elements. The master suite includes a walk-in closet and a bathroom with Durango travertine tile floors a shared shower with frosted glass walls and tandem entrances his-and-hers vanities and water closets.

At the upper level accessed on foot or by elevator a bedroom with a pass-through Jack-and-Jill bathroom is shared with a den that doubles as a guest room. Opposite Kay’s bedroom faces east and her adjoining bathroom has a seated shower feature especially designed for her.

Sliding wooden pocket doors create the entrance to Jerry’s study. From his desk surrounded by built-in shelves and a repository of books and papers it feels like the captain’s quarters with the bridge through sliding glass doors that open to the upper deck planked in Balau wood with ipe wood handrails and slender cables for unobstructed views. Here looking back at the house with its various roof heights and multileveled outdoor living areas extended eaves tailored mahogany trim the exterior elements come into focus.

“We really tried hard not to ornament things just let a material or a piece of wood be what it is ” Kersting says. “It’s just the summation of these pieces coming together that’s so wonderful.”

Jerry adds “It’s amazing. Since we’ve moved in I don’t think there’s one thing we would necessarily change. It’s worked out just the way we thought.”

Contractor List

These contractors helped make it happen

Homeowners: Jerry and Patty Van Schaick

Architect: Michael Ross Kersting Architecture

Contractor: The Farlow Group Inc.

Interior Designers: Michael Ross Kersting  Architecture P.A. and Suzanne Reid at T. Williamson Interiors

Furnishings: Suzanne Reid at T. Williamson Interiors

Draperies: Suzanne Reid at T. Williamson Interiors

Wall coverings: Suzanne Reid at T. Williamson Interiors

Kitchen Fabrics: Durable Fabrics and Thibaut  (through T. Williamson)



Appliances: Atlantic Distributors Inc.

Audio/visual/media: Electronics2You

Security: Property Protection Systems Inc.

Lighting: Ferguson Enterprises Showroom Lighting

Kitchen Lighting: Restoration Hardware

Fixtures/Hardware: Bird Decorative Hardware & Bath

Plumbing: Pipe Masters Plumbing Inc.

Electric: Holliday Electric Inc.

Flooring: Ed Newsome’s Hardwood Floors Inc.

Tile: In-line Tile & Marble Inc.

Painting: Rodney Williams Painting

Cabinets: Archer-Read Woodworking

Counters: Bach Stone LLC

Windows & Doors:

     Exterior: Classic Building Specialties

     Interior: Wood Harbor from Woodtech

     Front Door: Archer-Read Woodworking

HVAC/ Geothermal Heating AIC: O’Brien Service Co.

Structural Engineer: Woods Engineering P.A.



Landscape Architect: Pamela Tobin Kersting ALSA

Landscaping: Classic Landscapes

Stucco: Haynes Construction Inc.

Exterior Woodwork:

    Installer: Cole Building

    Supplier: Fitzgerald Wood Products

Pavement/Driveway: J & J Concrete

Pools/Spas: Endless Pools



Closets/Pantry: Closets & Things