A Leap of Faith

Or, how to buy a white elephant, inside unseen

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Koob Gessner

It takes a village to support a castle. But castles are so . . . yesteryear. Most have become tourist attractions or TV locations. Duncraig Manor and Gardens isn’t exactly Downton Abbey, although rather grand for Southern Pines village, circa 1920s, when moneyed Northerners flocked to outdo each other residentially in the newly chic winter enclave.

A pair of these, Quaker Oats heiress Mrs. J.H. Andrews and her daughter Helen Lohman, hired Alfred Yeomans, the nephew of James Boyd, who was to architectural/landscape design what Chanel and Patou were to couture. This would be a huge jewel in Yeomans’ crown.

Except the homestead differed from the Georgian, Federalist, Victorian, New England saltbox, Arts and Crafts and other architectural styles dominating Weymouth. Later named Duncraig by subsequent owner Dr. George Matheson, who had ties to the Scottish Duncraig Castle built in 1866, this was more lodge than castle, executed with a whiff of Tudor, suitable for a newly minted English lord with eight children wanting sprawling summer digs in hunt country. Duncraig has nine bedrooms, 10 bathrooms, a servants’ wing, a quasi-commercial kitchen, finished basement, spa, a garden tea house, groundskeeper’s apartment over the garage, even a nook in the dining room equipped for serving a buffet.

Total: 12,680 square feet . . . and counting.

At completion in 1930, it’s safe to assume Duncraig made a big splash on the bend of Connecticut Avenue.

These days, only a business could justify such space.

The first business was a group home for emotionally disturbed children, operated by Constance Baker. That use did not please neighbors; the home closed in the 1990s. The property, a maintenance money pit, deteriorated as it passed hands.

Caroline and Donald Naysmith are in the business of restoring threadbare mansions as B&B/event venues. Their previous projects — now on the Register of Historic Places — took them to Colorado, Missouri, New York state and Charlotte. Their children operate several.

The Naysmiths have seven children and 30 grandchildren (including three great-grandchildren), so Duncraig works well on holidays.

But nobody calls it rustic or even family style. Beginning with an Italianate fountain installed by a son-in-law in the walled courtyard, continuing with heavy formal furnishings upholstered in dark brocades on the main floor with lighter, brighter hues upstairs, this B&B suits ghosts seeking retro opulence. Ghosts who expect a lily pond, swimming pool, kennels for the hounds, and formal gardens spreading over nearly 5 acres.

On first approach, Duncraig appears the stretch limo of Southern Pines showplaces, somewhat reminiscent of Loblolly, also faintly Tudor with stucco exterior designed for a Boyd relative by Amar Embury II in 1918.

Might Mrs. Andrews and her daughter have been in competitive mode a decade later?

The Naysmiths discovered Duncraig while in town for a musical event; Donald sings gospel and classical. For Caroline, it was love at first sight. She had Don stop the car so she could ring the doorbell, see what was what.

She never got inside. Her reaction, nevertheless: “This house needed me.”

They purchased the property in 2017.

“We are people of faith,” Don said. “We made it a matter of prayer.” Also a matter of money, since the 18-month restoration cost in the low seven figures.

Where to start a tour? The sunken “salon,” aptly named since a room comfortably housing a baby grand piano and an even longer harpsichord exceeds either living room or parlor. Its walls, like those throughout the house, are textured plaster with unusual rounded corners. Some were wallpapered in brocade which, when removed, revealed mold. The gleaming pegged floors are mostly stained. Dark, heavy beams bisect the ceiling. Here, around a massive coffee table, guests gather evenings for wine and hors d’oeuvres before heading out to dinner.

The Naysmiths found furnishings and paintings hither and yon, mostly from dealers in North and South Carolina. For these forays, they attach a trailer to the car and bring it back loaded. No auctions, which are too time-consuming, Caroline says. “We love period antiques of the ’20s and ’30s, when the house was built.” In the salon, this includes throne-sized armchairs in royal purple, an inlaid Asian highboy, both authentic and reproduction Tiffany lamps. Caroline made the drapes covering paned casement windows here and throughout “while I was waiting for the rest to be done.”

Adjoining the salon, a game room/library with burgundy walls offers not only chess and books, but a snarling bear rug.

Watch where you step.

Don relates the story of the dining room table, which looks folksy considering the ornate chairs. He found a fallen cherry tree in the Adirondacks, had the trunk milled into 10-foot lengths and kiln dried with the planks joined into an 11-foot table top set on carved pedestals.

A small (but obligatory for the era) butler’s pantry leads into a mammoth kitchen more utilitarian than magazine, with ceramic tile backsplashes, a square island and a Blue Star gas range tucked into a niche — perfect equipment for a wedding caterer but a bit much for the Naysmiths, who as concierges are required by law to live on the premises.

Main floor rooms are joined by hallways; in one hangs a collection of cow bells. Other collections include Royal Doulton historic character mugs and antique chamber pots.

The front hallway running the length of the house must be longer than a bowling lane.

Each of the guest rooms is named and furnished after places the Naysmiths have visited, including Nagamo, Vienna, Jamaica, Charleston, Budapest. Perhaps the most charming are smaller bedchambers in the servants’ wing, each with a tiny vanity sink.

Bathrooms have been modernized only when necessary, otherwise leaving tiles and fixtures intact, adding to the authenticity. Some have extra-long soaking tubs.

The terraces and gardens, beginning with the front courtyard and, in the rear, stretching on all sides as far as the eye can see, only enhance the estate atmosphere.

However, from a business angle this home-away-from-home for guests trading up isn’t quite what the Naysmiths planned. The B&B and Airbnb worked out, but town regulations limit them to serving only breakfast, not luncheon meetings or dinners. Duncraig is allowed to host only 20 events per year.

Now that the restoration is complete, guests are treated to a glimpse of life between the Gilded Age of the late 1800s and the Great Depression beginning in 1929 — a time when the wealthy and arts-minded mingled over golf in Pinehurst and horses in Southern Pines. A time when, historians suggest, fine tradesmen were lured to North Carolina to build Biltmore House in Asheville, and stayed on to adorn mansions throughout the state.

However, according to Donald Naysmith’s beliefs, things are just things and a house, even Duncraig Manor, is a temporary dwelling:

“It’s what is beyond that matters,” he states with conviction. “We have no permanent home down here. That is our guiding principle.”  PS

A Piece of Work

Fox Hollow — like a posh resort in the country

By Deborah Salomon     Photography by John Koob Gessner

Through the brick posts and iron gates, down the long and winding drive, past the pond stocked with large-mouth bass, the waterfall, pasture, putting green, guest house into the courtyard where a white Italian sports car stands in front of a house with enough wings to take flight, formed from ancient bricks and stones — Fox Hollow Farm answers best to a single word:

Ahhh . . .

Words two through five: Peaceful. Green. Luxurious. Perfect.

“Living here is like living at a resort,” says Mike Martone, who lives at Fox Hollow when not in residence at alternate homes in Banner Elk, North Carolina, and Naples, Florida.

Likely a golf resort, given the hundreds of golf awards, crystal trophies and memorabilia on display throughout the house. Equally an equestrian retreat filled with hunting art, medals and statuary.

“Horses and golf, that’s what attracted us,” Martone says of the estate he purchased deep in Southern Pines horse country, in 2002. He recalls his daughter as a little girl, coaxing her pony into the shallow pond.

However, the house at Fox Hollow wasn’t always resort-quality.

This tract originated as a gristmill, one of only two in southeastern Moore County, operated by a Mr. Buchan. A drawing archived at the Moore County Historical Association shows Buchan’s home made of pine boards, while a map dates it from the 1780s. Still standing is the stone well house; Martone found matching stones in Virginia to face renovations to a wing, also the garage with adjoining workout room. For a project undertaken by a previous owner, weathered bricks were imported from Italy.

As a whole, the house exudes the aura of sporting gentry, despite the rough-hewn front door thought to be from the original cabin.

In the early 20th century Southern Pines developed as a winter haven for wealthy Northern equestrians. “Horse country,” between Young’s Road and Connecticut Avenue, gained panache when the Firestone tire family built an estate on Old Mail Road, as mentioned in the 1994 New York Times obituary for Raymond Firestone, son of founder Harvey. Fox Hollow, originally 35 acres, now about 10, changed hands, submitting to several adaptations before Sam Morton — son of Master of the Hounds Tom Morton — grew up there, from 1961 to 1983. “Before the Firestones it was just woods,” Morton says. “There used to be a tennis court with grandstands” in addition to the spring-fed swimming pool and copper gutters, worth a fortune, that young Sam Morton once cleaned. Mostly, the house was party central for his brother’s college classmates, a departure from the “pink” hunting coats and high leather boots scene. “The whole fraternity came down from N.C. State . . . they slept on the floors, everywhere. There were bodies all over the carriage house.”

Living room rugs were reserved for girls.

Watch out for the snakes — everywhere. “I remember a water moccasin that swam across the pool and up the rocks on the waterfall,” Morton says. He also recalls the queen of Thailand, visiting a college classmate who lived in Pinehurst, came to lunch, but Morton’s mother banished her unruly son, so they never met.

And those are just Sam’s tamer stories.

“I was an outlaw in those days,” he says, fondly. “We put a lot of energy into that house.”

The Martone iteration is calmer, richer, more dignified. The house juts out in half a dozen directions, creating several living/sitting/TV rooms, a large but simple kitchen with breakfast room, medium-sized dining room, many bay windows with upholstered seats for enjoying the views. Some floors are an imported wormy chestnut instead of native heart pine. One bedroom overlooks the waterfall composed of descending stone steps, guaranteeing a babbling lullaby.

A baby grand piano fits perfectly into a nook in the central living room.

“My wife had a dream that our daughter would be a concert pianist,” Martone says. The dream fizzled but the piano still graces the space. Instead of music awards, her room was plastered with blue ribbons from equestrian events.

Dark woods predominate in paneling, floors, beams, rafters; formal furnishings blend into this background. Primary colors are passed over for pale and dark leather, animal skin rugs and printed fabrics of yesteryear, continued in Martone’s study/office with deep green walls.

Definitely single malt territory.

The master bedroom stands as one of several exceptions, with a fanciful wrought iron bed, white linens and narrow beams accentuating a raised ceiling. Light streams through window walls surrounding its seating area dominated by a frilly double-wide chaise longue. Instead of polished cherry or mahogany, the dining room tabletop is inch-thick plate glass with beveled edge, suggesting Art Deco, but crystal chandeliers channel The Phantom of the Opera.

Souvenirs recall worldwide travel, particularly China and India. Martone, now retired, was CEO of a data processing company employing 50,000 in 120 countries.

Formal and traditional, yes, but Martone demands comfort and livability

“I was one of six kids; we grew up in a modest house in Rochester, New York. I converted a small laundry room into a bedroom, or else I’d have to share with my brother.” Martone insisted on heated floors and towel bars in the remodeled bathrooms. “I wanted everything in the house to be used, to be enjoyed.” That includes upholstered pieces unlike his grandmother’s house, where “the furniture was covered with plastic. You’d stick on it when you sat down.”

Every morning, after working out in his fitness studio, Martone sits on his screened porch overlooking the pond and terrace with massive stone fireplace, drinking coffee, watching blue heron fish for their breakfast, enjoying the camellias and azaleas he planted.

More than a home, like a fine suit, Fox Hollow Farm is tailored to the pleasure of its inhabitant.

“You can’t live here without thinking what a special house and environment this is,” Martone concludes, then adds, “Even better than some resorts.”

Ah . . . PS

Story of a House

Minding Their Manors

Retirees resurrect Walter Hines Page residence

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs By John Koob Gessner

Twenty years ago, Dr. Russell and Ann McAllister decided to downsize from a 4,000- square-foot home in Durham. Their children were grown. Russell, a cardiologist, anticipated retirement. Golf wasn’t a factor. So what did they do? Purchase an empty and neglected 6,000-square-foot manor house on 5 acres with two tennis courts and a 20-by-40-foot pool, built in Pinehurst, circa 1916, for U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Walter Hines Page.

Page, appointed by Woodrow Wilson, served during World War I. His father, Francis Page, had made a fortune in logging and construction. The elder Page is credited with founding Cary and Aberdeen. Son Walter, who followed more intellectual pursuits (journalism, teaching, publishing), shifted his attention and residence to England, planning to return, eventually, as a gentleman farmer. Illness brought him back to Pinehurst, where died in 1918, at 63, without fully occupying the stately residence called Garran Hall.

The McAllisters’ acquisition of the Georgian manor, renamed Hollycrest, spins an unlikely tale.

Ann: “A friend asked me to come down from Chapel Hill with her to help find a house in the Sandhills. We looked through some brochures.” One caught Ann’s eye. The agent offered a showing. “It had been vacant for 16 years. As we came up the drive it looked like a haunted nursing home.”

By chance, the house was open. They tiptoed in.

(Roll the spooky music.)

“I had a moment,” Ann recalls. She saw beyond the cobwebs to the grounds, the scope and isolation. “I adore magnolias,” which were plentiful. She faces challenges without fear.

Russell: “I was at choir practice when Ann called to say she had found what she always wanted. And all those years I thought (that something) was me.” Instead, a brick masterpiece, simple and dignified, built longitudinally one room deep, with a wing at each end.

This faded beauty oozed potential. Ann possessed expertise; she had renovated a historic home in Kentucky, also trained as a docent at The Hermitage, President Andrew Jackson’s residence in Nashville, Tennessee.

Nevertheless, Russell — also a history buff — came down, took one look and uttered, tapping his forehead, “She needs help.”

She got the practical kind from the architect who designed their Durham home. But interiors executed in a genteel Southern mode are Ann’s alone.

Once termite damage had been rectified and the skeleton exposed, the crew got to work on making the house 21st century livable: Enlarge the main floor master suite and bathrooms, create a kitchen (original in the basement, which now houses a wine cellar), install new systems (five-zone AC), add two staircases and enough paneling, coffers and moldings that, if laid end to end, would reach W.H. Page’s grave in Aberdeen.

They were able to save all seven carved mantels, most doors and some oak flooring, which was lifted, repaired and relaid. Workmen ran into trouble when replacing the front portico, deemed wrong for the era. During its removal, bricks fell off the house front. The hunt for matching ones took three months.

The blush pink salon — nearly 40 feet long, with tall bare windows parading down both sides — remained intact, divided into conversation areas by white sofas, chairs, rugs and tables. One end is anchored by a fireplace, the other by a 15th century millefleurs tapestry reproduction, where the background is composed of tiny flowers.

Given the dimensions, Russell envisioned it a ballroom.

“We love to dance.”

Less imposing on a quiet evening are several sitting rooms, including one adjacent to the kitchen, also Ann’s Blue Room displaying her Delft collections, notably tiles framing the fireplace. Part of Russell’s second-floor office doubles as the TV room. Her favorite is the library just off the kitchen, where a round ottoman upholstered in a fabric featuring life-sized cats dominates floorspace.

“Playfulness,” Ann calls it. “Every room needs a laugh.”

Laughing from the top of a highboy is her collection of nutcrackers brought back from a year in Switzerland. Russell identifies the odd painted wooden benches on the veranda and by the front door as joggling boards, a low country craft.

“This is where you sit with your girlfriend and ‘joggle’ closer and closer.”

How refreshing to see serious antiques placed beside a cat fabric and pig-shaped leather footstool. In the foyer Ann again accomplished this with her mother-in-law’s Governor Winthrop-style desk a few feet from a low rack draped with a velvet jester’s cap, a French gendarme’s hat and assorted headgear collected on their travels.

Ann’s fabric/wallpaper preferences lean toward chinoiserie patterns with flowers and birds of paradise, popular in Europe when Asian trade routes opened during the 17th century. Some have a silky sheen. Her method: Haunt fine fabric shops in Charleston, Atlanta and Durham, purveyors of brands like Scalamandre and Brunschwig & Fils, for finds and bargains. When something catches her eye, “I buy it, a lot, and build the room around it.”

The gap between purchase and use can be years. Other times, the fabric completes a theme, as in the upstairs nursery. Here, a medieval tone is set by a brass canopied crib, fit for a prince, first used by the McAllister children, now by the grandchildren.

Ann attributes recurring Asian themes, notably lamps, to time their son spent at the University of Beijing.

Furniture wasn’t a problem. Russell descends from an old Virginia family, Ann from a Tennessee counterpart. Heirlooms aplenty trickled down, including a Biedermeier chest, many desks, side tables, campaign and other chairs, a bachelor’s chest, armoires, classic dining room pieces and, of course, ancestral portraits: Russell’s kin, a handsome assistant surgeon general of the Confederate Army, shares a wall with his stern-looking wife. “When you have enough relatives who die on both sides you can pull it together,” Ann learned.

Her kitchen, created from scratch, pushes the envelope in another direction. The toile wallpaper in giant black-on-white figures suggests a formality not reflected in matte black granite countertops, preferred for their well-worn look. The low storage island doubles as a dinette table, and two farm sinks (one in an open butler’s pantry) help when the McAllisters entertain. The wall of windows over the main sink faces an expanse of grass bordered by elder magnolias and American plane trees, with pool and tennis courts beyond.

“Every morning at 6:30 I look out and see a deer herd go by,” Ann says.

Indeed, Hollycrest qualifies as lodging for royalty. Elizabeth Demaine, who purchased the property in the 1940s, hosted the Queen of Thailand, a college friend, and her entourage there. Demaine, a foxhunter, changed the name to Hollycrest, adding stables and kennels — even an enclosure for peacocks, known to be guard birds.

Demaine’s favorite horse is buried on the property.

All things considered, the beauty of Hollycrest lies in the sum of its details: the old-fashioned robin’s egg blue and barely pink downstairs walls contrasting to dark, vivid teal and red upstairs, accomplished by first painting the surface black, then overlaying color. The Tennessee marble used for a powder room vanity. The original polished brass hinges and doorknobs. A narrow spiral staircase. Brick gateposts and a circular drive to match house proportions. Art purchased worldwide just because the collectors liked it. A secret coat closet, under the main staircase. A collection of tiny Hummel figurines. The handpainted folding screen in the dining room. Shelves of Southern literature and gardening books in Ann’s sitting room. A tiny refrigerator built into Russell’s office bookcase, containing his favorite beverages and the grandchildren’s.

Lucky grandchildren. Ann and Russell located a furnished “wee cottage” just tall enough to accommodate grade-schoolers. They arranged for its transportation, in toto, by sky crane, then secured it with a foundation.

Alice found no match in Wonderland.

Next up, lighting the tennis courts so the McAllister’s daughter, who played for Princeton University, can teach her children.

What Ambassador Walter Hines Page started others have continued in a style both innovative and respectful of times when people paid calls, wrote thank-you notes and took Sunday drives. As its current chatelaine Ann McAllister realizes, even greater potential as a family homestead.

“This house needs three or four kids running around. I have tried to preserve it for someone down the path, a continuing challenge.” PS

Art Here, Art There, Art Everywhere

A cozy family home doubles as a gallery for animal behaviorist

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs By John Koob Gessner

A sandy, rutted, quarter-mile driveway off Pee Dee Road ends at a white clapboard house with enough wings to take flight. Its front yard is a grass pasture sized for soccer, or football, or equestrian trials. Somewhere on the 150-acre estate are remnants of a tennis court. Yet the exterior suggests a family home, more comfy than pretentious, despite its 6,000-square-foot interior.

The sign by the front porch reads Whitehall — not for London’s government center, but because the man who built it during the development of Knollwood in the 1920s was named White, or Whitehouse.

One legend has this wealthy New Yorker losing his fortune in the 1929 stock market crash — and committing suicide.

Lacking a documented pedigree, Whitehall speaks for itself through Dr. Barbara Sherman — veterinarian, author, respected animal behavioral specialist, clinical professor at N.C. State College of Veterinary Medicine — who has occupied the house for 20 years.

From the outset, Sherman saw it as more than a sprawling residence offering both beauty and privacy. “The light, the bay windows and curved walls, the moldings, the space” suggested a gallery. She is a connoisseur and collector of sculpture,  pieces displayed on pedestals acquired during travels to galleries and showings, preferably where the artist is present.

“I am intrigued and often moved by artistic expression — not sure why, but some contemporary art speaks to me,” she says. “I feel pleasure living with it and by purchasing it, supporting the artists, learning how they found their way.”

Understandable, since “my parents collected sculpture.”

Her involvement, more likely passion, begins with the sculpture outside the front door, which she describes as an ocean stone rounded by the sand and inexorable movement of the sea, with contrasting sharp lines of the artist’s cut and the potent symbolism of the center circle, all mounted on a steel base.

“It almost seemed an altar to the miracle of nature.”

Once inside, Sherman lovingly strokes a ceramic elephant fossil displayed in the small sitting room off a foyer where a wall-mounted metal torso flanks the front door.

Now, first-time visitors know what lies beyond.

The house, purchased from the Drexel family, was once a hub for the six Drexel children and their friends. To accommodate the crowd, in addition to a huge living room, the Drexels added an even larger family room, where over the fireplace hangs a piece of geometric fiber art designed by Alexander Calder.

David Drexel was a popular Boy Scoutmaster who held events at Whitehall, recalled fondly by Scout Bob Ganis: “We would walk from Whitehall to a small pond in the woods to swim. That pond still exists as a water feature at Talamore golf course.”

Daughter Tina (Drexel) Adams remembers raising chickens and pigs: “I used to ride along in Dad’s truck delivering eggs.” She also recalls giving birth to her middle daughter there.

Sherman spent a year renovating without altering Whitehall’s character or floor plan. The rooms, like a maze, connect with each other rather than radiating from a hallway. A garage and screen porch were added, where Sherman sits and watches red-tailed hawks and deer. Original heart pine floors were refinished but not stained. Cherry cabinetry in the new kitchen channels the Arts and Crafts period. Even here a pedestal supporting a buffalo sculpture fronts a bare window, while another flat piece hangs over the sink. Large abstract paintings and landscapes, one by Evelyn Dempsey, decorate the passageway from kitchen to family dining room, delineated by an Oriental rug, one of dozens throughout the house.

The renovation included skylights and all systems, but not bathrooms tiled in that 1950s froggy green rarely seen since. “Look at the tiles, the workmanship,” Sherman says. “Before they came (in sheets), each tile was laid individually.”

Of all Whitehall’s randomly situated rooms, one stands out. Located just beyond the small sitting room, this might have been a sunroom, with tall windows on three sides and the arched ceiling. Aside from several pedestals and a carpet, its only occupant is a jointed life-sized wooden block figure reclining on the floor, titled The Pine Man, which Sherman found in Cleveland.

When art comes first, integrating furnishings can be tricky. Sherman respected no boundaries. “My mother was an interior designer” who contributed many exquisite European pieces, including an inlaid dining table, lovely enough to leave bare when in use. Just as impressive, several burled highboys and a glass-front cabinet displaying a collection of about 40 fine china demitasse cups, some rimmed in gold. They belonged to Sherman’s grandmother, who lived in Greensboro.

“Do I look like a demitasse person?” Sherman smiles, wryly.

The showpiece, however, is a table piano dated 1791 made by Sebastien Erard, an 18th century French instrument crafter who received commissions from Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. According to a music history, Beethoven, Chopin, Liszt, Verdi, Wagner and Mendelssohn also owned Erard pianos.

For the rest, Sherman chose plain, stocky tables, sandy-neutral leather chairs and upholstered sofas that do not draw attention away from the art and antiques. “Simple, handcrafted, esthetic” were her requirements.

For years Sherman drove almost daily to Raleigh. Once home, Whitehall fulfilled her need for nature. “I love being in the woods and observing the natural world around me.” This fulfillment has been shared with the public since David Drexel approached the newly formed Sandhills Area Land Trust (SALT) to establish a conservation easement. Therefore, the Whitehall Trail, a 2-mile loop and 57 acres surrounding it, will be reserved for public use forever. The rough, often leaf-covered trail is open to walkers (with or without dogs), joggers and cyclists, but not horses.

Sherman’s daughter is grown and gone. Since retirement, she and scruffy rescue terrier Jasper don’t need 6,000 square feet on 150 acres. They are moving closer to the horses she loves and understands, and a human community of the like-minded. Perhaps Whitehall will find new purpose as a proper gallery, or an organization’s performance/educational/arts space, she muses.

“Life has changed. I want to divest myself of so many material things, have less to be responsible for, live at a different rhythm.” This applies to mowing the pasture on a ride-on, but not to her collections.

“It is remarkable that people can create such things,” she says. “I will always want to be surrounded by art and nature.”  PS

Starting Over

A new look for a couple . . . and a neighborhood

By Deborah Salomon   •   Photographs by Amy Freeman & John Koob Gessner

Old Town Pinehurst suggests cottages — likely sizable vacation homes — built in the early 1900s, first by James Tufts, then by wealthy Northeastern families eager to populate the newly chic golf resort. Those still standing have been restored and modernized to the nines. Most are furnished in antiques, Persian rugs, period pieces, family portraits, golf or equestrian art. Behind every armoire door and over every carved mantel hangs the latest in flat-screen technology.

When the cottages ran out, people who desired strolling distance to the village began buying land and building. Some new construction followed classic styles. Other homes veered afar, like an asymmetrical front with interior half-story facilitating a balcony overlooking the family room; an intimate living room with four armchairs around a low table but not much else; and a breezeway into a mud wing with direct access to the rear deck and gardens so guests on their way to the (not yet built) pool or cookout would avoid traipsing through the house.

New ideas, indeed, just what Elizabeth “Cissy” Beckert and her husband, Bruce, wanted. So new that when they found this house built in 2007 they decided to purge their furniture circa big-dogs-sleeping-on-the-couch and start fresh.

“It’s something Cissy always wanted to do,” Bruce says.

What fun for a couple who had worked in the High Point furniture industry. They hired designer/friend Leslie Moore, whose motto is “perfectly imperfect,” and, after Market closed, walked through the showrooms selecting pieces that fleshed out their ideas. Many came from Hickory Chair, a century-old North Carolina furniture manufacturer that still crafts 90 percent of its products in-state.

The Beckerts’ purpose was born far, far away.

“Six years ago we took the family to Puako, Hawaii, and stayed in a VRBO on the Maui Channel,” Cissy begins. “We loved how the house allowed the outside to come in — every window framed a view. We returned to Pinehurst wanting to find a home with the same feel except instead of the ocean, the views would be magnificent magnolias, gardenias, hydrangeas, daylilies and Carolina jasmine.”

To illustrate, Cissy points to a tall, paned powder room window draped on the outside with jasmine vines resembling a drawn-back curtain.

The house they found had been designed sans cookie cutter. It required no structural changes. High ceilings throughout are delineated by simple, elegant crown moldings. The unusual floorplan (four bedrooms, six bathrooms and an attached garage tucked around back, accessed by an alley) suited their purposes: children grown and gone who visit occasionally. Now Cissy could select rugs and furniture to fit room dimensions.

Bruce reacted immediately. “As soon as I walked in the door I said, ‘I can live here.’”

The foyer opens into a longitudinal layout featuring a spacious open core encompassing kitchen, vaulted family room with skylights, and a dinette devoid of table and chairs.

“We eat at the bar or (for events like Thanksgiving) in the dining room,” maybe outside under a vine-covered pergola, Bruce says. He repurposed the dinette as a plant gallery — tall ones, in attractive ceramic pots, with matching rug.

“We’re outdoors people,” Bruce continues. “I like plants — they scrub the air.”

But wait: Outdoors, especially Hawaiian, means sun-splashed color. Yet beyond the handsome arched front door the walls and many furnishings hum Zen gray.

“I shy away from bright colors that assault the eye,” Cissy explains. “Gray is peaceful.” Then, thinking deeper, “I was the middle child. Gray is between black and white.” She tempers the gray with several shades of blue, mostly in fabrics: “A blue sky mesmerizes me, especially the turquoise from New Mexico.”

About that tiny monochromatic living room: “We have our morning coffee there,” Cissy says. Or sit with a few friends, sipping wine by the fire. Contemporary architecture often shrinks this traditional gathering place, adding space elsewhere. The dining room is also smallish, intimate, and gray, which suits Cissy.

“When we close the curtains we’re enveloped. I’m a high energy person. This calms me down.”

However, tall ceilings suggest a spaciousness that allows large pieces, like the massive bed of dark woods in the master bedroom — the only piece retained from their previous home. Here, minimalism rules. No clutter, just a few pieces with clean lines to foil the decorative bed frame.

“Don’t be fooled; I like sturdy furniture,” Cissy says, pointing to a heavy rustic coffee table in the family living area.

Don’t be fooled by all the grays and neutrals, either, not even one upstairs bedroom with a beach sand-colored coverlet where lies Ted, their matching sandy-hued rescue kitty with a lion’s face. Also upstairs, besides guest bedrooms and many bathrooms, a huge “bonus” room over the garage, with café au lait walls and marshmallow-soft cocoa carpeting, which they use for watching movies.

For Cissy, this house became a place to express her newfound interest in art, particularly contemporary and abstract paintings done by Southern women. The gray walls come alive with Picasso-esque faces by Windy O’Connor of Charlotte; other artists represented live in Atlanta, Charleston and Athens. Trish Deerwester of Southern Pines created three abstracts in, no surprise, gray, blue and white, while Cissy commissioned Becky Clodfelter of Greensboro to create a large abstract for the foyer, which introduces the palette continued through the house.

Over the clawfoot tub, a seated nude. Dominating the stairwell, a 10-foot geometric canvas found rolled up in the corner of a High Point showroom corner.

Yet Cissy’s favorite is a portrait of a cow. “They’re gentle, they give milk.”

Bruce leans another way. “I’m an Ansel Adams, Ben Ham (black and white photography) kind of guy,” as represented in the mix.

Taken together, Cissy dubs the look she and Moore created “polished casual,” to which Bruce adds “comfortable, not too pretentious.”

Landscaping is another story. “Some people have a boat. We have a garden,” Bruce says. From the looks of it, both boast green thumbs plus green fingers. A few magnolias and other trees came with the house. They have added a dense wall of greenery to screen the house from a moderately trafficked street. Cissy reels off the names with expert familiarity: tea olive bush, loropetalum, butterfly bush, viburnum, nandina, lavender, rosemary, aucuba and enormous blue hydrangeas framed by the windows.

Starting over, as the Beckerts have done, seems unusual except after fire or flood. Bruce reasons differently: “People have too much stuff. I don’t want my stuff to dictate my life.” This should be easier with new stuff that lacks an emotional attachment to heirlooms.

Cissy sums up their effort. “This house is who were are and what we love.”   PS

To Thine Own Self Be True

Designer expresses her many loves in Pinehurst cottage

By Deborah Salomon   

Photographs by John Koob Gessner

A perfect and very personal renovation is a hard act to follow . . . unless motivated by the heart.

Residential perfection is what interior designer/tennis ace/gardener/artist/yoga practitioner Julie Sanford achieved a decade ago when she resurrected a modest Pinehurst cottage to reflect her background, her foreground, her tastes, philosophies and talents. This woman has sailed across the Atlantic in a 42-foot sloop; climbed partway up Machu Picchu; snorkeled black holes of the Caribbean. She has furnished Nantucket compounds and Manhattan condos for clients; a pied-à-terre in Paris and a Newport, Rhode Island, showplace. Julie’s achievements have reached The New York Times Magazine and Country Living. Her recent projects include collages crafted from leftover wallpaper, as well as further adapting her Pinehurst gem where the sign over the front door reads “Craven Cottage.” 

Julie’s approach: “I like the integrity of real. Edit out the junk. Keep the things that motivate you, that make you feel good,” which in her case would be living by the sea. Notice oceanscapes, beaches and ship art. She isn’t shy with color, either subtle or primary: bedroom walls suggest a pineapple daiquiri. A ripe-tomato red lamp jumps off its table. Her kitchen, void of Sub-Zero and Viking, glows pale apricot set off by cream cupboards and a khaki tile backsplash.  “People spend a fortune on the kitchen. It’s not my thing. I’m a good cook but I don’t need the (mega-appliances).” What she does need is open shelving stacked with blue English Transferware, which she uses daily.

Pervading all, aquamarine, the watery hue Julie used for vestibule floor tiles and living room upholstery. “My spiritual home is the Caribbean,” she admits.

Whimsy — of course. Who else covers a seat cushion with fabric picturing giant insects or runs a row of buttons down a dining room chair? That pink “thing” resembling Valentine lollipops standing at attention on a textured rose Parsons’ table in the otherwise classic living room is an antique balloon mold. Julie favors sculptures of hands which reach out, armless, from shelves and tables. To her, they represent “lending a hand” to someone in need.

Craven and four sister cottages were built in 1921 and sold to Pinehurst resort as rental properties. According to records at the Tufts Archives, seasonal rental was $1,500. The façade is particularly notable, with a broad gable facing the street, an English country porch and Tudor-arched front door — a feature Julie repeated between the living and dining rooms, and the family room and kitchen. Alice Craven, proprietor of a village knitting shop, occupied the house in the 1930s, followed by John Thomas Craven in the 1950s. Post-Cravens, the cottage was renamed generic Longleaf, but Craven remains over the door.

Julie, raised in New England, found Pinehurst during a visit to Fayetteville, where her mother was being cared for. The village resembled familiar ones in Vermont and on Cape Cod but with a milder climate. Most important, a tennis community thrived here. The cottage she found, drowning in ’60s décor, mandated a major renovation, a welcome challenge for this experienced designer who appreciated the era it represented, especially the narrow-board floors, elaborate crossbeam door and window frames, and light streaming in on all sides — plus a rare full basement. Julie found its modest size (then barely 2,000 square feet) appealing. She believes people relate better in intimate settings.

“The house just sang to me from the get-go.”

And then, renovation and furnishing accomplished, part-time occupancy achieved, life shifted.

“I met a man, George Lynch, the love of my life.”

After living single for 25 years, Julie realized modifications would be necessary. Her low-ceilinged bedrooms were in the finished attic, accessed by a steep, narrow staircase. The large main floor room Julie had added as a yoga studio became a master bed-sitting room painted yellow, her “happy color.” Its bathroom has dizzying black polka-dot wallpaper punctuated with French Gien plates, each decorated with a cartoon. “A bit extreme, but it makes me laugh,” Julie says. She built a family room with cathedral ceiling off the kitchen because, “My husband is a big man. We have four dogs. There wasn’t room anywhere for me to sit.” Original wood floors, except in the dining room, have been pickled (whitewashed), rendering the rooms light and summery, reminiscent of Martha’s Vineyard.

Completing the enlargement is a deck, covered and open, overlooking the garden. A self-described passionate gardener, Julie recalls how caring for geraniums figured in meeting the love of her life.

An organic, zen-calm separates Julie’s space from houses bustling with décor trends. She has achieved a new, fresh feeling using antiques of different periods and provenance that hang together like old friends. The almost monastic absence of clutter gives each piece — whether a marble-topped side table or an inlaid bureau — room to shine. The same with paintings, some she did herself, mounted singly rather than in groups.  Themes and colors (especially green, representing nature) flow from room to room, as do objects like Staffordshire figurine lamps and animal art.

Perfect as this home is, Julie and George have another, equally unusual: a 19th century mobile chapel used by itinerant New England preachers. The 20-by-28-foot wheeled structure was pulled from town to town by oxen. Now, the couple has moored it in Jamestown, Rhode Island, within sight of the sea, from whence Julie came.

“My home is my sanctuary,” Julie says. And, in this case, a self-portrait.  PS

The Way We Were

Century-old apartment house gets a new lease on life

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Soft green, rose and plaid upholstery. A what-not shelf filled with elephant miniatures. Floral duvet, matching bedside table skirt and drapes. Dark woods and polished silver. A baby grand in the parlor. Bedrooms sized like bedrooms, not basketball courts. Antiques with family connections.

Genteel, pretty, Southern.

So goes Thistle Cottage, built on the edge of Pinehurst village by the Tufts family in 1916 as four apartments with separate entrances and separate furnaces to accommodate senior resort staff. Legendary Carolina Hotel doorman Sam Lacks and headwaiter George Ashe lived there. Subsequently, Annie Oakley and her husband, Henry Butler, occupied a first-floor apartment while she entertained guests during the winter season.

The apartment idea caught on. In 1918 the Pinehurst Outlook reported “the number of applications has surpassed expectations.” The building was renovated and minimally landscaped in 1922. Apartments got not only fresh paint but “modern” furniture, justifying $750 rent from October to May. Henry Page Sr. lived there in 1932, Roy Kelly from 1938 to 1962. In the 1980s Page and Hayley Dettor reconfigured the house as a longitudinal 3,200-square-foot two-story single-family dwelling with an unusual (for the Sandhills) full finished basement.

Yet something was missing.

No longer. In Jane and Jim Lewis’ 20-year tenure, scruffy grounds have become magnolia bowers with a carpet of English ivy.

“We didn’t want any newfangled vegetation,” Jane says.

Now three mini-porches and a secret garden exude a rocking-chair charm never out of style. Just inside the front door a 1990 version of a glamour kitchen suits the classic American cuisine Jim prefers when they eat in, which is most of the time.

“Meatloaf,” he nods. “I don’t go for fancy seasonings.”

Instead, Jim (from a South Carolina tobacco town) and Jane (family roots deep in antebellum Virginia) relish surrounding themselves with history.

“You can tell a lot about a man by looking at his books,” Jim believes. An entire wall of bookshelves in the TV room reveals his love of baseball and American history, while Jane falls into the gardening/interior design category, having worked with the fabric company Brunschwig & Fils Inc., whose installations at the White House and Palace of Versailles join the dining room, living room and bedrooms of Thistle Cottage — its name, bestowed by the Tuftses, emblematic of Scotland.

“I’m sentimental,” Jane says. “I like to mix in old family books . . . look inside them and see which great-great (relative) it was given to.”

How Jane and Jim Lewis found Thistle Cottage begs the beginning  “. . . once upon a time.”

They both have fond memories of Southern living. Jim moved around a lot — 14 times since his marriage alone. Jane, from a Navy family, lived mostly in Charlotte, with her grandmother and “old maid aunts who didn’t have any other place to go.” He graduated from Davidson, she from Queens College. As a communications executive at Southern Bell, then Lucent Technologies, Jim was sent to Savannah and Richmond, which they loved, finally Denver. As Jim neared retirement, he requested relocation to Charlotte, now a big, busy city — less than ideal for retirement, they discovered. Pinehurst was a frequent golf destination. “I tried to persuade Jane that this was the place (to live),” Jim says. They struck a deal. “We’ll practice living here for a year and if Jane doesn’t like it, we’ll go back to the empty-nester in Charlotte.” To this end, Jim looked around and found Thistle. “I liked it the minute I walked in . . . the open space (kitchen, breakfast room, family-TV room). I called Jane to come down and take a look.”

They bought Thistle in 1997 as a weekend retreat. “We subscribed to the newspaper, pretended we lived here,” Jim recalls. By 1999 the transition was complete. They sold the empty nest and took up permanent residence in a house with plenty of history for Jim to explore, plenty of land for Jane to garden and plenty of room for their sons and, later, grandchildren, to spread out.

At first glance, except for the grounds, Thistle looked “finished” to Jim. He admired the thriftiness of a previous owner, who took down paneled doors and laid them horizontally as wainscoting. Still, they found plenty to do. Removing a wall between smallish dining and living rooms made both appear larger. They created an upstairs spa bathroom and dressing room with washer-dryer, installed crown moldings, replaced crumbling exterior wooden shutters with hard-to-find replicas, lighted and brightened everything.

“I like happy colors,” Jane declares. No contemporary grays and neutrals. From three previous houses she brought forward the same stunning crimson wallpaper in the dining and living rooms. The kitchen and family rooms are a pale yellow. Oriental rugs feature primary rather than shaded colors. The master bedroom is done in red toile and the living room, a masterful mix of Brunschwig & Fils fabrics in bold hues — mostly florals, one geometric. Jim’s study is painted a forest green, to match his favorite sweater.

Jane’s antiques — tables, rush-bottomed chairs, sideboards, case pieces — are crowned by a grandfather clock crafted in the early 1800s by John Weidemeyer of Fredericksburg, Va. This “case” clock, long in Jane’s family, has a false front where coin silver spoons were hidden from Union Gen. Philip Sheridan, who charged down the Shenandoah Valley in 1864. Jane owns several of the spoons. Her collection of China export porcelain plates in the butterfly pattern hang on dining room walls.

She is especially fond of etchings by Hungarian artist Luigi Kasimir, picturing European churches, which she found bargain-priced in a second-hand shop. They set a classic tone in the foyer and upstairs hallway. Portraits of Gen. Robert E. Lee and Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson hang over a bedroom mantel, stripped to its original pine.

A painting of the Pine Crest Inn by local artist Jessie Mackay underlines Jim’s opinion that this landmark, although not luxurious, is as steeped in tradition as Pinehurst No. 2. “Everybody who’s anybody in the game of golf has been there.”

But the conversation starter in Jane and Jim’s Thistle has to be a bar nook built by a previous owner, with shelves displaying 280 mini liquor bottles, no duplications, the kind available on planes and trains in the good old days. They belonged to an aunt who began collecting them in the 1930s. Many, although unopened, are empty, the contents evaporated through the seal. Jim put up the narrow shelf and cataloged the bottles. Dusting them is a delicate chore, performed by Jane.

Historian Jim enjoys the Annie Oakley connection. Photos, memorabilia, even a gun of the era (“It came with the house”) form a small shrine in the family room. He’s ready with lore and dates, books and posters — proud of living where she did even if the walls are now crimson.

Jim and Jane Lewis have succeeded in providing Thistle Cottage an atmosphere both elegant and comfy, respectful of an era in the South — the ’50s and ’60s — which has yet to gain status with millennials busy simplifying and modernizing. An era when elders still recounted the history of their possessions.

“I love the lived-in feeling,” Jim says.

“Oh yes, we’ve been happy here,” Jane adds.

The upscaling of Thistle Cottage, particularly the landscaping, helped this outlying street where modest houses are being rejuvenated or replaced for a new generation of residents. “Now we have mothers with jogging strollers come by,” Jane notices. “It’s a real pleasure.”  PS

Story of a House December 2018

Same Time, Last Year

A Tudor manor steeped in Yule for a special occasion

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Never again will Le Berceau be as lavishly adorned for Christmas as in 2017: dozens of poinsettias, two fresh Carolina-grown trees, nutcracker guardsman, heirloom ornaments and the piece de resistance, a wreath of white orchids cascading from the dining room chandelier. Thus embellished, Lucille and Jim Buck’s home bearing the French name for cradle — arguably Pinehurst’s most elegant residence — provided the setting for an event Neil Simon could have scripted for Broadway: 10 couples, married to each other for at least 50 years, celebrate with a dinner party near the host’s anniversary date.

Jim and Lucille were married on Dec. 26, 1960, surrounded by poinsettias. Logical, then, they should go lavish, albeit with a Scottish theme arising from Lucille’s heritage not discovered until moving to North Carolina. She wore her Clan Morrison tartan sash to the black tie dinner. Thistles, the Scottish national flower, appeared in floral arrangements. A bagpiper played during cocktails. Unicorns, the official Scottish beastie, decorated the dining table. The menu, served on Spode Christmas china, debunked the notion that UK food is mostly forgettable: smoked Scottish salmon, roasted quail with Scotch eggs, tenderloin of beef with whiskey sauce, neeps (a root vegetable) and rumbledethumps (cabbage and mashed potatoes), frisée with Scotch vinaigrette and, for dessert, a wedding cake topped with bride and groom, he in kilt, she with an arm reaching around to lift it.

Single malt flowed like beer at Oktoberfest

As Lucille put it: “This was a big deal.”

Guest and “club” member Mary Gozzi elaborated: “OMG awesome, spectacular, so festive I was speechless. I’ve never seen so many orchids in one place. Lucille is a party giver who’s got it down to the jelly beans!”

But a dress is only a dress until draped on a stunning model. Even bare-naked Le Berceau seems Christmas-y, with multiple nooks, seating and dining areas, sun porches, mantels, paned windows, staircases, a tiny telephone cubby begging decoration. The tone is classic with red dominating since, Lucille says, “For Jim it’s either red or ugly.” The elevator bears a touch of Yule, as does the carousel horse prancing on the landing.  Jim’s office, arranged around a desk belonging to movie star Loretta Young, doesn’t escape the red wave. Here resides memorabilia from his career as an attorney, senior vice-president of the New York Stock Exchange and author of its definitive history. Lucille has her “pouting” room hung with accolades from a career in education at fine New York schools.

“I had an absolutely unqualified dream that I would live in a house like this,” Jim decided, as a boy growing up in Ohio.

In 2000, while living in a soigné Manhattan apartment with a house in the Hamptons, they contemplated retirement. But where? Let’s drive over to Pinehurst, they decided, while visiting a daughter who lived in Charlotte.

Lucille fell in love. “I felt at home,” among the longleaf pines, azaleas and gardenias that grew in East Texas, her childhood home. The Tudor-style manse with swimming pool and a servants’ wing suited for guests satisfied Jim’s goal. Imagine that, within sight of the Carolina Hotel.

This central location mattered to its first occupant. James Tufts lured Bostonian Dr. Myron Marr to Pinehurst, as resort physician. The house, designed by a Boston architect and built in 1921, probably sweetened the deal for the Marr family, who remained there until the 1950s. The Bucks are only the fourth owners.

Their imprint on the house, however, is indelible, starting with the walls, wallpapered throughout. Not just commonplace florals and geometrics. In the kitchen, giant Delft-blue platters against a red background reflect the blue Viking range. Fashion drawings for a granddaughter’s bedroom, English teacups for Lucille’s dressing room, birds in the laundry room, a rubber ducky bathroom, toile and Asian motifs in the master and other bedrooms. In the salon, especially for Jim, a solid red textured paper provides a backdrop for sofas covered in a red, cream and green Brunschwig et Fils fabric chosen by Jackie Kennedy’s White House interior designer for Brooke Astor’s library.

“I’ve had my eye on that fabric for years,” Lucille says, but only now found a suitable setting.

The Bucks’ Christmas ornaments and decorations form a family scrapbook of places and events. Into the hand of a tall nutcracker (a window decoration purchased from a store going out of business) Lucille would tuck tickets to the ballet at Lincoln Center for their daughters, who eventually danced in the Christmas production. A grandson later danced the part of Fritz, garnering a glowing review in The New York Times, which Lucille proudly reads aloud.

Then, the prank concerning green balls on the tree — Lucille’s choice — which the Bucks’ son said didn’t show up well enough. Through a complicated long-distance adventure that included snitching a giant green ball from the trunk of his parents’ car and hanging it from the top of the house on the Fourth of July, Lucille was proven wrong. Now, Moravian stars, pine cones and cardinals represent their relocation to North Carolina.

“In every house we’ve lived in, I always wanted a bigger Christmas tree — to touch the ceiling,” Jim says. Lucille decorates the tall living room tree and a smaller one in the bedroom, needing help only with attaching the angel on top. She commemorates Jim’s Swedish background with a Santa Lucia doll wearing a crown of candles — but marinated herring isn’t for Christmas dinner.

Christmas holds one poignant memory for Lucille:
“My mother and father took me into the woods to cut a tree . . . it was a great outing. One time we even chose a holly (bush).” Lucille’s father died when she was 12. “The year after that our minister went with us, so I wouldn’t miss it.”

Their decorations remain in place until Feast of the Epiphany, Jan. 6.

But last year, overriding all memorabilia and decor, was that wreath of anniversary orchids — a veritable canopy over the dining room table — designed and implemented by Carol Dowd of Botanicals. “We started planning in July,” Dowd says, inspired by a hanging orchid arrangement Lucille remembered from a dinner party in New York. Surprisingly, the two dozen white orchids, FedExed from Miami, proved long-lasting with only water tubes. The wreath hung for more than two weeks. More important, rather than obstructing guests’ sightline, the wreath, suspended over a low centerpiece, created a bower effect.

What a Christmas. What memories. “My Scottish heritage found me,” Lucille says. Sharing it with close friends was a blessing. “We’re the same generation. We’ve lived this long and have been successful, career-wise and in marriage. The party was a big job but I didn’t mind. In fact, it invigorated me.” PS

House of Sweet Surprises

House of Sweet Surprises

Designer Mark Parson’s imaginative reworking of a humble bungalow creates something for everyone

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

If the shoemaker’s children shouldn’t go barefoot, neither must an architectural designer’s family suffer an ordinary house. What Mark and Kathie Parson have done to a humble 1940s bungalow on the outskirts of the village of Pinehurst is the glass slipper on Cinderella’s sooty foot, the genie in the mayonnaise jar. Not only has Mark designed a compound housing three generations, he has paid homage to the St. Andrews Links in Scotland by reproducing narrow, curving canals through which flow gurgling water, set on putting-green grass, in a rear courtyard.

He also designed and installed the landscaping, including details like leaving a narrow band of soil between a brick walkway and low wall, allowing ficus vines to root and creep.

“Houses don’t have DNA,” he reasons. “We had to give it character.” Knocking the bungalow down would have been easier. “But then you wouldn’t have a good story.”

Mark Parson is full of surprising stories, starting with self-training. Then, his unlikely success, evidenced by hardscape and softscape designs for Sandals Caribbean resorts, Miami Beach mansions and a prize-winning Harley-Davidson dealership. Locally, besides residential projects, he transformed an unsightly garage on Broad Street into The Sly Fox gastropub.

To Kathie go accolades for the floorplan and décor, her taste honed as a designer/manager at Bloomingdale’s in Miami, where they met. Kathie is from Minnesota, Mark from (he wrinkles his nose) Ohio. She grew up in an apartment; he in “a shoebox.” His upward mobility could have been written by Twain, or O. Henry. In part: “My father was a union guy at Chrysler. I framed houses, worked in a sheet metal shop, welded, worked as an orthodontist’s assistant —all that hands on stuff.” But, despite dream jobs like being flown back and forth to Sandals Royal Bahamian Resort in Nassau, he and Kathie, new parents after many years of marriage, opted out of the glam lane and chose North Carolina — first Shelby, then Asheboro. While participating in a Richard Petty charity ride, Mark discovered Pinehurst. “I had heard of (Frederick Law) Olmsted. The real draw was sandy soil and people from everywhere.” People who appreciated and could afford imaginative renovations/new construction.

Kathie looked at the village of Pinehurst, drove over to Southern Pines and decided this was where she wanted to be a stay-home mom.

In 2003, they bought two houses on Everette Road, one for them, one for Kathie’s mother. The plan: Put both on the market and remodel the one that didn’t sell.

Remodel is hardly the word. Mark, as architect and general contractor, took the 1,100-square-foot house down to the studs and dirt floor. The phoenix that arose, double in size, had a new wing, a living room delineated by columns, a kitchen with corner banquette eating area but, strangely, no dining room.

“We eat everywhere,” Kathie says. Walkabout fajita parties inside and out are more likely than sit-down dinners. One Thanksgiving they served on the front patio, which has a fireplace, and beside it, a salad garden. Out back, beyond the reflecting pool, is another dining area with grill and wood-fired pizza oven.

The reasoning goes deeper. In the dining room space stands a grand piano played by 18-year-old Wyatt, a serious musician who started on a keyboard and progressed to this magnificent instrument. Beyond it, windows and doors overlook the grassy courtyard. Entering the front door, a person’s eye is drawn forward by the piano and beyond, to the garden, which was Mark’s intention. A hallway to the right — previously two bedrooms and bath — has been reconfigured as a master suite with dressing room and Kathie’s office. In the bedroom, wide-board knotty pine floors used elsewhere yield to velvety-thick moss green carpet, the whole resembling a fine hotel.

People gravitate to the kitchen,” Mark continues. With this in mind, he designed a beauty and elled a wing around it with two more bedrooms, a bath and moderately sized den.

The moss green coloration that permeates each room has followed them from house to house. Kathie finds it soothing. She drew complementary forest tones from a printed fabric brought from Florida and used to upholster the breakfast room valance. Even the granite kitchen island has a green-gray tinge. Elsewhere, old leather couches, rather formal tables and chests, and heavy sateen drapes convey elegance. Kathie and Mark both prefer mahogany and other dark woods for their richness and antiquity which, Mark says, echoes Pinehurst. In contrast, rather than elaborate crown moldings and door frames, Mark chose simple flat stock painted a darker green, while several chairs upholstered in bold stripes speak contemporary Scandinavian. Art is mainly florals or landscapes, which blend with upholstery and rug patterns.

Although family heirlooms aren’t part of the scene, Kathie and Mark planned a kitchen alcove to accommodate a massive sideboard Mark’s mother painted. Above it, a blackboard framed in curlicue gold announces the dinner menu: wood-fired pizza.

Every designer has a signature that follows him or her from project to project. Mark is a ceiling guy. “I want people to look up. Why do you think churches have steeples?” Angles and vaults have become his trademark — in the family room, paneled in cedar, they suggest a dome. The living room gabled ceiling is accomplished with cottage-y painted tongue-and-groove boards. Mark indulged himself with the curving canals bisecting the courtyard, strewn with bocce balls, also a tiny waterfall on the front walkway, because he likes the sound. He tucked two butler’s pantries into the layout and, as the family cook, fine-tuned the kitchen.

The sweetest surprise stands beyond the back gallery: a free-standing storybook Nantucket cottage with flowers spilling from window boxes. Mark built it for his beautiful 82-year-old mother, Ila Parson.

“She raised me,” he says, reverently. “I can see her when I’m standing at the kitchen sink and she’s sitting in her living room. We wave every night before I go to bed.”

Family dynamics influenced the project. Ila Parson lives independently with a 17-year-old teacup poodle. She drives her own car, prepares most of her meals and walks miles every day. “We’re careful not to get in each other’s way,” Ila says. Kathie adds, “Mark had to think how to incorporate his mother’s lifestyle with ours, our son and his friends.”

Ila’s most frequent visitor is grandson Wyatt; proximity has fostered a close relationship.

Ila prepared for the move by getting rid of almost everything in her Village Acres house, then choosing simple new furnishings in refreshing blue, white and gray. The 740-square-foot cottage has one bedroom with, typically, a vaulted ceiling; a bathroom, kitchen with breakfast bar, sitting room and screened porch. Tucked behind the main house, this tiny domain is quiet and practically invisible from the street.

Barefoot? Hardly. A smart shoemaker’s children wear his best styles for all to see, to covet. Mark Parson’s home and grounds showcase his design capabilities for customers. Otherwise, Kathie says, “This house is everything we didn’t have.”

Remember, Mark’s goal was to create a story for a house that — unlike others in historic Pinehurst — had none.

Obviously, he succeeded.   PS

Cottage Comforts

Respectful renovation with a story to tell

By Deborah Salomon   •   Photographs by John Gessner

What happens when a real-life Mad Men ad man jumps the rat wheel, takes up home restoration, moves to Nantucket, reconnects with an architect friend at his daughter’s wedding — and marries her?

The obvious answer: They move to Southern Pines, buy a moldering cottage built in 1910, rip it apart and put it back together (she designs, he hammers) to resemble a period residence with tiny rooms, dark woods, deep green/barn-red/aubergine walls swallowed up by paintings, prints, memorabilia and collections. Modernity is limited to recessed lighting, radiant heat in the sunroom floor, Wi-Fi and AC. However, being practical, Scott and Francy Samuel rearranged space and added a sunken living room which, given its beams, wood-burning fireplace and antique furnishings (recliners notwithstanding) melts into the theme.

In contrast, a rear deck overlooks an acre of putting green grass bordered by 30-foot crape myrtles. Beyond that, a 20-by-40-foot pool. The contrast between recreated old and glamorous new . . . shocking, thrilling.

If ever a cottage required a docent — a catalog, at least — it is Cosmo, named for cosmopolitans, the Samuels’ favorite cocktail.

Francy, Scott and two Cavalier King Charles spaniels settle into chairs in the living room addition to relate their journey.

In the 1960s Scott pursued a career with top-drawer Madison Avenue ad agencies: expense accounts, martini lunches, other trappings of the trade as portrayed on Mad Men. He lived in a 20-room Tudor in Bronxville, a fashionable Manhattan suburb, and produced commercials for Mercedes, Nationwide and Maxwell House. Francy, who studied architecture after raising a family, designed high-end housing and residential projects for battered women, other special needs clients, in Boston. For each, the fast lane got too fast: “You get so embroiled in meetings, city permits,” Francy says. “I was relieved to come down here.” Scott: “Things started to change (in the ad world). Computers took over. Clients were merging. You could hear young footsteps closing in. The fun was gone.”

Scott discovered Southern Pines in the late 1990s, when he came down to help a friend convert a Knollwood mansion into a B&B. During a subsequent New England winter, Scott asked himself, “What am I doing here?” Francy had never been to North Carolina. “I expected to see lots of Taras.” Scott brought her down in June; they stayed at the renovated B&B. Late spring flowers bloomed everywhere. “People were so friendly,” she remembers. Taras were scarce, thank goodness.

They bought the cottage on Vermont Avenue in September 2001. After 9/11 small-town life seemed even more attractive. New construction wasn’t an option. Too many old houses in need of rescue, they decided.

Except this one was, Scott recalls, overrun with critters and falling apart; when a train roared by plaster fell off the walls. Architect Francy recognized good bones. “The house sat well on the property,” Scott noticed. Their hands-on reclamation took about a year.

Cottages built early in the 20th century between the tracks and the hotels housed support staff and merchants who served the affluent resort community. Little is known of Cosmo’s history except during World War II the owner’s wife made the second floor into an apartment with small kitchen, which Francy left intact, as part of her office. Surprisingly, the house had a basement — where Scott builds the Waldorf-Astoria of birdhouses — and a narrow garage, which they moved into the backyard, as a studio.

If the heart of a home really is the kitchen then the Samuels’ is well-placed in the middle, along an artery leading from front door to back wall. What a homey, cooked-in kitchen this is, since Scott and Francy share meal preparation. Light comes through transom windows placed ceiling-height. Scott constructed the beadboard cabinets painted a soft, archaic green. Washer and dryer are built into a divider separating the green slate counter from the pathway. Nearby, more beadboard conceals a fold-away ironing board common to homes of the era. Although smallish by contemporary standards, this carefully planned kitchen accommodates tandem cooking. When the meal is ready, Scott and Francy sit down at the dining room table, “like grown-ups,” Francy says, or eat on trays in the living/family room under the watchful portrait of an 18th century granny in bonnet peering down from the mantel. “Aunt Bertie” has become both friend and icon for their project, which had Francy coming down from Boston on weekends to draw plans for Scott to execute during the week.

The master bedroom tucked in a corner of the main floor barely holds a poster bed and antique case pieces. Francy converted a small second bedroom into dressing/closet space. The adjoining bathroom breaks from cottage classic with a wide-board floor splatter-painted by Scott, à la Jackson Pollock, against a black background.

At Cosmo, one word demands a thousand pictures — that word being collections.

Examples: A dining room wall covered with 24 framed prints by a 19th century British aristocrat/caricaturist known as Spy. His exaggerated figures of notables, valued by collectors, were published in Vanity Fair.

Old checkerboards hang in the basement stairwell.

Ships galore — paintings, drawings, postcards and models, including a table-top sized schooner made by a prison inmate; these remind Scott of sailing his own, off Nantucket, as does a framed map of the island, dated 1824.

Carved figurines include multi-national Santas and gyrating African forms, some brought back by Francy’s daughter, an anthropologist.

A huge assortment of rusty antique food tins crowd a kitchen shelf.

Family photos; between them, Francy and Scott have five daughters and four grandchildren.

Carpets, some shipped back after attending a wedding in Turkey, followed by a sailboat cruise through the Mediterranean and Aegean. One was woven in Russia, a century ago.

The crown jewel of collections would be Scott’s Victorian mercury glass, displayed in a corner cupboard. This technique practiced in Bohemia, Germany, England and Boston in the 1800s requires blowing double-walled goblets and other objects, then filling the space with a liquid silvering solution and sealing with a metal disk. Silvered and mercury glass became the first art glass forms meant for display, not table use.

Typical of second-time-around couples, Francy and Scott brought to their new home furnishings they couldn’t live without. Every piece has a story. A light fixture has propellers that spin like a fan. The rough-hewn coffee table was a kitchen table, in Nantucket, before legs were shortened. Many formal antiques descend from Francy’s Ohio lineage, where her father — according to the stately portrait in the dining room — was a bank chairman. Fold-down desks, electrified cranberry glass oil lamps, sea chests, display cabinets, a bentwood high chair and a few curiosities, like a post they found buried under the front porch, inscribed H.A. & E.E. Jackman, perhaps long-ago residents.

Despite gutting the house and rearranging space, the effect — excluding the glamorous grounds — seems as much preservation as renovation, with a nod to Williamsburg. Coincidentally, “They were my clients,” Scott says.

To protect the integrity of their own home, the Samuels carried out a “grand plan” to purchase and renovate the cottages flanking Cosmo, creating a pocket neighborhood which received a Spruce Up award from Southern Pines in 2014.

Now, the design-build team of Francy and Scott Samuel has “sort of retired.” Looking back, Scott’s only regret is not making the move sooner. “It didn’t feel strange or different,” he muses, with surprise. After 16 years the trains don’t bother any more. They enjoy walking to the library, farmers market, Sunrise Theater and restaurants. Scott continues, “Every time I pull out of the driveway I feel I never want to leave this house. I want to stay here forever.”

Spoken like a true ad man.  PS