Gone to Carolina

A Chapel Hill couple escapes to Wilmington to their stunning sound-front home.

Michael Kersting knew he had the advantage. When his clients reached out to him about their sound-front lot in Wilmington Beach, he knew exactly how he’d position the home on the land. “When I saw that it had an existing home on the lot, I was excited,” the architect says. And rightfully so. Because of Wilmington’s setback laws, new construction homes need to be positioned farther back from the water often leaving prime real estate unused. But if there’s an existing home on the land, the setbacks original to the property are grandfathered in.

And Kersting was eager to take advantage of this loophole. “Those setbacks were a major player in how the form of the home took shape,” Kersting says of the L-shape structure, which seamlessly connects the house to the adjacent dock and allows for water views from nearly every room—inside and out. It took only one back-and-forth meeting with the homeowners to get the home’s design just right. “Michael and his team read us so well,” the homeowner says. “It’s like they climbed right into our brains and knew exactly what we wanted.” Drawn with a Dutch Caribbean aesthetic with dark wood flooring and allwhite interiors, the clients wanted a home that was effortless, casual, and appropriate for the beach, yet sophisticated. Kersting and project architect Mark Wilson designed the home such that the homeowners could live on the top floor comfortably without any guests but also easily host family and friends on the bottom floor.

“We didn’t want to feel lost in the house if it was just the two of us staying here,” the homeowner says. Water views were, of course, also of utmost importance. The homeowners enlisted the help of designer Leslie Stachowicz of Peridot Interiors to create an interior design scheme that highlighted the views while also utilizing the couple’s extensive art collection. “They had pieces from all over the world from their travels,” Stachowicz says. “Michael purposefully left large walls open to hang artwork throughout the home, so I used that as a building block for the interior design.” 

Adjacent to the wine cellar, which Kersting refers to as a “jewel box” in the kitchen, the architects designed a shelving unit to house custom ceramic and pottery pieces by local North Carolina artist Ben Owens. “We have art from all over the world and wanted something to represent North Carolina,” the homeowner says, whose primary residence is in Chapel Hill. The ceramic pieces provide a dose of color—and a stunning feature—to the otherwise all-white kitchen and dining room. The adjacent wine room serves as the perfect complement to the colorful artwork display with its dark stained white oak. A custom light fixture created from wine bottles consumed at the homeowners’ groundbreaking party provides a modern touch without detracting from the wine room’s beauty itself.

To keep the views and artwork the primary focus of the home, Stachowicz focused on clean, simple lines, patterns, and textures. Each bedroom features crisp, all-white linens from Serena & Lily, Yves Delorme, and Williams Sonoma Home while key furniture pieces such as the custom dining room table, which features a piece of Oregon black walnut wedged between two pieces of zinc encased in resin, are decidedly neutral but classic. In the main master bedroom on the top floor, Kersting designed recessed areas behind the bed and dresser, which add depth to the space. “I felt like they needed a little something, though,” Stachowicz says, who added texture to each recessed pocket with grasscloth wallcovering by Phillip Jeffries.  Though the homeowners frequently travel around the world, their Wilmington Beach home is still one of their favorite places to come back to. “It’s comfortable and relaxing,” they say. “Michael and his team really listened to us and captured the essence of what we wanted in a home. It’s a lovely home and is reflective of who we are as a couple.”