Horse Heaven

Sliding comfortably into its horse country surroundings an interior decor of memorabilia harkens to an equestrian heyday

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Heirlooms often grace Southern homes: Grandpa’s desk, Auntie’s slipper chair. “We started from scratch. Our furniture’s from Pottery Barn,” says Chrissie Walsh Doubleday, granddaughter of legendary equine trainer Mickey Walsh, founder of Stoneybrook Steeplechase.

“I put it together,” adds husband Peter Doubleday, internationally known horse show manager/announcer and, by the way, descendant of Abner Doubleday, the apocryphal inventor of baseball.

Yet, beyond a standard sectional sofa and some-assembly-required tables and chairs, Doubleday House at Little Squire, the Doubleday’s Adirondak-style lodge, is a veritable bulletin board chronicling two fascinating lives: photos, posters, paintings, stuffed animals, ribbons, figurines, saddle pads, books, awards and, marching atop the kitchen cabinets, 100 beer bottles with interesting labels.

Peter nods an affirmative: “I drank every one.”

Fifty plants, bathed in light from oversized bare windows, provide a greenhouse effect. One precious photo shows Mickey Walsh riding pony Little Squire, sans saddle or bridle. Dominating another wall is a painting of Walsh (who died in 1993) by local artist Dani Devins; this was returned to the family after being auctioned off at hunt balls.

What some brand as clutter, Chrissie calls history.

Chrissie belongs to the land surrounding their home. She grew up in a log house within sight, later lived in a nearby cabin. Her father’s veterinary office was yards away. She, her four siblings and 29 cousins knew every rock, rail and puddle in the compound. Beyond the equestrian life, Chrissie taught chemistry and coached track and field for 28 years at Pinecrest High School.

Peter, from snowy Syracuse, New York, lived down the road when he met Chrissie at a Christmas party. “I knew of the family, of course. They were famous . . .” he says. In 2005, soon after they married, her parents sold them five of their 17 acres for a house. Subsequently, they purchased another five and added a small barn.

Neither had any architectural experience, which didn’t stop Peter from scrawling a plan on a napkin at O’Donnell’s Pub. They liked the work of Southern Pines architectural/interior designer Denis McCullough who translated the napkin into a home unlike neighboring showplaces.

Little Squire defies labels.

Chrissie: “I wanted (the interior) to be a semi-circle and the outside to blend with the trees.” This meant angled interior walls which give the rooms irregular but interesting shapes.

Peter: “I saw a picture of a house with cedar siding, hunter green and blood red trim, like houses in Lake Placid.” The clapboards and shingles also reminded him of “cottages” in the exclusive Hamptons, where he announces events.

Multiple roof pitches and a cupola topped by the weathervane from Stoneybrook complete the rustic appearance. The Irish flag honors immigrants Mickey and Kitty Walsh who arrived in America in the 1920s — and in Southern Pines in 1939.

Chrissie was adamant about layout. “I wanted everything in one room.” That living room-dining room-kitchen-bar with wood-burning fireplace stretches nearly 50 feet facing outward to the terrace, paddock and barn. A long refectory table fills up fast at Thanksgiving and Christmas, since Chrissie’s sister and niece also maintain houses on the property. From the open kitchen in a far corner, the cook stays part of the action. Black granite countertops are covered not with cooking paraphernalia but photos of “good people,” Chrissie says. “We wanted pictures and themes everywhere to reflect horses and racing.” Peter’s artifacts contribute the broadcasting dimension, which include the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta. “Peter’s a collector. He just kept putting stuff up and I said  . . . whatever.”

guest suite with separate entrance at one end of this panoramic great room offers privacy. Adjacent to it, a combination “entertainment” room and office. Peter loves music; a wall of CDs covers every genre but classical. “Vinyl’s coming back,” he says, pointing to long-play albums. The opposite wall of shelves displays Chrissie’s books and in the middle, a throne-sized red leather chair and ottoman. On hot afternoons, after barn chores Chrissie retreats here to read. The master suite with small terrace and second wood-burning fireplace — Chrissie’s lifelong dream — occupies the opposite wing.

Their outdoor environments include a small screened porch on the front and a larger one between the house and the patio which, by spring, is filled with flowers and often with guests. The Doubledays have no trouble fitting 100 friends and colleagues inside and out. “Our guests feel at home as soon as they open the door,” Peter says. They especially enjoy the DIY bar with tall vinyl-topped bar stools and well-stocked shelves.

A small pool built long before the house cools hot and dusty riders.

Nothing formal, everything practical and intensely personal. Floors throughout are low maintenance tile brightened with area rugs. Wide, handsomely framed doorways ease the flow from wing to wing. A coffered ceiling buffers noise. No palette unites the décor, although every hue found in nature appears here.

Chrissie got her wish: from a distance, the house melts into the woods.

A piece of Chrissie’s heart beats faster in the small barn, shelter to Guac, a retired racer with a speckled coat called flea-bitten gray. Surprisingly, “I’ve ridden all my life but this is the first horse I’ve ever owned. He’s taught me a lot in the saddle and on the ground,” she says. “They test you. I’m supposed to be the boss but we’re still working on that.” Chrissie feeds, grooms, rides and cares for him — and Burrito, his adorable donkey companion — herself. She’s in the barn by 7 a.m., takes a break around noon, out again at 4 p.m. and to “check on things” before bed.

These are happy hours. “I spent a lot of time with my parents before they died,” she recalls. “Afterwards, things sort of fell apart, family-wise. I needed something to fill the void.”

The Doubledays’ luxury is not in antiques or professional-grade kitchen appliances but in living a continuity. “It’s just the two of us; we didn’t need a monster house,” says Peter, although as arranged, the 2700 square feet appear larger. Its location allows the couple to bike into downtown for First Fridays or a pub evening. But mostly they like to stay put. Peter, who travels many months a year, answers to homebody.

“I need a crowbar to get Chrissie out,” he says.

She responds: “I’m just very proud to still own this family property,” which honors her parents and grandparents. “They worked hard to create the farm, and Stoneybrook. It’s the only home either of us has ever built . . .”

And, Peter concludes, “We plan to stay here forever.”  PS

Home for Christmas

Worldwide religious art backdrops the holiday in Whispering Pines

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner


Centuries before Santa, Rudolph, Alvin and Frosty, decorating for Christmas meant festooning the Madonna, Baby Jesus and saints with ribbons and greenery. The custom endures at the lakefront residence of Emi and Colin Webster.

“Christmas is a religious holiday, after all,” Colin observes, still allowing a 13-foot tree to dominate a living room with an 18-foot ceiling.

Now, their sons grown, only one small St. Nicholas remains.

Aside from respecting the sacred, the Websters’ interest springs from art collected while living, working and traveling the globe. For openers, Emi was born in Chile of British/French/Chilean lineage, schooled in England, Argentina, Germany and Switzerland. She met Colin, of a similar Scottish/European background, in kindergarten, in Chile, where their parents had attended each other’s weddings.

“Then we went our separate ways,” Colin says. He reconnected with Emi, an advertising executive, on holiday in Spain in 1986. They married the following year, honeymooned in Wales (where the collecting began) and settled in Chile.

“Before that, I had a bachelor’s pad,” Colin continues. After marriage “I looked at life differently.” Subsequently, as an executive at Proctor & Gamble and other multinationals, Colin was posted on six continents with artifacts to prove it.


Made sense to acquire treasures, small and enormous, while employers subsidized shipping.

But with such glamorous options, how did they land in Whispering Pines, on a 4-acre peninsula jutting into Lake Thagard?

After an early retirement Emi and Colin (who had also lived in Miami) investigated places to settle. Colin’s father purchased a house in Southern Pines in 1980; Emi and Colin visited often, deciding that after 13 moves and many schools the U.S. was better for their sons’ education. They bought a home in 2001, later 100 acres with the intent to build, which they decided would involve too much maintenance. Then one day they saw a For Sale sign on the prime peninsula property and snapped it up based on the view, knowing the house could be transformed — an understatement, since Colin, bored with retirement, had become a home-builder familiar with the finest materials and workmanship, while Emi had turned to real estate brokerage.

No architect or interior designer was required to almost double the existing 3,500 square feet by extending the footprint beyond the core and rearranging interior space to suit their needs and fit their furnishings, which include two glass-topped coffee tables with turned bases made by Colin. By working round the clock, the renovation and additions were completed, unbelievably, in 30 days, while the family lived on the upper floor.

“I didn’t have a kitchen so we ate take-away for a month,” Emi recalls.

The finished product includes park-like landscaping, a saltwater pool, pool house with dining area.

Colin’s method: Never start without a plan in hand. Don’t figure out as you go. Living in the house for several years had uncovered what needed changing. Being an accomplished woodworker helped. When Colin couldn’t find the right mantel he built one.

The result appears rather formal, slightly European, described as British Colonial, with Georgian overtones and a flash of Latin fire, yet comfortable — a place where the dog can stretch out on a sofa upholstered in High Point.

“This is how we grew up, surrounded by Spanish things,” Colin says. “You develop an affinity for them.”


Their most treasured “things,” however, remain museum-quality art, with Colin and Emi enthusiastic docents: A Peruvian Madonna painted, in part, by Jesuits in the late 1600s dominates one living room wall facing an equally massive archangel over Colin’s mantel. Shelves and tables hold santos — figurines of saints common in Catholic South America. Another Peruvian Virgin Mary greets guests in the entrance hall, while a wall niche resembling a shrine displays a French Madonna flanked by Venetian lanterns.

Colin brought back exquisite Russian Orthodox icons during an era of political unrest, when their value had plummeted, also Byzantine/Greek paintings and triptychs originating in churches or monasteries.

Colin is especially proud of a 16th century Spanish bargueno, or traveling desk, with carved and inlaid olivewood drawers, that would travel with a nobleman’s retinue.

From farther east they obtained a hand-sewn Egyptian panel, brass and copper urns from an Arabian bazaar. In the family room, built-in shelves hold their collection of pre-Columbian pottery.

Persian rugs on polished cherrywood floors delineate paths from area to area.

America, their adopted homeland, has not been neglected. In his office, Colin, a Civil War buff, displays a camp chair with battle names, including Appomattox, carved into the frame; also a Union Colt musket and functioning post-Confederate “machine gun” with bullets, manufactured in 1898 — one of only 10 in the U.S.

Delft liquor-bottle miniatures representing houses in The Hague, once given to passengers on KLM, and Royal Doulton Toby face jugs from Colin’s grandmother line the shelves of a kitchen hutch.

The kitchen itself, with a clear sight line past the family dining room to the lake, is more restrained than luxury food preparation palaces. Colin added panels to the serviceable 24-year-old double Sub-Zero and used a smooth electric cooktop instead of the requisite Viking or Wolf gas range. But two oversize ovens were necessary for Christmas and Thanksgiving meals attended by family and guests, served from a dining room table with a garland running down the center, composed of berries and greenery, designed by Carol Dowd of Botanicals.

“Emi likes things that are very natural, organic,” Colin says. “We use wreathes and put tons of greenery (alongside) their stuff,” which complements the ecclesiastical mode better than glitter.


Decorating the skyscraper tree with ornaments commemorating family events, topped by an angel from Germany, takes about two days. Magnolias and fresh flowers are added before the Websters’ famous Christmas party, where the space accommodates 100 guests.

On Christmas Eve the family gathers for a traditional Argentinean breaded veal dish and mince pies imported from England. Christmas morning, Colin and Emi sleep in while the boys unload their stockings, including ones for Bantu, the dog, and Panda, the cat. Later in the day, while the surround sound system plays Christmas music inside and out, guests arrive for a turkey (sometimes ham or roast beef) dinner ending with flaming English Christmas pudding.

Decorations stay in place until Twelfth Night, Jan. 6, when they are packed and stored, leaving the Madonnas, Magi and santos on their own.

“Afterward, the house seems so empty,” Emi says. Because, although they call their home Amancay, after an Andean day lily, . . . this is a house built for Christmas.”  PS

The Now House

What’s old is new for a first time homeowning couple in Southern Pines

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Savvy millennials Ashley and Casey Holderfield built a house to fit, exactly, their lifestyle and demographics. They wanted . . .

A cottage like those built in the mid-1900s near downtown Southern Pines.

A pocket neighborhood popular with other young couples who grew up here, left, and are returning to raise families.

Space skewed per their needs: a huge front porch furnished for entertaining; open interior with large kitchen but small living room and dining nook because “we eat and hang out” at the bar-island, Ashley says.

A shotgun layout with bedrooms off a long unobstructed hall, perfect for 10-month-old Evie’s crawling expeditions.


Two smaller porches, one for grilling, the other a balcony off the master bedroom.

A vaulted beadboard ceiling with skylights and many windows to stream natural light.

A detached garage, primarily for storage.

Wall space for Ashley’s nascent art collection (including a contemporary splatter painting by the two), furniture in dark woods reminiscent of the Craftsman era interspersed with family heirlooms, like a grandmother’s dining room table, and repurposed finds.

Yes, that bar cart displaying Casey’s bourbon trove was a baby’s changing table, now with tile shelves and brushed metal towel racks. Ashley confidently placed a giant upholstered chair across a tiny corner. Built-in bookshelves keep small objects out of Evie’s reach.

“We use every inch,” Casey says.

Beadboard-paneled doors echo the informality.


Yet despite a modest 1,600 square feet, the living space and porches have accommodated 30 guests who flow from area to area.

This arrangement bespeaks a professional touch. Ashley studied interior design and architectural planning at Appalachian State University. This is the first home they have owned, therefore her first opportunity to make a statement implemented by a builder-friend who, Casey says, held their hands through the process.

Casey and Ashley have been together since high school, he at Union Pines, she at Pinecrest. They lived in a similar pocket neighborhood in the Myers Park district of Charlotte before deciding in 2010 to repatriate. “My dad grew up in Raleigh so I was familiar with the older bungalow style,” Casey says. Ashley agreed on the motif, which includes tapered porch columns set on brick bases popular in pre-World War II Southern architecture.

Given their definite ideas, new construction seemed more practical than search-and-remodel. But finding an oversized lot choked in bamboo was beyond luck. The couple had made an offer on another piece when Casey’s father discovered this one — and snapped it up.

Ashley and Casey moved in with the senior Holderfields during the six months construction.


“We oversaw every little detail — I was familiar with suppliers,” Ashley says.       

From the street, a deep setback, mature bamboo and wax myrtles give the house a settled appearance. Pale green siding blends into the foliage. Instead of a walkway, stepping stones through the grass lead to the wide porch, where bold black and white striped fabrics keep the wicker contemporary. Ashley is big on holidays. Fall is their favorite season. Ceramic pumpkins decorate the porch and interior before Halloween, remain in place through Thanksgiving, then lights and multiple trees announce Christmas.

The cottage theme may channel 1930s exteriors, but homes of that era hid cramped kitchens out back. The Holderfields sited their food preparation space a few feet from a front door surrounded by dark-wood panels and moldings. Again, the glass-paned white cabinets suggest informality. The sink, part of the granite island/breakfast bar, faces the living room and mantelpiece-mounted TV. “I like to participate in what’s going on,” Ashley says. However, Casey is the primary cook, while Ashley does the holiday baking.

“Sometimes we open a bottle of wine and cook together,” Casey says. Thanksgiving means a vegetarian brunch followed, later, by roast Tofurkey.

In the master bedroom with a tray ceiling and corner windows (wooden blinds another retro touch), Ashley has, once again, fitted a massive upholstered bed frame into an average-sized room. The guest bedroom has an unusual iron bed, also a family piece. Ashley’s palette throughout derives from nature — deep brown, soft green and, in the master bathroom, oceanic turquoise. “We love the outdoors,” she says, proven by taking a six-month furlough from their jobs to hike the Appalachian Trail in a time frame encompassing the 2014 U.S. Open Championship. Rent from the house supported their adventure.


That was before Evie, the princess-resident of the third bedroom. Casey objected to pink, purple, frou-frous, but Ashley found white, sand and teal rather boyish. So, she added a shaggy fur rug and, of all things, a metallic gold fabric ottoman which has become the baby’s favorite, along with a sound machine that lulls her to sleep with a whooshing mimicking the womb environment. Jungle animal prints and a near life-sized baby giraffe complete the assortment.

This nouveau cottage representing trendy urban redevelopment lives well, Casey affirms. Before Evie, they walked downtown to restaurants, bars and First Friday. Now, they and other young parents push strollers to parks, play dates and the farmers market. Later on, the kids will attend public rather than private school, Casey hopes.

“We did a pretty good job for the first time,” he concludes. But, Ashley concedes, now is fast turning into tomorrow.

“It’s almost too small already.”  PS

Comfort Zone

How a classic Pinehurst cottage brought a globe-trotting couple home at last

By Deborah Salomon     Photographs by John Gessner

Anyone who doubts a couple in midlife prime can radically change careers, continents, lifestyles and homes needs to look in on Kirk and Victoria Adkins at Red Gables, a 107-year-old, one-of-a-kind Pinehurst cottage that flouts the luxury revamps shared by contemporaries.

No paneled Sub-Zero, spa bathroom or sound system. One TV, zero chandeliers. Master bedroom barely wide enough to accommodate a king-sized bed. A garden filled with homey zinnias. A far cry from the Adkins’ British country manse, their London muse (row house) with pink exterior, an iron-gated farmhouse in a Parisian suburb or the glass-walled Hong Kong condo fifty-two stories above the harbor.


Not to say this restraint implemented by soothing hues and minimal furnishings isn’t gorgeous. Or that Kirk and Victoria miss the opulence.

“It feels good to get back to ‘comfortable,’” Victoria says. “Possessions don’t make you who you are. I’m happier now working (in real estate) than I was going to museums and social events.”

Kirk, glows with pride over how impossible engineering feats like air conditioning were engineered: “Every inch is usable — not a spare space, even behind walls, that we didn’t make into cupboards.” Besides, Victoria adds, “The village is a happy place.” Kirk finds its residents interesting and worldly, retired from careers in finance, medicine, law, management.

Kirk belonged in the corporate column. After an MBA from Wake Forest University, the Indiana native was posted internationally for twenty years as an executive at the Sara Lee consumer goods division, then Hanes. He and Victoria, a special education teacher, dated in high school, reconnected at a friend’s wedding. As a “corporate wife” she became an expert at moving — nineteen times, covering four continents. To keep their two sons and adopted daughter from Siberia rooted in America, they rented a house on the Jersey Shore for summer vacations.

When Hanes discontinued operations in Hong Kong, Kirk was still young enough to chase a dream: “I wanted to get into golf,” not as a pro, or an equipment retailer. “I wanted a degree in agronomy.” In other words, he wanted to arrive at the course before dawn, plan for and supervise crews who kept the terrain in optimum condition. Adieu Savile Row suits and leather briefcases and business class flights. Bring on the rain jackets, sunscreen and golf hats.

Kirk applied to Purdue University and North Carolina State University, only to be advised that what he needed was the kind of hands-on program offered by Mike Ventola at Sandhills Community College. In 2012 Kirk and Victoria rented a house in Pinehurst while he attended SCC and interned at Forest Creek.

“We didn’t plan to stay after that,” Kirk says. But, Victoria adds, “We met people and fell in love with the village.” Kirk currently serves as assistant superintendent of world-famous Pinehurst No. 2.

Rank that alongside Kate Middleton’s aesthetician or Stephen Curry’s physical therapist. Obviously, Europe had refined their housing requirements: something with history, character and a unique feature. Something close to the action, like twenty-five yards from the Carolina Hotel driveway.

ps-2house-8-16The Carolina Hotel, along with the village, was nouveau-chic when, in 1909, Bostonian Emma Jane Sinclair commissioned architect W.W. Dinsmore to design a winter home with satellite cottages for her married daughters. The Pinehurst Outlook of that year called it “A little gem, in mission style, with bright red rows of tile and stucco walls . . . which adds tremendously to the attractiveness of the outlook from the hotel.”

In truth, the Southwestern exterior probably raised a few eyebrows among residents who chose the more familiar white clapboard/black shutter New England motif.

In 1918, the property was sold to coal baron Henry B. Swoope of Pennsylvania — a descendant of one of George Washington’s Revolutionary War colleagues. Swoope’s letters to tradesmen on file at Tufts Archives show his displeasure at the milkman for running out of cream — also arrangements to have unloaded an entire railway car of “egg” (large lump) coal for his and other furnaces. Poor Mr. Swoope died in 1927, at 46, leaving a wife and nine children. The house later passed to L.L. Biddle II of the prominent Philadelphia family, later intermarried with the Dukes of Durham.

When the Adkinses discovered Red Gables, barely used by Canadian owners, the property stood neglected and sad. “We asked people about it and they said, ‘Run, don’t walk away! You’d be crazy to buy that house!’” Victoria recalls.

But Victoria and Kirk saw only the unique features: a vaulted ceiling over the living room; beadboard walls and terra cotta tile floors; original three-over-three square windows with wavy glass; an attic that could be opened up as a master suite.

They hired a contractor, a designer — and dug in.

First, the AC. The stucco exterior and painted beadboard walls made conventional ductwork impossible. A space was created over the kitchen ceiling and behind the attic knee wall for the new system. Victoria moved the front entrance to an existing patio door and converted the vestibule to a pantry. The hopelessly dated kitchen was opened up with an island separating it from the dining area, which replaces a formal dining room and flows into the living room. The window removed to make room for a refrigerator was re-installed elsewhere. Light was a priority; the living-dining area has only one lamp, but Victoria increased recessed spotlights from 28 to 90. An entire wall of windows in addition to French doors further brightens the main floor. Although modest in size, the practical kitchen suits Victoria and Kirk, who both cook.

A narrow hallway leads to two small bedrooms joined by a double bath, Kirk’s office and, at the end, a sun porch, now Victoria’s office with adjacent laundry room.

ps-4house-8-16Bathrooms were renovated but not enlarged. One clawfoot tub remains.

The major new construction was the master suite overlooking the living room, accessed by a narrow staircase original to the house.

“I like the way the boards creak,” Victoria says.

Creating the loft sitting area, bedroom and, especially, the bathroom presented a second challenge. “They said we’d never fit a shower in there,” Kirk smiles, pointing to the large glass-enclosed installation. Fitting a mirror over the sink was another puzzle that failed several times before succeeding. Finally, the master bedroom, as planned, proved too narrow to accommodate a king-sized bed. Victoria wouldn’t budge. The dimensions were altered. Still, the sleeping space is smaller than dressing rooms in most luxury homes.

Victoria and Kirk think differently. “What more do you need than a bed and nightstand?” she says. “Our first night was so much fun, like sleeping in a treehouse.”

Above the bed buzzes a triple ceiling fan resembling airplane propellers encased in wire frames . . . just mesmerizing.

The Adkinses’ frequent moves were not conducive to amassing furniture. Even so, to prevent any sense of clutter, Victoria refined her collection to one or two antiques per room. The palette of dusky turquoise, soft green, beige and vanilla unite and soothe, from area rugs to dog-friendly leather upholstery. A credenza from France fills an entire wall in Kirk’s office, while his desk is British. Kitchen shelves and counters display Victoria’s collection of blue pottery jugs and canisters. Tiny lights illuminate glass-front cabinets.

ps-3house-8-16One tall, non-functioning radiator holds potted plants. Dark-stained beams in the vaulted ceiling, beadboard walls painted cream, pine flooring found in the attic satisfy Victoria and Kirk’s love for wood. Art reflects Kirk’s golf involvement. Just inside the front door hangs their signature piece. The nine-by-four-foot painting, done in photo realism, depicts Kirk and Victoria, their children and dogs, playing in Kensington Gardens adjoining the Albert Memorial in London. The artist tricks the eye by repeating the same family members in different sections of the park.

The wall, prominent and perfectly sized for this treasure, helped convince Victoria to take on Red Gables, at 2,450 square feet by far the smallest of their homes. Converting the free-standing garage into guest quarters is always an option.

The house stands on half an acre, about one-third of the original parcel. Much of it was overgrown with vines, home to snakes and varmints. A backhoe was brought in to clear the front yard. Victoria decided on simple groundcover and a clear view of the hotel beyond the lighting kiosks that flank the driveway entrance. The red tile roof had been replaced but otherwise, Red Gables exterior remains much as it was during Pinehurst’s Golden Age.

“For us, (the house) is magical,” Victoria says.

“We got rid of a lot of baggage, which has taken stress out of our lives,” Kirk continues. “We have what we need and need what we have.”

Or, as Victoria sighs, “What a relief!”  PS