Home of Distinction: To The Lighthouse

BY Marimar McNaughton

Banks Channel and the Atlantic Ocean surround Figure Eight Island like a moat separating this private retreat from the mainstream. South of Topsail and north of Wrightsville Figure Eight beach is accessible only by bridge by boat or by helicopter.

On this wisp of sand buffered by gnarled live oak trees on the north and blanketed by marsh grass on the west the slender shoreline a scant five and half miles between Rich and Mason inlets supports an enclave of lushly landscaped distinctive island and beach homes for people who relish their privacy.

Out of this manicured landscape a lighthouse beckons warning residents and guests that whimsy is welcome at the second address of Stan and Karen Pigman. The rambling shingle-style Arts-and-Crafts bungalow is a novelty conceived and created by the Pigmans their architect Cothran Harris builder Jimmy Burris and a hand-picked handful of artists craftsmen designers and technicians who shaped furnished and finished this fun house.

The centerpiece of the exterior is a three-story tower inspired by summers Karen spent on Bald Head Island. The Pigmans found other photos they liked and turned the images over to Harris.

“We said ‘Here sketch ’” Karen recalls.

The first drafts were balanced with the tower in the middle and decks on both sides.

Stan chuckles. “I remember Karen’s comment after the first plan: ‘Cothran can you be more creative?’ His response was ‘that’s a dangerous thing to ask an architect.’”

Stan believes Harris was looking for the invitation.

“His second sketch was it ” Karen says. “He’s very talented.”

The project was the first collaboration between Harris and builder Jimmy Burris.

“Everything in it was a challenge top to bottom ” Burris says. “Everybody had a conceptual idea of how we were going to do it. Cothran had an idea of what it would look like when he drew it. The only people that mattered in the end were Karen and Stan ” Burris said.

Burris says the Pigmans were on site one week out of every month.

“I’m not the kind of person that minds the owner being there. That just makes it easier for me. If I need a decision made they can make it ” Burris says. “The biggest challenge was ‘just finish it.’”

Burris also says that Karen Pigman probably does not give herself enough credit in the process. “She’s a hands-on person and likes to work. She can’t sit still. She’s going to be doing something and most of it’s very creative. That’s the reason why she and I got along so well because I’m a hands-on person too ” Burris says.

She made the templates for the banquette stitching cushions and assembling stained glass windows for the bathrooms. “She’s just a free spirit a lot of fun to work with ” Burris says.

Karen Pigman an interior designer in a former life claims her house was a group effort. “We did it together ” she says cheering everyone with her exuberant aesthetic and a zesty philosophy of life: “Just do it! It’ll be beautiful!! I’ll love it!!!”

Stone masonry tabby shingles quartersawn wooden doors eyebrow dormers dove-tailed barge boards roof gables a turret and a tower — all the elements of a textbook Arts-and-Crafts exterior are assembled under an idiomatic asymmetric roofline. Inside the home supports large gatherings of family and friends on three floors of interior living space.

Boulders pave the walkway to a low-hanging eave where a Mission-style bench announces the entrance in the base of the tower an arched Craftsman-style teak entry door made in nearby Hampstead. Inside the foyer the lighthouse metaphor is shaped with masonry stone walls pecky cypress beams red birch interior doors and an inlaid stone floor.

Burris said the lighthouse tower was a first for him — and quite a challenge.

The tower’s tabby exterior was made from coquina rock and finished by Dale Haynes.

Coquina is “those little bitty shells you find on the beach when you walk the tidal pools ” Burris says. “It’s old-timey stucco really. They put a scaffold all the way up and a coat of cement run that mud on it throw the shells into it and it sets up.”

On the inside Haynes used Dura rock cement board to build up the surface before applying the stucco to achieve the old lighthouse feeling.

The tower functions as the elevator shaft and a winding circular staircase with a wrought-iron hand rail sculpted by New York artist David DiSantis. Recessed pecky cypress window boxes and hickory risers carry the lighthouse theme to the second-floor landing.

The first floor is the guest wing with a private covered porch four bedroom suites a family room wet bar and children’s play room. Fanciful murals hand painted by Karen’s sister Audrey Yowell and Karen’s daughter Melissa Penley enliven the space. Three child-high portholes peer from the play area into the grown-up’s den.

“The theory here was that the little kids could sit here and color and their parents could be in the other room and watch them ” Stan says.

“On this floor we used a lot of things we already had ” Karen says “things we wanted to keep. We decided to sacrifice closet space for bath space. So we have double sinks and huge showers in all of the bathrooms ” she says.

The spiral stair continues to the second floor where the layout supports a spacious living and dining area open kitchen and private master suite and an expanse of glazed doors and windows to the west.

Karen and Stan commissioned cabinet maker Mike Powell of Coastal Cabinets to fabricate and install an Art Deco cabinet system inspired by one of their favorite travel destinations Napier New Zealand. The town destroyed by an earthquake in 1931 was purposely rebuilt in the fashionable style of the era.

“We had a photograph of one of the facades of the building ” Stan says which Powell recreated on site. Painted in Kansas wheat with a Pittsburgh blue glaze heather blue and cherry moldings Powell honored the Art Deco design down to the hardware incorporating covered and glazed storage for service ware glassware a flat-screen television and speakers above the fireplace.

Powell says his company mantra ‘if you can dream it we can build it ’ was put to the test. Spending 140 hours with the Pigmans planning and designing his crew spent 2 300 man-hours fabricating cabinets throughout the home.

Interior designer Angela Johnson of High Point helped Karen during the conceptualization and furniture-selections stages.

“She’s a friend from home. She and I have similar taste and we’re on the same page ” Karen says. “She saved me about six months of work.”

The living area is sparingly furnished but the choices are sensational statement pieces like the serpentine sofa that mimics the flow of the interior floor plan and elegantly restates the view of the meandering waterway. The moonstone blue ultrasuede upholstery was chosen for its durability the dining table for its scale the bar stools for their lively color. A burnished maple finish with a silvery rub on the oversized octagonal coffee table reiterates a primary architectural feature an octagonal ceiling that soars above the dining room. “We wanted something that could stand up to the architectural integrity of the octagonal ceiling ” Johnson says.

The 84-inch glass-topped dining table has a steel base with a stylized sunburst design in an Old-World European silver finish. The shapely dining chairs are covered in a multi-weave fabric in claret true red sky blue and green with a contrasting ultrasuede welt. The legs are finished in clear maple to blend with the pale hickory flooring. The table seats 10 comfortably but it’s possible to squeeze 12 beneath the stainless-steel and bubble-glass chandelier.

“The scale of the room is so big ” Johnson says. “In a smaller space these items might work against each other. The home is infused with loads of wonderful natural light which gave us the option of using a very strong color palette on the main living level that also reflects the Pigmans’ likes and personalities.

“Karen and Stan have a large family and entertain quite a bit ” Johnson adds. “Generally if people are there it’s not eight to 10 it’s more like 30 to 40 people at a time. They needed something large but they needed the quality as well because they don’t want to take the time to redo a house like this again.”

Johnson says the Pigman’s primary home in High Point is extremely traditional.

“This home expresses the vibrancy of their personalities. The whole development of the house from beginning to end was about space for everyone to be together ” Johnson said.

At the kitchen counter bar stools were hand-rubbed with an aged antique glaze in eggplant mustard and teal and a lively textile adorns the banquette cushions. Both the counter and the banquette a built-in breakfast nook bridge the transition from formal to informal dining and the food-preparation zone.

Cream-and-blue beaded board wood panels cover cabinet doors and front the Sub-Zero refrigerator and Fisher Paykel dish drawers. Brushed nickel fixtures and Dacor oven doors blend seamlessly into an iridescent blue pearl granite counter and a smooth-surface cook top. Food processors blenders coffee pots and toasters are hidden behind a custom cabinet that Karen calls the ‘magic appliance garage.’ Beverages are served in the living room from two wet bars clad with Costa Esmeralda marble to match the fireplace surround.

This open entertaining great room with living dining and cooking area is supported by a reinforced I-beam between the first and second floors and two load-bearing columns. One paneled in pickled cypress to match the finish on the interior walls carries the plumbing lines to the third floor.

“We could have made another beam here ” Karen says walking to the center of the living room “but I said you know what? Let’s make a palm tree out of it.”

Karen teamed up again with her sister Audrey daughter Melissa and daughter-in-law Trish Vanstory to spackle and paint the faux trunk in silvery bronze.

“We stole these off the real trees ” Karen says fingering the hairy bark. The artificial palm fronds decorated with tiny white twinkle lights set the mood for dancing under the stars.

“The electrician gave me a little switch over here ” Karen says. “Oh it’s fun!”

Planted like a centerpiece amid the Art Deco cabinetry and the fine furnishings the palm tree embodies the festive spirit of the home.

Beyond the palm a pair of textured-glass doors lead to the master suite inspired by the Pigman’s honeymoon at Caneel Bay on St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Majestic blue walls built-in cabinets with louvered doors replace bulky bureaus and disguise a silent butler refrigerator and flat screened television. Their private balcony overlooks the waterway.

The adjoining bathroom blends elements from the couple’s favorite places Napier and Caneel Bay — a copper-clad porcelain slipper tub a glass-tiled walk-in shower wall-mounted towel warmers built-in louvered-door cabinets and retro Art Deco light fixtures. “This is our fun bathroom ” Karen says. “We love our tub.”

The walk-in closet adjoins the bath.

The office or what Stan a Kentucky-born coal-mining engineer jokingly refers to as ‘world headquarters ’ is at the top of the lighthouse on the third floor. The elevator stops here and so does the spiral staircase. Sculptor David DiSantis designed an iron gate to fill the void. From the landing a view of the Atlantic Ocean sweeps out to sea from the tower’s clerestory windows. Portholes face north and south for uninterrupted views of Figure Eight beach. Stan’s inner sanctum is enveloped with double doors glazed with beveled leaded glass.

As much as the Pigmans entertain and allow their family and friends the run of the house they asked Cothran Harris to design a private space.

“They have the ability to close this off and people can have the run of the kitchen in the main part of the house and their private sanctum is here up at the top ” Harris said.

A sheepskin rug from New Zealand is flanked by cognac leather armchairs and ottomans in front of a stacked-stone hearth that Karen credits to her builder.

“That was Jimmy’s idea ” Karen says. “I said ‘That sounds really pretty. Let’s do it’.”

Burris also donated the mantel a sister piece of aged pecky cypress cleaved from his own mantel at home cut 30 years ago. The wall from mantel-to-ceiling is clad in old pecky cypress.

“We didn’t want to cover this pecky cypress with a TV ” Stan says so Mike Powell designed a Mission-style desk which conceals a flat-screen television. Powell also built custom bamboo work surfaces and woven rattan-faced cabinets a Gothic-inspired curio case and beaded-board cherry-stained cabinets for the wet bar with Fisher Paykel dish drawers Sub-Zero thermostat-controlled wine cellar and blue Carmel granite counter tops and sink surrounds. Glazed doors and windows face the sunset and an open deck beneath the gabled roof of the lighthouse.

“It took us a long time to do the ceiling ” Burris says. “We spent about three months in this room.”

“No one person can do this on their own ” Harris says.

“It’s important for everybody to come forward with their ideas and get them integrated into the process. It’s a team effort ” Harris said. “It was fun to do.”

Creating a Home of Distinction

Cothran Harris

Karen & Stan Pigman

James R. Burris Construction Co. Inc.

Karen Pigman with:
Angela Johnson Phoenix Designs Ltd.

Appliances — Atlantic Appliance

Audio/visual — Sound Decisions

Plumbing — Pipe Masters Plumbing
Ferguson Enterprises (fixtures)

Electric — Cribb Electric

Lighting — Coastal Lighting

Flooring — Atlantic Flooring
J. L. Powell & Company (hardwoods)

Tile — Sellers Tile

Painting — Larry Lewis Painting Corp.

Cabinets — Coastal Cabinets

Carpentry — J. L. Williams Construction

HVAC — ARS (American Residential Service)


Landscaping — Classic Landscapes

Pavement/Driveway — Neil Ross and Norman Wade (concrete)
Beauty Brick


Ironwork – David DiSantis Forge & Studio

Millwork (Front Door) Allied Millwork

Lighthouse (Tabby) – Haynes Construction

Furniture Maker — Brian Bortz