Seeing Triple

Three options at one address

By Deborah Salomon     Photography by John Gessner

Houses can be 3-D textbooks chronicling history or sociology.

The first cottages built by the Tufts family were close to the hotel and without kitchens, since renters took their meals in the Casino building. Later on, people who stayed longer, perhaps for the winter “season,” brought children (who attended a schoolhouse built for this purpose), and needed cooking facilities and a maid’s room. Front porches, perhaps a screened one on the side, were obligatory for sitting and conversing with neighbors out for an evening stroll. Fireplaces got them through the winter. Before air conditioning, everybody left in May.

After nearly two decades of attracting wealthy urbanites, the cottages — now built on spec rather than commissioned — became smaller, plainer. Some were occupied by upper-level resort staff and village merchants, others by families drawn to Pinehurst’s rung on the social ladder. The best had enough land to expand.

Acadia Cottage, built in Old Town in 1917, conforms to some of these parameters but with a checkered history. Hugh McKenzie was the first owner, followed by another five by 1951. Only one — Mrs. W.H. Nearing — appears in the Pinehurst Outlook social listing of comings and goings. Records show that a fire burned off the wood-shingled roof, which was replaced by fireproof shingles for $300.

Now, beyond Acadia’s back door or through a side gate lies a magic kingdom — a mossy courtyard with a fire pit, a 50-foot-long and 11-foot-deep pool, massive stone benches for sitting and boulders for diving, a darling little pool house and a roomier guest house, both fully serviced with heat and AC, kitchenette, sitting room, a sleeping alcove and bathroom. No piece of this enclave appears strictly utilitarian. Each, whether it’s a cabinet or a conveyor-belt ceiling fan, offers an artistic, craft or historical component.

Antiques co-exist peacefully with reproductions and artifacts. Only living there affords enough time to notice, and appreciate, the array.

This enlargement and renovation was the brainchild of David Connelly, a Chicagoan with four athletic children, who wanted a vacation haven and found the overgrown back lot completely hidden from street view ideal. Connelly, a self-described wannabe architect, purchased the dull, dated but well-built “brownie house” on half an acre in 2000 and went to work. He and his contractor sourced stone for outbuilding walls from western North Carolina mountains, lumber from a demolished tobacco barn and the Reynolds estate in Southern Pines.

On a damp day, the boards still smell like tobacco.

They removed walls in the two-bedroom cottage, creating an open living/dining/den space, and installed a modern kitchen that, somehow, looks like it’s been there forever. A bath/laundry room with a half wall tile shower was added, as well as a Carolina room off the dining area. Details mattered; moldings aplenty, sometimes painted a color different from the walls, delineate the 10-foot ceiling. Over the front door, a transom pane. An old-timey wood screen door fit the timeline. Then, to frost this cake of many layers, a faux specialist painted wide pastel stripes from Marshall Field’s shopping bags on a powder room’s walls. Even more striking is the colored grid applied to the kitchen floorboards creating the look of scuffed linoleum, circa 1940s. 

The dull brownie house, called Acadia now, inside and out, glowed a pale green, neither mint nor avocado, froggy nor kiwi, but so organic to the setting that Jay and Kim Butler, who purchased the property in 2010, didn’t paint over it.

The story of their acquisition rings familiar:

The Butlers, from Virginia, with a second home at Nags Head, spent a weekend in Pinehurst. Kim had never been here. “We rode by the house on a Saturday and saw it was for sale. It had great curb appeal,” Jay recalls.

After 10 years, Connelly was ready for another project.

“I had to have a pool, so I loved that feature,” adds Kim, retired from the retail pool business, with an avocation for collecting mid-century modern furniture and unusual décor accents.

“We just liked the quaintness,” says Jay, an executive in a family recycling business. Golf was a draw, confirmed by memorabilia decorating walls in the TV den opposite the living room. Most of all, “It was in move-in condition, exactly the way we liked it.”

About a month later, they did exactly that.

Soon, their friends were lining up for invitations to test private guest and pool house accommodations which set this address apart from Pinehurst estates with designated guest quarters under one roof. Their verdict, Jay says: “Kinda cool.”

Each outbuilding has only one room — but enough features to fill a catalog, like a queen-sized Murphy bed hidden by wood paneling suggesting a library, or chapel. “Antiqued” cabinetry and metalwork, distressed painted pieces, leather chairs with half-moon ottomans, beadboard, an old porcelain sink, refrigerated drawers, vaulted wormy chestnut ceilings illuminated by stained glass inserts, a drop-leaf kitchen work surface that, with leaf raised, becomes a table. The guest house has a round-topped Dutch front door rescued from a wine cellar, and the pool house bathroom, with direct access to the yard, is split into shower, toilet and vanity sections along a narrow hallway.

Obviously, planning coupled with imagination were at work here.

However, fitting so much furniture into relatively small spaces can be challenging. Not for Kim Butler, who positions modern glass sculptures on a rustic table and adorns dressers with large, bare branches. Throughout, she uses traditional wide-slat wooden blinds.

Back in two-bedroom Acadia — compact but perfect with the living area opened up and furnished with Kim’s retro pieces — one standout is a small drop-leaf kitchen table made of aluminum tubing and Formica, with vinyl-upholstered chairs. “I thought about an island,” always convenient in a kitchen with limited counter space. Instead, Kim settled for what has become an emblem, a conversation piece.

Kim’s collection of colored pottery pitchers brightens a bookcase flanking the shallow living room fireplace, converted to gas for safety; other pottery and glass pieces cover tabletops. Texture, texture everywhere. The chandelier over the dining table is made of wood, and the upholstered club chairs qualify as shabby-chic. No two lamps claim the same parentage.

Kim furnished the screened porch in Chinese red lacquer and black wicker, strong colors that pair with the darkened knotty pine floors milled from trees cut out back.

Room to room, comfort prevails.

Who would guess what’s inside from strolling by, as Annie Oakley might have done when she lived in an apartment across the street? The well-tended walkway, flower beds and porch provide no hint.

Acadia may lack the pedigree of homes built before and during the Roaring ’20s — the Mellons and Rockefellers never stopped here. The Fownes and Marshalls opted for bigger and fancier rather than livable and convenient.

But, after 10 years walking to the village for dinner after a relaxing float in the pool, then chasing the dogs around the fenced yard, Jay Butler concludes, “It’s just a good place to have a home.”  PS

Blast from the Past

Out with the new! In with the old!

By Deborah Salomon  •   Exterior Photos: Derk’s Works     Interior Photos: By Colette Photo

And now, for something completely different:

A residence titled Lansmyr Cottage, embraced by overgrown shrubs, vines, moss, weeping cherries, centenarian trees at the end of a long, narrow, unpaved driveway — amid yet hidden from old town Pinehurst mansions.

Eight bedrooms, 11 bathrooms on three levels approaching 9,000 square feet.

Two pianos, one a spinet, the other a concert-worthy grand by Mason & Hamlin, the craftsmen lauded by Rachmaninoff and Ravel.

A home-school classroom with a skeleton in the corner, for teaching purposes.

A gazebo and two-tier treehouse.

Five fireplaces with carved mantels, no two the same.

Eight-zone AC.

A working call bell system to summon servants.

An attic playroom only 7 feet shorter than a regulation bowling lane.

A master suite encompassing two bedrooms, two bathrooms and a sitting room.

All things considered, a residential relic that shuns hyper-electronics, paneled Sub-Zeros and similar stressors.



Obviously, a house this unusual reflects the family within: Nathan and Jacqueline Spearing and their children, Abel, Sophie, Eli, Aria and Jude. Their lifestyle follows religious tenets, as does their house, on occasion. The Spearings have hosted prayer meetings, an Easter egg hunt (2,000 eggs) and a sunrise service attended by 170 followed by brunch, without crowding. The house also showcases Nathan’s restoration business, Transform, N.C. Jacqueline, an accomplished classical pianist, fills the expanse with music.

Therefore, this home must be viewed through a different lens than neighboring renovations with altered floorplans, spa bathrooms, electronic gadgetry and High Point heirlooms.


Nathan, from Alabama, has six siblings. Jacqueline, from Florida, has 10. Imagine the cousin count when the families gather for holidays.

Nathan’s mechanical aptitude blossomed while helping his father and grandfather with renovations and construction. He is conversant in many trades, eager to accept the challenges of plumbing, heating, carpentry or laying vintage tiles. When Nathan retired from Special Operations at Fort Bragg, the growing family gravitated to Moore County, where he purchased and renovated a 1400-square-foot cottage, circa 1918, in downtown Southern Pines.

Several more projects preceded Lansmyr. Their purpose, Jacqueline says, was to strike a balance: “We wanted modern living with the beautiful details that were worth preserving.”

“Each house has a story,” Nathan says. “When you work on a house as a tradesperson, you can see the craftsmanship.”

Jacqueline casts a designer’s eye. “The curved glass, the carvings, the transoms — you don’t find that in new homes.”

Occupying the house during renovations deepened the experience, especially at Lansmyr, where blue-blooded ghosts roam long halls with polished floors.


Chicago insurance magnet Lansing B. Warner discovered Pinehurst, then a chic winter resort, in the early 1930s, while visiting a stepson at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. He appreciated the clientele, the social scene, and decided to build. Greensboro architect William Holleyman (responsible for the Cone Estate in Greensboro’s posh Irving Park) designed a Colonial Revival with Georgian details, including a Chippendale winding staircase and several areas with vaulted barrel ceilings.

When the announcement was made, the Pinehurst Outlook envisioned dancing in the streets with church bells ringing to celebrate the first substantial winter home construction since the beginning of the Great Depression. The house was completed in time for the 1934 “season.”

After Warner’s death in 1941, his wife sold Lansmyr to J. Stillman Rockefeller and his wife, the daughter of Andrew Carnegie II.

Imagine the name-brand guests entertained within these walls.


The bloom had faded when the Spearings purchased the house in 2016. Bones and plaster, still strong, but the guts (plumbing, wiring) had to go. “This is the best-built old house I’ve encountered,” Nathan says, because of the plethora of skilled labor available during the Depression. “This was my Ph.D. house. I knew what to do. I knew it would be our family home.”

The family moved in as work progressed, the children all bedding down in one finished room with fireplace near a functioning bathroom, then splitting up as other rooms were completed.

At this juncture, most renovationists — as opposed to restorationists — start moving walls. Not the Spearings, who, with minor exceptions, left both footprint and floorplan intact. This means a ground floor guest bedroom historically called “granny’s room” assuming an elder could not manage stairs; smallish bath and powder rooms; and a hall running the length of the longitudinal layout angling into a servants’ wing and three-car garage with chauffeur’s apartment.

These wings, some distance from the master suite and with modest rooms intended for the help, make ideal quarters for older children. Two of the Spearing boys share a room there; the other three children have singles.

But where are the toys, the dolls, the balls and games? In that long attic rec room with a TV where the children can watch videos and movies if they’re stuck inside.

“Our kids play and ride bikes outside,” Nathan says.


The Spearings’ strongest preservation statement remains the kitchen. In the luxury home market where dream kitchens clinch sales, this one hums retro. Not only have the tall carpenter-made glass-front cabinets remained intact, they have been repainted the eerie pale green of yesteryear, when the cook ruled the kitchen, not the chatelaine. Countertops were replaced but the porcelain sink and double drainboards stretching 10 feet survive. This layout forced the dishwasher into an elongated butler’s pantry which has another sink, intended perhaps for flower arranging.

Concession was made for a tea-coffee prep area, a European six-burner gas range and a tall refrigerator in sleek brushed metal.

“I thought an island would be convenient but . . . ” Jacqueline says. Instead, daytime meals are eaten at a free-standing modern table and chairs while the family gathers nightly in the dining room, at a 12-foot table with rough-hewn top and massive turned legs. The former servants’ dining room now serves as a pantry and utility space.

Furniture throughout is sparse but functional, including frigate-proportioned beds. A few pieces and artwork come from Jacqueline’s mother, but heirlooms aren’t plentiful in large families.


The couple’s palette veers from traditional pastels, substituting a variety of greens — from money-hued to swamp to lemon-lime — using a British paint with dense pigment and a velvety matte finish. Charcoal grey appears, even a daring mauve bedroom adjacent to a purple bathroom. Nathan learned that dark colors suit larger rooms, as well as highlighting trim. Window treatments are few, partly because the Spearings love natural light, also because the children discovered swinging on the drapes. Area rugs splash multi-colors and abstract designs over stained wood. Nathan built a wall of bookcases in the living room where the top shelf houses Jacqueline’s collection of globes.

The overall effect: vast, from the grand piano filling a bowed window in a sunroom large enough for a recital to two acres of enchanted forest where siblings play, instead of watching TV; uncluttered; bright. Lansmyr is playbook for opposing lifestyles: first opulent, maintained by servants; now a family-oriented retreat from worldly distractions.

“When I left the military we could have moved anywhere,” Nathan says, “but we love this community. Most important, we have a lot of people here that we love in the military and church communities. This is where we want to put down roots.”

Or, as his motto proclaims: “Still livin’ the dream.”  PS

Story of a House

Cabin Fever

Historic homes and life lessons

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by Laura Gingerich

Walls can’t talk. Except for creaks, neither can rough-hewn floorboards or unscreened windows. Too bad, because their stories would describe a life primitive in comparison to ours. A life without air conditioning, indoor plumbing, electricity. A life where large families were the norm, as was burying a child or two.

A life where women stayed home. A life that fascinates for its simplicity and hardship, considering how complicated and automated ours have become.

These lives may, after all, speak best through their homes.

A Village Grew Around It

Shaw House sits, stoically, on a downtown Southern Pines corner within sight of a bank, a pub, a gas station, a gym and a Mexican restaurant — futuristic anachronisms, given its weathered boards and sloping porch. The date on one of two massive sandstone chimneys reads 1842, although the house itself was constructed in 1820 by Charles Shaw, a first-generation Scottish settler, on 2,500 acres of farmland. Perhaps the later date reflects addition of the porch and “travelers’ room,” usually with a separate entrance, occupied by itinerant preachers or craftsmen.

Water was drawn from a well. Houses of this era lacked kitchens; food preparation took place in an outbuilding distant enough so the inevitable fire would spare living quarters.

Step through the front door into a dim antithesis of 21st century bright-and-beautiful homes. Windows are small, unscreened and low-set — some shaded from blazing summer sunlight by the front porch. Walls, like floors, are random-width pine boards weathered gray, with the occasional decorative beadboard or faded green paint. Floors slant noticeably toward the doorsills. Low tables and chairs accommodated people of smaller stature, but no one seems to know why ceilings soar.

Obviously, utility was the architect here, yet few provisions were made for Shaw’s children. When not working the fields, they must have gathered in the “greeting” room just inside the front door. The dining area also seems cramped for that brood, as does the parlor. During winter months, perhaps they drew close to one of three fireplaces to finish their lessons. Since the house has but a single designated bedroom, the eight surviving siblings (two died in infancy, two encamped during the Civil War) must have slept in the narrow loft with angled ceilings, a tiny window and no insulation.

Imagine the heat, the insects.

Yet this dwelling housed a family of substance, ambition. In 1887, son Charles “Squire” Shaw became Southern Pines’ first mayor. The house remained in Shaw family ownership until acquired by the Moore County Historical Association in 1946. Period furnishings were hunted down, climate controls installed, a kitchen added. The house became a museum, a tea room and headquarters for the MCHA.

The Shaws peer down on the upgrades from photo portraits. The men appear quite nice-looking with thick silver hair, but the women . . . a bit frumpy. Obviously, smiles were frowned upon.

All well and good, though no re-enactment could replace the musty aroma, the passage of time, and the aura that cannot be synthesized.

Happy Birthday, Bryant House

Two hundred years and still standing, quite a feat considering how many dwellings have perished in the interim. Sad that COVID-19 canceled your party — but it had no effect on your historical clout.

Bryant House, on a knoll past McLendon’s Creek in Carthage, surrounded by ancient sycamores and enormous crape myrtles, has a wistful Andrew Wyeth quality in silhouette and hue. Yet on this milestone occasion it stands tall and well-preserved, like a silver-haired matriarch unbowed by the decades.

Joel McLendon built the adjacent one-room cabin, known as McLendon’s Place, in the mid-1700s, selling it to Robert Graham in 1787. Graham’s daughter married Michael Bryant. Their son James inherited the cabin, purchased surrounding land, married and constructed a homestead. This visionary’s project, completed in 1820, suggests the input of an experienced carpenter, with an eye to architecture. Everything is even, plumb, squares up. Floors pass the rolling marble test.

Careful — doorframes aren’t sized for 6-footers.

Wallboards are milled to match. The layout allows cross ventilation in the bedrooms (designated guest and granny) which, like the gathering area, are large — a good thing, since a successive generation of Bryants produced 13 children. They slept upstairs, divided into two rooms accessed by dangerously narrow, steep steps. Space under that staircase has been closed off as a bedroom closet, unusual in an era of “wardrobes,” armoires and pegs.

Even without running water, toilet facilities and a kitchen, the house was occupied well into the 20th century. It was gifted to MCHA and restored in 1970, including a fine collection of period furnishings, within guidelines set forth by the National Register of Historic Places.

Still, had home tours existed during Abraham Lincoln’s tenure, Bryant House would be a top pick.

Tracing genealogy can be like navigating a corn maze unless you’re a part of it, like Kaye Davis Brown, a sixth-generation daughter of the Bryant clan. Her father was one of Flossie Bryant Davis’ 13 children. Brown reels off a list of relatives — and rattles some skeletons, like Leandy Bryant’s love child, who bore her maiden name.

Brown describes how kids bathed in the creek in summertime, using smashed leaves as “soap.’’ During the winter a tub was placed near a fireplace, then surrounded by blankets draped over chairs for privacy. Half a dozen little ones later, the murky water got dumped outside.

Brown points out a cross engraved over Mom and Pop’s bed, now blurred by white mold. She repeats the legend of how Flossie, an animal lover, coaxed her pet foal up that narrow staircase. Just don’t assume the bullet hole near the front door resulted from a military skirmish, as at the Alston House in the Horseshoe. Instead, blame neighborhood pranksters.

With minimal improvements, Bryant House was occupied until the 1940s. As a child, Brown remembers visiting cousins there. The grounds are beautifully kept; events draw crowds who enjoy the music, crafts and food — just not this year. A spring open house was postponed until December, then canceled, leaving only chilly ghosts to hear the tales, sing the songs and play simple games on the edge of this Wi-Fi world.

Have Cabin, Will Travel

The Shaw and Bryant homes have board walls constructed from heart pine. The Woman’s Exchange gift shop and café, a Pinehurst landmark, is a true whole-log cabin.

Naturally, it comes with a story — beginning with “Thanks, Mrs. Tufts” — from Exchange board President Barbara Summers.

The cabin was crafted without nails in 1810, several miles from Pinehurst at Ray’s Grist Mill. After the Civil War it was purchased by the Archibald McKenzie family as a kitchen. James Tufts, while developing the resort, was so charmed by this relic that he purchased it in 1895, had it disassembled log by log and moved near the village, where he could show it off to friends from New England.  He compensated the McKenzies by building them a new cookhouse.

At first, the cabin served as a museum. Its opening was reported in the Pinehurst Outlook in an 1898 story that spoke of a foot-long, iron key originating in a Fayetteville jail, a spinning wheel, candlesticks and deer antlers. The one-room cabin was later home to freed slaves Tom Cotton (a caddie on the resort’s golf courses) and his brother.

But all the while, Summers relates, Mary Emma Tufts had other ideas. Mrs. Tufts supported the Woman’s Exchange movement, begun in Philadelphia, in 1832. Gentlewomen who had fallen on hard times consigned handiwork in the shops, affording them not only financial aid but marketing skills toward future employment. Some exchanges opened tea rooms where forward-thinking women could socialize and share ideas. At its height, in the late 19th century, 100 Exchange shops attracted 16,000 consignees.

Mrs. Tufts died in 1922. In 1924, perhaps as a result of her influence, the cabin became an Exchange shop. Now, Summers continues, the pandemic has forced closing of four of the 20 remaining federation outlets but not the Azalea Road log cabin, which has spread in all directions from the original dark room with low door frames and a huge fireplace suitable for cooking. Sun streams in the showroom skylights; display cabinets have been painted white; and the café, usually full, specializes in soups, quiches and a turkey-avocado wrap. Artisan gifts and estate items are one-of-a-kind.

The garden surrounding the cabin has been replanted, heating and air conditioning improved, the computer system upgraded without changing the image of that solitary space and porch where, over the years, lives were led and business conducted.

Nothing succeeds like success. Leave it to the gals. And, pandemic notwithstanding, better show up early for a socially-distanced lunch.  PS

Story of a House: Second Wind

Family house gone artsy

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Location, location, location. Fittingly, this real estate mantra defines the home of broker Kim Stout and her husband, Todd Stout. Almost close enough to smell Vito’s pizza, walk to the post office, bike to the library or skip to the park. Definitely close enough to vibrate as Amtrak coasts by.

A roomy brick house winging out in both directions. A yard big enough for a concrete mini-court with hoop. And, starting at the Creamsicle-colored front door, an interior palette of bright colors: sunroom floor, lime green brick. Master bedroom floor stained deep turquoise. Dining room buffet, tomato red. Kitchen door, chrome yellow. Fabrics and rugs bleed fuchsia, hot pink and serious purple. Folk art à la Grandma Moses progresses to wildly abstract, everywhere: An elongated painting fills the 8-inch strip between kitchen window and cabinet.

Obviously, an artist lives here. A fearless décor maven.

However, the yard was what sold Kim. She and Todd raised three athletic children in the stately manse built during the mid-1920s Southern Pines building boom, occupied in the 1950s by Rev. Maynard Mangum from First Baptist Church across the street. In fact, when the Stouts purchased the house in 1988, urban renewal was still a concept, relegating L-L-L to the ’burbs, not historic district cottages uphill from Broad Street.

Kim, from Monroe, North Carolina, and Todd, from Idaho, were living in Laurinburg, where Todd’s father farmed turkeys. Todd discovered Southern Pines through cycling. “I came up to ride,” he said. “It’s the only place I could find cyclists.”

His discovery happened in spring, with azaleas in bloom. Broad Street was charming, the people, welcoming. “I never saw a place I liked better.”

Todd went home and announced: “We’re moving.”

Kim was pregnant with their second child. They looked at houses. Just inside the front door Kim decided this one was it. “We’ll take it,” she told the Realtor.

Never mind what Kim describes as “ . . . total chaos most people would run from.”

Not to worry. They participated in the initial renovation, with experience gained from working on a 1940s home. “We had also lived in a brand new house that was just . . . a house,” Kim says.

She set about filling their acquisition with a hodgepodge of furnishings and a third child.

Life rushed by. In 2012, with the children mostly grown and gone, Kim and Todd decided on a major upgrade. They pushed out the kitchen, added a screened living room with fireplace, created an open air morning coffee porch and an upstairs master suite.

Or, as Todd puts it, “We went from five people and two bathrooms to two people and four bathrooms.” One of those bathrooms, Todd’s favorite, encores 1950s avocado and black tiles, now fabulous retro chic. The new kitchen — pale gray with mini-bursts of color — is efficiently sized, not cavernous, punctuated with angles and cubbies.

Unlike the current practice of imposing open spaces on a classic cross-hall floorplan, the Stouts left rooms intact, delineated by wide, graceful door and window moldings, a detail (along with textured plaster walls) that adds what real estate professionals call “character.” All the doors and windows are original, Kim notes, also the beveled glass panes in the front door.

Besides that tomato red buffet, the small dining room has a round table with a built-in lazy Susan, like Chinese restaurants of yesteryear, where dishes are placed in the center and families help themselves.

“Lots of stories (happened) around this table,” Kim says wistfully.

Even the tiny foyer coat closet yields a tale. Inside the door, height markers for Lindsey, Matthew and Sean survive in faint pencil.

Todd’s input: “I’ve done one thing.” He holds up a framed matchbook (found on eBay) from Watson’s Resort in Idaho, an outdoorsmen’s paradise, where he spent happy times.

Except for the art — some paintings by Kim herself, others by daughter Lindsey — the living room, especially lamps and plushy upholstered pieces, could be lifted from a ’50s stage set, including the side table made from a cross-cut tree trunk mounted on wrought iron spindles.

Here and elsewhere, Kim’s preference for green fading into turquoise originates with a grandmother, nicknamed Granny Green, for her all-green house.

Upstairs, the children’s bedrooms, hung with sports memorabilia and comic strip art, have been left mostly intact. A baseball bat and an aerial view of the neighborhood painted by a 10-year-old are mounted in the boys’ room, which survived many brotherly rumbles, Kim recalls.

After the proliferation of colorful stuff, the Stouts’ new master suite is a turnaround. Square paned windows, left bare, are set ceiling height over the king-sized bed. The deep turquoise floor appears cottage-y, as do a wicker armchair and ottoman, while three bureaus and a long slatted bench illustrate the post-war Scandinavian-modern genre. “This was our first grown-up furniture,” Kim says.

Other bedroom décor is spare, calm. Ever-practical, she installed a second washer and dryer off the master bathroom.

Unlike similar homes of the period, this one has a full basement, dubbed the swamp. Murky and damp no more, the Stouts’ renovation included shoring up underpinnings, creating a workout room, main laundry room, storage space and the most adorable bathroom with step-down vanity cabinet painted the same tomato red as the dining room buffet.

“I am not a spec home/cookie cutter person. We didn’t want anything formal because we had kids and dogs.” Which explains why Kim’s crewel and splashy-patterned area rugs “are almost disposable.”

When the sun shines on South Ashe Street, the painted brick of this residential jewel appears pearly white. On a cloudy day, however, a bluish-green tint emerges. Weatherproof art decorates the small sitting patio; an ancient Hotel Hampshire sign hangs over the morning porch. The grassy backyard, rimmed with shrubs and flowers, fenced for Toby the dog, echoes shouts of boys shooting hoops. Beadboard ceilings and original floors uncoated with layers of lacquer add dimension.

Throughout, the old shadows the new like a friendly, welcoming ghost.

“We’ve gone through some growing pains with this house,” Kim admits.

Or, as longtime friend Cassie Willis concludes, “This house has a heartbeat.”  PS

Story of a House: Still a Castle

Dunross holding the fort in Knollwood

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

On Feb. 15, 1929, The Pilot featured seven houses built by prominent families in the Knollwood residential enclave, a development that followed the opening of Mid Pines in 1921 and Pine Needles in 1927.

Why let Pinehurst have all the glory?

The write-up gushes over a brick residence commissioned by golf course architect Donald Ross:

When Donald Ross delivered to the builder the plans for his new house . . . he went far beyond the concepts of a $10,000-$12,000 house and ordered what would look like a castle. In after years the house will become a shrine . . . Ross is the Mohammed of the golf cult. His home in Knollwood Heights, overlooking two of his finest creations, will be sought out by devotees for years.

However, since Ross sold the house in 1931, one legend suggests that he built and occupied it briefly to call attention to Knollwood, thus increasing sales.

Ross should see it now . . . if not a castle, at least a manor house named Dunross by its current owners. In Scots “dun” means fort.

Cynthia — a seventh generation Texan — and Bruce Birdsall like things Texas-big. Seven thousand square feet of living space (plus carriage house/apartment, workshop and greenhouse) with six bedrooms and 10 bathrooms on nearly 3 acres suited the couple, as did the history.

“We were looking for a place to retire near my daughter and grandchildren,” Cynthia explains. The daughter lives in Charlotte, but they preferred a small town reasonably close to an airport offering nonstop flights to Paris, a favorite getaway. Neither their Carolina beach house, a condo in Washington, D.C., nor a Savannah residence with formal gardens met the requirements.

“Bruce was a big golfer. I bought an ornament in the Village when we came here,” Cynthia says.

Something clicked. She searched listings online. “I liked the area for its history, art, vibrant community, its bars and medical care.”

Oddly, the Ross house provided no “ah-hah” moment, at first sight. “But it had potential, and we had renovated other old homes.”

This one had been modernized, but Cynthia found plenty to do, beginning with removing and repairing the 37 paned casement windows, refinishing the original flooring, and adapting the screened porch to accommodate a lift down to the garden, where she had ramps installed, should either of them require a walker or wheelchair. The house was already equipped with an elevator.

Setting it apart from others of the period is the asymmetrical exterior with pink brick, three setbacks and a front door facing away from the street, quite avant-garde for the 1920s. This allows a floorplan that creates a circular flow during large gatherings.

The Birdsalls enjoy entertaining; when they moved in, in 2018, they put invitations for a get-acquainted party in mailboxes throughout the neighborhood. The house is scheduled to be on next spring’s (COVID permitting) Southern Pines Garden Club home and garden tour.

True, the main staircase stands, traditionally, opposite the front door, but the dining room lined with casement windows forms a wing jutting to the left. Enter the kitchen directly from the foyer area, continue to the screened porch, the bar room (where they have cocktails daily at 5:30 p.m.), the Carolina sunroom (big enough to comfortably accommodate a 10-foot leather couch) and back to the living room. Also off the foyer, an adorable nook (originally a butler’s pantry?) furnished with a scaled-down table, chairs and tea service, for the granddaughters.

The kitchen contains a farm sink painted in blue Provençal motifs with matching backsplash tiles, white glass-front cupboards, a yellow Viking double-oven range and yellow prep sink. The two-tiered island has a stained (not painted) base, and the ceiling is covered in floorboards.

Upstairs, the master suite opens out onto a TV room, formerly a porch as indicated by the exposed brick wall. A five-part bath-dressing room laid out around a hallway appears to have been put together by a previous owner from a bedroom and small bath. Cynthia’s office and guest rooms complete the second floor, with Bruce’s office and more guest rooms, formerly servants’ quarters, accessed by a narrow staircase.

Almost every room has built-in bookshelves; a corner fireplace in the living room follows the Scottish placement tradition, Cynthia learned.

Then, the above-ground basement Texas room, with giant black and white floor tiles, weathered leather upholstery, a pair of wall-mounted longhorns, a lampshade made from hide, a photo of long-ago Texas rangers and other Lone Star memorabilia justifying its name. Also on this level, a combination wine cellar and fitness room.

The Birdsalls purchased adjacent lots, enabling construction of a workshop for Bruce’s vintage motorcycles and cars, as well as a Victorian greenhouse imported from Belgium for Cynthia’s plants. Guarding her raised beds, the fountain statue of a woman is reminiscent of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, set in Savannah. Already in place when the Birdsalls assumed ownership, an apartment with deck over the carriage house and a complete outdoor kitchen with dining area, stone fireplace and koi pond.

No pool. “We’re not pool people,” she says. But they are grandparents who provide a tree house, where the grandkids have art lessons.

The Birdsalls travel, collect and display, with restraint. No clutter in this fort. Cynthia identifies favorites:

In the living room, a 19th century inlaid French armoire, “The first piece of furniture I ever bought,” now filled with crystal flutes.

In the bar room, where they relax over afternoon cocktails, Cynthia displays Bruce’s collection of single-malt Scotch. Her favorite kitchen appliance is a gelato maker, which she uses to turn berries and mint from the garden into elegant European-style desserts.

The dining room standout has to be the table that seats 12, custom-made from a single mesquite tree, with a heavy wrought iron base.

Paisley upholstery on porch furniture was chosen to complement a poster from Verona. Cynthia is definitely a poster person: Her favorite, drawn and signed by Tony Bennett, has a jazz theme. Cynthia and Bruce were regulars at the New Orleans Jazz Festival.

The star of the master bedroom, done in white and seafoam beige, is a tiny crystal Baccarat jewelry box found at an antique auction, while in the master bathroom Cynthia likes a round glass stand next to the claw-foot tub for her bathtime glass of Champagne. Also in the bath suite, a glass-front cabinet belonging to Bruce’s mother now displays Cynthia’s collection of perfume bottles.

Their only other family heirloom, a child’s rocking chair made by Cynthia’s great-grandfather, has a special place in a guest room, as does a purple velvet slipper chair.

Of the several chandeliers, Cynthia’s prize, from a mansion in New Orleans’ Garden District, is suspended over the main staircase, where also hangs a family portrait. A former maid’s quarters is home to a dress-up closet containing costumes worn by Cynthia’s granddaughters.

The unifying factor: Walls throughout glow a particular shade of white, like whole milk diluted with chardonnay. Moldings and woodwork have been painted high gloss to reflect light streaming through windows occasionally covered by shutters, never drapes. “Colors create energy, and I’m looking for calm,” Cynthia explains.

Bruce’s favorite things, aside from his workshop, set Dunross apart. A system of soft lights weaves through the tall pines surrounding the lawn. At dusk they come on, bathing the estate in faux moonlight.

Donald Ross’ castle has evolved into an extraordinary retirement home occupied by far-from-ordinary people. Cynthia grew up on a ranch in East Texas; Bruce in a wood frame house in Connecticut. Dunross represents their achievements, as well as a well-planned gathering place for families, friends and two French bulldogs named, bien sur, for a pair of French institutions, Coco Chanel and Rémy Martin.

“This house has a sense of peace about it — a contented place,” says Cynthia, “a good place to spend our last years.”  PS

Story of a House: Rosewood in Bloom

Rosewood in Bloom

Gatsby-era retreat honors the old, celebrates the new

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

The probable scenario: By the mid-1920s, Southern Pines rivaled Pinehurst as a winter destination for wealthy Northeastern urbanites. The golfing rich bought “cottages” built by the Tufts family while moneyed equestrians chose Southern Pines. With them came New York society architect Aymar Embury II. With Embury came engineer Louis Lachine. The two collaborated on the Highland Pines Inn. Soon, snowbirds enamored of Southern Pines’ climate and cachet wanted homes here. Embury complied. Lachine, it appears, tapped solo into the lucrative new market. The developer-at-heart bought land in Weymouth and built 10 spec houses.

Big ones. Brick ones.

However, Lachine was no esthetically-minded architect. Thus the patchwork exterior — irregular brick, stucco, wood, dormers, off-center front door, wrought iron Juliet balcony — of Rosewood, survives as a grand dame on two landscaped acres in the heart of historic Weymouth.

The total answers to Tudor Revival, gone rogue.

Or, as Alice would say, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

Now Rosewood — named by first owners Mr. and Mrs. Robert Rose of Binghamton, New York — is in a third, maybe fourth, iteration designed for practicality (an L-shaped kitchen encompassing three distinct areas), with respect for the arts and crafts style (beams, dark woods), furnished respectfully in antiques, as in purchased, and heirlooms, as in inherited.

No less could be expected from Dr. Ellie Pack Marlow, an art history/design professional who, on a whim, left her job at a Manhattan auction house, enrolled in med school and now practices interventional radiology, primarily breast cancer procedures. Her husband, Cameron Marlow, is a validation engineer for a Maryland tech company. He ensures computers used to make vaccines (including COVID-19) meet FDA standards.

He also cooks, passionately.

How this multi-faceted couple stumbled upon Rosewood reads like the first chapter in a happily-ever-after novella.

Ellie grew up on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, with time spent in New Jersey horse country. Cameron comes from Baltimore. Since he is able to work from home, they lived near Ellie’s medical practice, in Fayetteville. Southern Pines’ equestrian community was a draw; Ellie still rides, and until recently, kept a horse. First they looked at horse farms, but found nothing suitable. Then, driving around Weymouth, Cameron spotted the unusual three-story manse on South Valley Road.

“I want a house like that!” he exclaimed.

Conveniently, Rosewood was for sale. Although the interior needed personalizing, major updates — including most systems — had been completed by previous owners. They purchased it in January 2018, moved into a rental house nearby, and commenced a sometimes bumpy renovation centered around a showplace kitchen, cobbled together from a sunken Carolina room and the smallish existing one.

“The kitchen is very important to us — the place we gather and spend time together,” Ellie says, remembering their first Thanksgiving/Christmas when the couple hosted 30. Many were houseguests. Rosewood, at about 5,000 square feet, has seven bedrooms, four full bathrooms, four outdoor seating areas (covered and uncovered) and a grassy yard.

“To see the family sitting around was just wonderful,” she recalls.

This favorite room, because of the merger, has two separate prep areas, a butler’s pantry, a 13-foot white quartzite island/bar seating five, and a unique tin range hood custom-made in Mexico. Its air flow required an engineering feat, which Cameron explains enthusiastically. From the blown-glass lighting fixtures to splash-of-red tabletop appliances and statuesque faucet, every detail illustrates the couple’s attention to . . . detail.

“I always wanted to invite local chefs to do a demo here,” Cameron admits.

Interior designer Shelley Turner made this happen. “They needed a wet bar-coffee area that flowed into the butler’s pantry, along with a small counter with stools, for breakfast.” Chef Cameron wanted the island located so he could talk to guests while manning the massive six-burner gas range. No propane here. The Marlows brought natural gas to the neighborhood.

Turner won first place in the 2019 Carolinas ASID (American Society of Interior Designers) Excellence Award for Rosewood’s unusual kitchen.

After the glowing all-white (except for an old “pie safe” cabinet) kitchen, the dining and living rooms feel clubby, suggesting hunt box, with dark woods and elongated chocolate brown leather sofas flanking (but not facing) a brick wood-burning fireplace with mantel-height bookcases extending in both directions. Two of Ellie’s saddles are positioned along the back of one sofa. A corner table is actually Ellie’s grandmother’s Singer treadle sewing machine. An exquisite inlaid dining room service table, a memoir from growing up in France, is a gift from Cameron’s mother, Monique Marlow, as is a framed Hermes silk scarf covered in hounds.

An art deco lily wall sconce over the inlaid table is something Ellie spotted on “American Pickers.” She contacted the seller and bought it.

The china cabinet with faceted crystal knobs comes from Ellie’s family.

No ancestral portraits, per se, but lots of equine art, some hanging from the original picture rails. Especially precious, a painting of windmills done by Cameron’s Dutch grandmother.

The center staircase, also in gleaming stained heart pine, joins a back staircase that connects third-floor servants’ rooms, now offices and guest quarters, to the kitchen. The mudroom floor is laid in small black and white hexagonal tiles characteristic of bygone hotel bathrooms; here the tiles spell out 1926 — Ellie’s way of dating what lies inside. These same tiles are used in a powder room and some bathrooms (with original clawfoot tubs), which have been modernized but not glamorized, which would clash with the era.

“Ellie has an incredible eye,” her husband notes.

A new gas boiler was installed to service the white iron radiators, which Ellie appreciates for decorative period value. A guest bathroom with a flat wall-mounted radiator won second place for Turner in the ASID category for bathrooms in a historic house.

Wall tints in the second and third floor bedrooms (some now offices) are pale dusty greens, grays and sand. “Ellie wanted the space to be airy, calming, timeless,” Turner explains. “She wanted to maintain the integrity of the house.” A pinch of whimsy is allowed, as in the powder room with hundreds of tiny horses and riders against a striped wallpaper. Also calming: a rock-rimmed gurgling pond beside the covered porch, a pleasant place for morning coffee or evening wine.

Summation: Everything old is new again, which pleases Ellie. And Cameron got his culinary stage.

By any other name Rosewood smells as sweet. A plaque beside the front door announces House of O. Van Pack, Established Jan. 31, 2018. O is for Oscar, a spry 14-year-old poodle mix who has been with Ellie since med school. Inside, scattered amid the antiques, are boxes holding baby equipment. Within a year, rooms furnished in leather and heart pine will be cordoned by gates. Those pristine kitchen cabinets will require safety latches. A babycam already transmits images, while a motorized bassinet rocks to and fro. Because in July, a sunny corner bedroom became a nursery, welcoming this old estate’s new heir: Emerson Cole Marlow.

“Now, it’s a living house,” Ellie says.  PS

Do Your Homework

Going nowhere and getting it done

By Deborah Salomon   •   Photographs by John Gessner

Call it quarantine, call it shelter in place, even house arrest. Call it going stir-crazy, looking at the same four walls, weeks on end.

Wait a minute — those walls need painting. Those floors could use a once-over. And how about creating something wild in the kitchen?

See how these residents turned home confinement into home improvement.

Erik, Harper & Jaime Hoffman

Jaime Hoffman

If beauty is only skin deep, the house Jaime and Erik Hoffman purchased in Weymouth desperately needed a dermatologist. Could anything be uglier than cedar shakes painted dark brown, with yellow trim? “Dingy and dated” was Jaime’s assessment. They decided on a radical transformation to white, with blue trim on the paned and bowed windows. Problem was, quotes came in upward of $11,000.

Let’s give it a try, they decided, although neither had ever painted exteriors. This might be just the thing to while away the quarantine, especially since the weather was sunny and warm.

First came two coats of primer, then two coats of paint applied to the rough shakes with a sprayer — another new experience. 

But that many window panes and frames would drive even Pete the Painter to drink. With the help of Google and YouTube, Jaime learned that windows could be covered with Frog tape. Even so, she had to open the upstairs windows from the inside and stick her head out to reach the trim.

The job took a week, with Jaime and Erik surviving as friends. Only casualty, their dog, who sat in the paint, necessitating a butt shave.

“Now, our house is bright and happy, like a (Nantucket) cottage,” Jaime beams.

Bright, happy and the talk of the neighborhood. “The best part was that neighbors stopped by and we talked from afar. That way, we got to meet people.”

Heather Boksa, Ryder Boksa & Susan Clark

Susan Clark

Recognizing and implementing trends were part of Susan Clark’s job, when she staged houses in Arizona. Makes sense she would apply this to her own home, recently purchased near Lake Pinehurst, with multiple paneled doors, all white. “Boring . . . ” Clark tried painting them grey. Not quite. “Black seemed like a trend,” part of the popular nouvelle farmhouse style. So she painted the (previously green) front door and all interior doors black. Green floorboards on the porch — equally passé — now sleek black, too.

“Everything in the house is in transition,” Clark admits, which is therapy for quarantined DIYers. Otherwise, Clark would be helping out at the uber-trendy Pine Scones Café in Southern Pines.

Clark didn’t stop at the doors. “I love the beach. We hope to retire there.” Until the time comes, this granny thirsting for salt water created a coastal bathroom more complicated than hanging a starfish over the shower. She liked a shiplap effect: boards, either left natural or painted white, mounted horizontally on the wall. Why go to the trouble and expense when she could draw horizontal lines with a Sharpie? Turned out the marker was less than permanent. Dampness made the lines run like weepy mascara. A contractor-grade marker wasn’t much better. She achieved an acceptable result by painting over the lines with two shades of white, which resemble horizontal boards. Add some industrial shelving, touches of ocean blue, rope glued around a mirror and she can practically hear the gulls strafing the trash can.

Outside, Clark and her grandson planted veggies and watermelon in raised beds.

“These projects made the quarantine more bearable,” she concludes.

Luke, Monica, Tucker, Blair & Andrew Ruszkiewicz

Monica Ruszkiewicz

True, Monica Ruszkiewicz and her husband applied only cosmetic upgrades — no plumbing tasks — to the bathrooms. But their house in the Center South neighborhood of Southern Pines has four. They have three young children, which meant trading off a toddler for a paint brush. Since Ruszkiewicz was working from home as well as homeschooling, most upgrading was done evenings and weekends.

Identifying skills was important, early on. “He’s good with the muscle, I do the finishing work,” Ruszkiewicz says. Not that either has much experience. “We’d never done more than paint walls and install faucets.”

Their three full baths and one powder room needed tougher love. This included spray-painting and relocating light fixtures, sanding/refinishing existing vanities, replacing countertops and covering tile and grout with a magical Rust-Oleum “paint” that seals and freshens. Also creating board-and-batten, shiplap, chair rail, beadboard effects on some walls, papering others — no mean feat for beginners.

They decided to use the same palette in all four bathrooms, for continuity. Makes buying towels easier, too.

The project took about eight weeks to complete. Even before the stay-home order, this military couple had declared 2020 the Year of the Bathrooms. Now, with nowhere to go, “We hunkered down and got it done,” Ruszkiewicz says.

Lesson learned: “People are more skilled than they think. Just roll up your sleeves and get started.”

J.C., Scarlett, Joanna & Nate Wells

Joanna Wells

Call her Jo the Ripper.

The Whispering Pines house this military family found — with a big fenced yard for their two breeder Labs, another dog and two children — was OK except for grungy carpet on some floors, engineered hardwood on others. When they found out their stay would be several years they decided to replace the lot.

Joanna Wells opted to rip out the old. Some had been glued down so securely that removal left gaping holes in the subfloor. These had to be patched and sanded.

Ghastly, back-breaking work.

“You owe me big-time,” she told her husband.

They took on the kitchen, dining room, living room and master bedroom while the Labs watched, puzzled, from the deck — for good reason. Penny is expecting puppies soon.

Hardwood was too expensive, so they chose vinyl lock-in plank in a walnut brown — a stunning backdrop to their leather upholstery and patterned rug.

“It really looks cool in here now.”

Wells, who teaches at Sandhills Classical Christian School, was on furlough, since “you can’t do pre-school (from home).” Otherwise, the job might still be waiting.

Encouraged by the results, the couple plans to add a shower to the guest bathroom this summer. Before that, Penny and the pups need a whelping box.

Denise Baker

Denise Baker

Everything Denise Baker touches turns to art. For years, she taught and inspired students at Sandhills Community College. Now retired — but not “retiring” — she viewed the spectacular weather during the quarantine as a reprieve from Mother Nature.

“In 42 years I’ve never seen such a beautiful spring,” she says.

So, while others were “going bonkers,” Baker, with helpers, got to work on her ranch house/studio in Whispering Pines, since “all this craziness kept me from focusing on art.”

First, she replaced an ugly, cracked cement walkway with a stone mosaic of her design, more in keeping with the gracious front porch. Then, she added a simple deck accessed by French doors onto the side, where she placed deep royal blue all-weather wicker chairs and patterned rug. Baker had a bookshelf installed over interior French doors leading to a screened porch, and also recovered the cushions. Other door-topping shelves hold pottery.

All this, plus some clean-outs, in just a month. “My goal for the rest of the quarantine is to get the backyard in shape,” Baker says. That will happen after a short reprieve on Pawley’s Island, the perfect antidote to cabin fever, even when the cabin is as creative as Baker’s.

Lindsey, Oakes, Bill, Bode & Sloane Lindquist

Lindsey Lindquist

That noise you hear is Picasso applauding from his grave.

Lindsey Lindquist is an abstract artist with three kids under 6 and assorted livestock in their Weymouth/Southern Pines backyard. Children that age put sticky hands everywhere, including walls. Instead of following them around with a bottle of Fantastik, Lindquist decided to paint a mural on the half wall between the kitchen and the little ones’ craft corner.

The mural not only disguises fingerprints but showcases Mommy’s business — the most recent installation being the children’s glassed-off playroom at remodeled Pinehurst Toyota.

Lindquist calls creating the mural a “stress reliever” during the long days when, if not homebound, the kids would attend Moore Montessori Community School. Otherwise, call it bloomin’ gorgeous, if abstract is your cuppa green tea. Amazingly, she completed the mural in one afternoon, using paint left over from other projects. The kids “helped” paint reachable parts.

“I wanted to make a happy, creative spot,” she says. Also provided, a low craft table found at Habitat.

Lindquist, a Pinecrest graduate, studied painting at Arizona State University. Her ambition: illustrate children’s books. Elsewhere in the house she has channeled Fauvist Henri Matisse. “My husband is super-tolerant of how the house is decorated,” Lindquist admits.

Could Jackson Pollock be a mere splatter away?

Trish & Reece Baldwin

Trish Baldwin

Hey, it worked for Tom Sawyer.

“When we moved in there was a garden bench that had been left rotting under a tree,” Trish Baldwin says of their Pinehurst home.

To save or not to save? Baldwin was busy with more important tasks. “Besides, I don’t like sanding.” Her 11-year-old daughter, Reece, seemed interested once the novelty of no school wore off.

“I showed her how to use the sander,” Mom says. Then they rustled up some blue paint to match the front door.

Painting slats is a tedious job — but the pre-teen has a variety of skills. She already sews, cooks from online recipes (cinnamon buns for Mother’s Day) and put together a craft table from hundreds of (Reese’s) pieces.

After sanding, the bench required two coats of paint. A sprayer would have been easier but Trish insisted on using materials at hand.

The result? Something the uppity Plow & Hearth catalog would unload for $300. Plus shipping. Some assembly required.

Kelly Carty & Mark Saurer

Kelly Carty

These raised beds are raising eyebrows. Surely, with wood-framed wire fence and gate they are the pride of a master landscaper.

Not exactly. Kelly Carty and her husband, Mark Saurer, are both civil engineers and, more importantly, enthusiastic researchers and planners. For their first home, in Whispering Pines, everything had to be spot-on.

“We found the best materials, how to position beds for the right amount of sunlight,” Carty says. “I’m the planner, he’s the executor.” His execution took only three days, in March.

Carty grew up on a farm, later traveled with the military, putting that all behind her for a recent degree in public policy from Duke.

No technical detail was overlooked. They concocted a proper soil mixture before burying the first seed, which was nourished by homemade compost. When the seedlings appeared, they were covered by a special fabric.

Their first harvest — arugula, Swiss chard, parsley, dill, cukes — is in and will be followed by summer and fall plantings.

“We selected this project because we love to cook, we love fresh vegetables, and nothing beats harvesting them from your own backyard,” she says.

The deer may be stumped but a few aggressive rabbits agree.  PS

Branching Out

Branching Out

A dream home comes true

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Koob Gessner

The story of this house starts like many others: Retired executives Linda and Don Branch — well-traveled golfers — fall in love with Moore County, secure a lot in a gated community, build a showplace home, make friends and live happily ever after.

Carefully integrated details set it apart.

Location, location, location: Linda drove through the gates of Forest Creek and said, “I’m done. I feel both elevated and relaxed. Don’t try to sell me on anything else.”

The architecture: faintly chateau, with pinkish bricks resulting from a white frosting, designed by an architect whose “find” was a fluke.

The foyer: a two-story atrium with balcony, adorned by stained glass panels that diffuse and tint sunlight.

The layout: upstairs, a private two-bedroom apartment for golfing guests.

Adaptations: a master kitchen with two cooking triangles bridged by a 14-foot granite island.

Unique: a high-walled private garden with shower protruding from the front — not back or side — façade.

Convenience: a sweet little elevator tucked beside the staircase.

Memorabilia: a piece of the Berlin Wall, Post-it Notes and a Cuban cigar press as décor artifacts. Who else does this?

Last but most unusual: an adjoining lot that they purchased as a habitat for red pileated woodpeckers.

Definitely different, even in an enclave where triple crown moldings and coffered ceilings, waterfall showers, wine caves, media centers and doggie grooming salons are de rigueur.

Linda and Don were ready to retire after 37-year careers with 3M. Living in Brussels, Paris and elsewhere made them crave a subtle European flair played out against minimalist precepts. The ornate retro-green handpainted Asian wallpaper in the dining room, located just beyond the foyer, comes from London; in the same room, a Louis Phillipe breakfront occupies a niche built to accommodate it. The American cherrywood table speaks Shaker simplicity, and plays against the chandelier and heavy tapestry drapes.

First impressions made by the stained glass stylized bird panels set into foyer windows hint at drama within.

Linda explains: “We wanted light but privacy, too, and pieces of color,” provided by the antique hand-blown glass. This feature was so important that architect Bill Hirsch traveled to Minnesota to see how the same panels had been installed in the house where they lived, enabling him to plan their removal and relocation.

How the Branches connected with Hirsch — pure serendipity.

Linda and Don had purchased a lot in Forest Creek for a permanent home rather than do the snowbird commute from Minnesota. They were living in Belgium at the time, making plans. By coincidence, Don found online Designing Your Perfect House, a best-seller by Hirsch. The book was just what they needed to refine their ideas. Lo and behold Hirsch, who has worked all over the world, lives in West End.

Hire that man!

Not only did he understand their goals, but introduced Linda to Agnes Preston-Brame, an artist and interior designer from Budapest who lives in Greensboro. She added the European undertones Linda sought. “I really needed help. Because we’re eclectic I wanted someone to help me pull together what we had (with new purchases).”

The two women stormed the High Point Market, furnishing the entire house in less than a week.

The result is full of surprises.

Just inside the front door is a two-part powder room and, beyond that, the stunning dining room which, along with a passageway through a hall, leads into a mostly white kitchen of magnitude and placement that render it the main-floor hub. Linda and Don, both experienced multi-ethnic cooks, have separate black granite sinks, preparation and storage areas, burners on the range top.

“In our old house we kept stepping over each other,” Linda recalls.

At the end of the kitchen stands a small marble-topped breakfast table. “My grandfather was a pharmacist,” Don says. “This marble was part of the soda fountain (in his store). It gives us a sense of history.”

Remnants from trimming the marble slab were made into trivets.

A half wall separates the palatial kitchen from a seating area which, conforming to a popular trend, replaces a formal living room. Furnishings here are contemporary but not stark, some with Scandinavian lines. This carries forward a long-standing preference.

“Our first house had Stressless recliners,” Don says, of the Norwegian design similar to Eames, conceived in the 1930s. Don insisted on a wood-burning fireplace. Linda agreed, “If he promised to take care of it.”

The covered veranda beyond the kitchen is protected by motorized phantom screens that, at the push of a button, swish down without poles interrupting a view of the pond.

The main floor master suite with seating nook is a slightly more traditional foray in soft retro green (similar to the dining room, which Linda finds restful) flowing around a massive sleigh bed in dark woods. A hallway of closets leads to the bathroom, with a glass-enclosed shower that opens directly into the secret garden enclosing another shower. High walls offer privacy but no barrier to falling leaves and pine needles.

Don and Linda first experienced this bathing arrangement on their honeymoon, in the Virgin Islands. Hirsch had seen something similar in Bali. Other luxury homes have outdoor showers for muddy kids, sweaty golfers and equestrians but not as a bathroom extension, with garden. Its placement allows for Linda or Don, still lathered up, to hear guests arriving at the front door.

Guest apartments, usually second floor or over a free-standing garage, for children and grandchildren, are common features in this echelon of 6,000-plus square foot homes, many built, as was this one, by Will Huntley. Since Linda and Don have neither, they devised The Locker Room: closed-off quarters with two bedrooms (one, a delightfully feminine lavender modifying the clubby masculinity elsewhere), workout equipment, a common room, bathrooms, kitchenette/dining area and, of all things, golf lockers where frequent guests can leave equipment, clothing, toiletries. A few friends have earned a locker nameplate. “We’ve had as many as 100 in a year,” Linda says.

Even Bella, their tiny Papillon mix, has her own gated condo behind the kitchen for mealtime and quiet snoozes.

Although most of their furnishings reflect High Point rather than heirloom, Linda has incorporated personal items, including a painting of herself by a European artist friend, which hangs on the balcony overlooking the atrium-foyer: The scarf she wears in the stylized action portrait is her real-life favorite; the MiniCooper detail reminds her of when a similar car ran over her foot. Across from it hangs Don’s choice, an enlarged Wine Spectator cover by Andy Powell.

Both Don and Linda grew up in less-impressive surroundings, Linda in a split-level ranch, Don in several homes he describes as decidedly middle class. This house fulfills Linda’s requirement for a happy retirement: a beautiful home and time for travel. In February, instead of running away to Florida or the Caribbean, they spent several weeks in Vietnam.

Linda and Don’s longstanding method of selecting and furnishing their homes, including paintings from artists met along the way, worked.

“When we agree on something we just do it,” Linda explains. “So far, all our decisions have been good.” Especially this one, which they call “rightsizing,” since it is slightly larger than their former residence.

Techie Don, after settling a few issues with Electra, agrees. “From the time we married, home and house were very important to us. People who walk in say it’s comfortable. That’s how we planned it, intuitively, to be practical for the way we live.”

His final thought represents the combined efforts of architect, builder and occupants.

“This really is our dream home.”  PS

Me, Jake and the Lake

Building a dream in Whispering Pines

By Deborah Salomon    Photographs by John Koob Gessner

Lac Enfin.

The sign over the door echoes Leigh Morgan’s sentiment about her new waterfront home:

Finally, the lake

What she might add is c’est moi — meaning inside and out, floorplan, colors and furnishings, this house is me: designed to be lived in by me and Jake, my dog.

The 1,800-square foot cottage in modern farmhouse style, an architectural dernier cri, has only one bedroom, although the loft (now her office) soaring over the living area could be converted.

For sure, with its stark white exterior, black accents and Juliet balcony, Morgan’s lake villa stands apart from its neighbors, built in Whispering Pines ranch-style, circa 1970s.

People walk by, wave and shout, “Nice house!”

Vive la difference.

Now try this one, in English: A change is as good as a rest.

For 30 years Morgan lived quite happily in a charming renovated cottage in the downtown Southern Pines historic district. Her décor: charming renovated cottage-style. Then one morning she woke up and said something like . . . I’m outta here.

“I made an announcement to my family that I was going to sell my house.”

Ah, but why . . . and where would she relocate, they wondered?

“I love the water. I’ve always wanted to live on the water.”

Morgan was familiar with lakeside properties in gated golf communities. No. She wasn’t familiar with Whispering Pines until a business errand took her there. Imagine . . . water, water everywhere. Not only water, but a perfect little building lot on Shadow Lake opposite protected wetlands, assuring forever greenery. She bought the lot a week later, in September 2018. Because a proper “me” house, like a good chocolate cake, must be scratch-made.

Morgan’s business is screen printing logos on T-shirts and promotional material, not drawing plans for a house. Luckily her stepfather, Larry Best, is a retired landscape architect with adjunct skills.

“We had a hurricane that September.” So she, her family and their iPads holed up for two days and designed the shell.

“I picked out everything myself,” Morgan says, beaming with pride. “I read a lot of magazines. So many choices.” Her criteria: “Something I won’t get tired of in five years.”

Once a builder was found, the work went fast. They broke ground in January, moved in by July. “Everything went right. It was a great process,” she says. Even the stark white wide-board exterior doesn’t compete with surrounding nature.

Of course Morgan drove out almost every day, with Jake, to monitor progress.

“He got to know the place gradually,” so the move wasn’t upsetting. Now, Jake has commandeered the Juliet balcony as a snooze spot/lookout.

Inside the black front door, one word says it all.

Magnifique! A 40-foot-long wall of soaring windows, which round the corners at each end, maximizes views of that coveted water. No blinds, no shades, no obstructions. Just a concrete terrace furnished for year-round outdoor cooking and living. Closer to the lake itself, another table for dining.

But what’s that faint whooshing sound?

Immediately inside the front door Morgan positioned an unusual wall-mounted fountain, with a sheet of water falling over a sheet of slate into a narrow trough, where it is sucked upward to fall again. To Morgan, the sound represents serenity.

“When you walk past the fountain it takes negative energy away,” she says. “It’s the first thing I turn to in the morning.”

Except for the bedroom, dressing room and bath, the entire main floor with its 30-foot ceilings is one space with white walls and dark-stained floors, divided only by furnishings. A contemporary sectional sofa the color of beach sand sprawls in front of the fireplace; a more formal settee with carved wood frame, also vanilla, faces the lake. The dining room table, vaguely Parsons, is darkly speckled metal — something she found abandoned in an office. Around it, black-lacquered Windsor chairs, others rawhide-covered; along one side, a bench. Tall bird of paradise and fiddle leaf fig plants help delineate areas.

Abstracts and animal art dominate the walls, splashes of color in this black-and-gray-and-white environment. Morgan is a lifelong horsewoman. Her parents have homes in Southern Pines Horse Country, also in Montana. Animal skin rugs and throws (a steely-eyed badger, perhaps?) come from a veterinarian-pathologist friend who practices taxidermy.

The kitchen borders the great room, suggesting the epithet: Know a woman by her kitchen.

“I’m a minimalist,” Morgan states. Every utensil, every appliance has its place, mostly out of sight. A microwave is not among them. “No, never had one, never liked them,” she says. “I boil water in a kettle.” She chose cabinetry with care to match the living space it is part of: deep charcoal, matte finish instead of hard-edged glossy. Practical white ceramic tile forms the backsplash

A sliding black barn door separates the only bedroom from the great room. On display here, her boldest acquisition: the headboard, a massive, mottled gray metallic panel mounted on a charcoal wall. She found it in a warehouse. “It’s from a tin ceiling,” Morgan explains, with glee. Yet she integrated this and a hulking 9-foot armoire, painted black, with several traditional chests from her grandmother’s house.

The en suite oversized bathroom is splashed with sun beaming through high windows. Half walls protect an integrated shower fitted out with a teak bench, for a Scandinavian effect. Instead of a multi-sink vanity, Morgan chose to place two free-standing ones at opposite sides of the room.

The loft satisfies Whispering Pines’ minimum square footage requirement. Building up was cheaper than building out. Climbing the steep steps is a workout, but once up, the view through the window wall and across the lake is spectacular, even at night, with twinkling lights strung over the veranda. Another requirement, an attached garage, gave her the idea for connecting the two with a mud room.

First-time homebuilders travel a rocky road even when assisted by architects and interior designers. Leigh Morgan, Jake trotting close behind, seems to have avoided the potholes. The only glitch, she laughs, was having the right refrigerator delivered: a stainless steel two-door model (one over one, not side by side) with no exterior ice maker or water dispenser. On the fourth attempt she got what she wanted.

“The whole idea behind this house was to bring the outside in,” Morgan says. “I’m pretty content with life, but this was the icing on the cake, a healing place, calming and peaceful.

“Sometimes I want to pinch myself.”

Jake, an equally mellow fellow, concurs, as he begs a biscuit, then settles down into a faux fur dog blanket spread over the sectional and falls asleep.  PS

Cabin Fever

Living high on the log

By Deborah Salomon   •   Photography By John Koob Gessner

Abe Lincoln never slept here. More likely Ralph Lauren, Tom Cruise, Oprah, Clint Eastwood — all of whom own palatial log homes. Yet Les Holden’s modest but well-appointed cabin retains that rough-hewn aura conveyed by colors, surfaces and memorabilia.

Since it’s not a kit cabin, the layout can be unpredictable. Furthermore, manicured grass, tall hollies and a bubbling fountain overlooking Hyland Golf Club elevate this cabin over the Shaw House compound or anything attributed to Malcolm Blue.

Sealing the deal, the five-bay garage/workshop shelters five Brass Era (circa 1900) cars Holden has restored to drivable glory. Like King Tut’s sarcophagus, they are historic objects d’art enhanced by his knowledge of their provenance and mechanics.

Holden lovingly strokes the bumper of one, then gestures toward the cabin: “This (car) is more valuable than my whole property.”

Holden caught cabin fever growing up in frigid North Dakota, where his father was a ranch manager, then a feed salesman. He pulls out a black and white photo taken of his family, mid-1950s, in front of a hardscrabble log dwelling as unrelated to his own as Willie Nelson is to Perry Como. Before that, they lived in what Holden calls a “basement house on the poor side of the tracks.” The log cabin had been abandoned. Yet Holden remembers being happy there, especially at Christmas, when a freshly cut tree was illuminated by real candles.

Holden discovered Moore County in the 1970s while serving in the 82nd Airborne Division. “I married the ‘farmer’s daughter’ at Fort Bragg.”

After discharge he did well in real estate and mortgage lending, soon establishing his own company and bringing up a family in a large, formal residence. “We used to drive to Pinehurst often in the late ’80s. You could see the cabin clearly (from U.S. 1).” Intrigued by the elongated garage, he stopped.

“I’ve admired your cabin for a long time. Is it a kit?” he asked the owner. No. The pine logs cut from this very lot are joined with 3000 PSI (pressure per square inch) concrete. Interior/exterior wall maintenance is minimal, although retrofitting for wiring and ductwork, if necessary, can be challenging. The floorplan was tight but sufficient.

They spoke for a while; coincidentally, the owner was planning to sell. Holden had vowed to retire at 39. The modest size (just under 1,800 square feet) was perfect, since his daughters were grown.

He struck a deal with the owner in 1993. The Holdens would sell their fancy furniture, prowl for country antiques, landscape the grounds (including a tall privacy hedge), and adopt a more relaxed lifestyle.

On the day Holden retired, his wife was diagnosed with a brain tumor.

“I lost my ambition for making money. There were other things I wanted to do with my life, including taking care of my wife.”

She died soon after. Holden eventually married a family friend, who died of cancer in 2019.

His log cabin houses memories of both — a showplace minus the glitter. Instead, his concept uses forest hues and materials: A brick fireplace was replaced by stone. Tree bark was cut, flattened and fitted as paneling and window valances. Faux-painted walls also resemble bark. An antler chandelier joins mounted bear and mule deer heads. Colors throughout blend browns with greens, an occasional deep red against leather upholstery.

Antique wooden ice boxes and kitchen “safes” arrived via grandparents. Patterned rugs brighten the knotty pine floorboards.

Except for the upstairs master suite with pale wall-to-wall carpet and unobstructed windows, the house is dark, a result of first-floor windows opening onto a covered porch across the front and a screened porch at the rear, both done in rocking chairs and Amish twig furnishings. Holden installed skylights in the kitchen’s vaulted ceiling, all the better to illuminate this unusual room, which combines distressed painted wood cabinetry with an electromagnetic cooktop that creates heat inside metal pots. The island is built from architectural salvage components. Italian granite countertops add an unusual wavy design in gray-green. A massive schoolmaster’s desk fills one corner. Holden is proud of finding matching antique Windsor stick-back chairs, painted black, for the long table within the kitchen dining area.

One risky departure from the cabin motif: a contemporary staircase installed against a wall, with no railing on the open side.

Holden seems most pleased with details, the small artifacts serving as wall decor, like a spice rack with tiny drawers. Or a child’s sleigh from Vermont. Or a portrait of somebody’s grumpy ancestor, whose eyes seem to follow the beholder. His high-tech  thermostat hides behind a weathered mailbox. A flintlock rifle circa 1820 hangs over a door, and a framed Confederate war bond occupies the stairwell.

What do you think this is?”

From the aubergine walls of his upstairs office hang framed documents dated 1773 concerning property deeds and mortgage transactions bearing X signatures, also a painting he purchased at Harrods, the London emporium catering to royalty.

Early American life is represented by “possibles” bags hanging from a hall tree — utility cross-body carry-alls used by hunters and frontiersmen, which could, possibly, contain anything.

“I tried to keep (the cabin) as authentic as I could.” Otherwise, Holden filled in with reproductions from North Carolina artist/designer Bob Timberlake’s furniture collection.

Nothing in this highly personal cabin even comes close to what awaits in the garage, which was a major selling point for Holden. He enlarged it to 1,900 square feet, larger than the cabin, installed heat and AC but, as yet, no plumbing. Obviously, the garage is his happy place — a spotless showroom, what the Louvre is to Mona Lisa.

Holden is a familiar name among this rarified group of collectors. His 1904 Cadillac touring car took first prize in the Brass Era (1895-1915) category at the 2013 Concours d’Elegance in Pinehurst. This and his other four open cars (one seats seven) defy description, particularly since he restored the motors and bodies himself. Occasionally, he’ll take one for a spin around Southern Pines. Imagine the reaction.

As for the cabin, after living there for 27 years, Holden still calls it a work in progress. “It’s like living in a vacation home,” he says, then relates this anecdote, with pride:

Some time ago, the cabin was on a home tour. Since homeowners must disappear for the day, Holden chose to peruse other participants. “I overheard two women discussing the elaborate houses they had already visited.”

“Just wait until you see the cabin!” one exclaimed.

The difference? It’s different.  PS