The Happy House
Elegance and practicality on the lake
By Deborah Salomon • Photographs by John Gessner
When Bill and Mandy Berg moved from Charlotte to Pinehurst in 2018, Mandy’s goal was to create a “happy place” — light, bright, uncluttered, cheerful. The tools were at hand: Mandy’s profession is staging houses to look their best for prospective buyers. But this job had moving parts. The décor must be elegant for entertaining yet practical, given a family with two young children, a huge dog, a cat and all the attendant paraphernalia.
Mandy pulled it off, complete with white carpet in the bedrooms, off-white upholstery in living room and den, and vanilla walls throughout.
Not that anybody would notice a few muddy footprints or sticky fingers with all eyes on the view. The Bergs’ three acres slope down to Lake Inverness at the Country Club of North Carolina (CCNC) where a brood of ducklings paddle through the water lilies and a turtle climbs onto the grassy shoreline. Herons, largemouth bass and an eagle complete the wildlife backdrop. Sunsets can be spectacular from a deck stretching the length of the house, equipped for cooking, eating, relaxing, playing.
Naturally, this happy place, built in 1982 for a furniture executive, brings the view inside through windows and tall sliding glass doors . . . everywhere. In fact, if the 1 1/2-story house with slightly Asian lines, four roof pitches covered in wood shakes and a whiff of Mid-Century Modern was seeking a name, The Abode of Sliding Doors might work.
A door not facing the lake reveals a petite tea garden walled off for privacy, and the children’s upstairs bedroom doors open onto balconies. Even the laundry room has a view. The effect is absolutely mesmerizing, rain or shine, winter or summer, with dogwood, hydrangeas and azaleas splashing color onto the exterior gray longboards.
Mandy knew Pinehurst from her grandparents, who lived at CCNC. Her parents came up from Florida to play golf. After deciding to leave Charlotte, Mandy and Bill narrowed their house hunt to Pinehurst village or CCNC. At the time nothing in the village quite suited. Despite the view, even this house had its drawbacks, for Mandy at least. Every floor except the tiled kitchen was covered in thick white carpet. And every wall wore wallpaper. Bill, however, experienced the wow factor and, as a recreational handyman/renovator, he identified the projects. And the floorplan allowed the family to spread out, or come together. After some budget tweaking, they moved in, hired a contractor and pitched in.
Up came most of the carpet, replaced by whitewashed oak. Off came all the wallpaper, leaving some walls in need of repair. An upstairs playroom for Emma, 8, and Harry, 10, was squeezed under the eaves. After they are grown, it’s destined to become a guest bedroom. Then Bill had an idea: Why not cover an open space near the loft with strong rope netting secured to a frame, creating something like a hammock, where the kids (or grown-ups) could bounce around or simply peer down into the den?
“I was out of town when they built the hammock,” Mandy says. “I wasn’t that happy . . . it compromises privacy.”
But it sets the house apart from every other at CCNC. And the kids love it.
Bill also constructed and installed mantels for the double-faced fireplace, built the outdoor firepit, and created a desk to fill a pass-through between the living room and den. He framed the loft and installed a new kitchen backsplash. “I’m a hands-on kinda guy,” Bill says. “I got it from my dad, who was a This Old House kinda guy.”
His next project: docks, since “The lake is my favorite part of living here.”
The layout does retain some of its 1980s features. Back then, locating the master suite on the main floor was coming into fashion, especially for retirees. Turn left from the wide foyer with its handsome twin Chinese chests lacquered white and, beyond the TV den, the master suite opens out onto the deck, where railings have been removed to further expose the view. The living room is in use, flowing into a dining area with a spectacular white trestle table and molded Plexiglas chairs. Hanging low over the table is a chandelier more Star Wars than Phantom of the Opera.
Turn right from the foyer and find the kitchen — a surprise in an age of glamorous food preparation centers. No Sub-Zero, no farm sink, no island, no Viking or Wolf blast-furnace ranges. Instead, there are classic pine cupboards and a dinette glassed in on three sides. Except for new countertops and some minor adjustments, the L-shaped kitchen was left intact, at least for now. Mandy has plans. Beyond the kitchen is a modern butler’s pantry with laundry equipment, wine fridge, another sliding door and storage cabinets. This mixture of new and recently done (in white and sandy beige) adds to the retro charm.
Mandy’s signature hue, however, is blue — more bright navy than Carolina pastel. Bill also favors blue. Navy against white is everywhere, splashed on rugs, sewn onto pillows, woven into dinette chairs, dominating a collection of ginger jars. The dining room sideboard is lacquered a shiny dark royal, as is a writing desk in the master bedroom. Even the art, some commissioned, other pieces collected, explores shades of blue.
Ah . . . the art. That makes Mandy happiest. “It speaks to me,” she says. She planned white walls and retained some white carpet so the art would “pop.” Several paintings come from local artists, including Kristin Groner. Abstracts are both framed and flush-mounted. Mandy has an eye for placement — an art in itself. In the dining room a single painting, spotlighted by a recessed fixture, adds drama to the simplest meal. Just as dramatic is an old, stained, full-sized North Carolina state flag that Bill found on eBay and mounted over Harry’s bed, while Emma’s room requires a bean bag chair and sparkly princess-pink accents.
Each child’s room has its own small bathroom, beyond a blessing for teenagers.
“We’ve done a lot with a little, here . . . built a lot of value,” Bill observes.
Contemporary architecture and furnishings are rarely classified “romantic.”
The exception might be The Abode of Sliding Doors, sitting at the end of a narrow lane canopied by branches of tall trees, thick with new leaves. The sun shining through turns the canopy into a cathedral. Beyond, the grass slopes toward the lake, where two Adirondack chairs await sunset viewers.
But does the conglomerate create a happy house?
“The color, design and art make me happy,” Mandy says. “This is a joyful place.” PS