Feels Like Home

Designer Vicky Serany of Southern Studio creates a forever home for one Apex couple.

Pllanning, building, and designing any home – let alone a custom dream home – is not for the faint of heart. Add to that a space that measures more than 8,000 square feet, and it takes a village of professionals with a collaborative vision to make it a reality. For Buck and Jennifer Hunt, the process began more than a decade ago in 2007, when they bought land in Apex, North Carolina, with the intention to build their dream home someday. The peaceful setting was inspired by Buck Hunt’s childhood growing up in rural Virginia, adventuring through the woods; and the home’s design was inspired by the family’s frequent trips to the Rocky Mountains.

“We wanted a lot of natural elements like stone and wood, but we didn’t want the feel of a ski lodge, post and beam, or a log cabin,” Buck Hunt says. “We wanted clean and simple lines, particularly for the interior but not a pure contemporary, modern design that was too sleek.”

Initially, the couple, who has a ten-year-old son, decided a 6,000-square-foot home would be perfect, but the footprint quickly grew to allow the great room and guest suites to be more spacious. Working with architect Christopher Phelps and builder Rufty Homes, planning began in 2015 and broke ground in 2016. For the interiors, the Hunts enlisted the help of Vicky Serany, founder and principal of Southern Studio Interior Design in Cary, North Carolina. “Her work matched our tastes, so we met with Vicky and her team, and the connection was immediate,” Jennifer Hunt says. “We told her we wanted our home to feel warm and cozy but very social and fun at the same time.”

The result is a grand, yet welcoming “forever” home with classic architectural details and a collected feel. “They had a very clear vision for their home,” Serany says. “We spent many hours reviewing inspiration photos. They wanted a timeless home they could share with family and friends and play spaces for their young son to share with cousins and friends.”

Serany used a neutral palette and warm textures throughout while carefully layering natural materials that make a statement and provide visual interest.

The soothing aesthetic envelops guests like a cashmere sweater; it is both luxurious and comfortable. In the great room, the colors are drawn from the stone surrounding the fireplace and on the floating mantle. A rich, chestnut brown leather sofa and natural wood cocktail table anchor the space, and embroidered linen window treatments add softness. The kitchen features rustic cherry cabinets, an oversized window, an island with generous seating, and a true working pantry tucked behind a pocket door designed to function as a scullery when entertaining.

One of the most interesting spaces (and the favorite of both the Hunts and Serany) is the oval-shaped dining room, which was a challenging design. Guests seated at the custom oval dining table are able to see the adjoining wine and whiskey room through a glass window with a pocket that accommodates a collection of corks.

“The dining room is a funny story,” Buck Hunt explains. “I had a vision for the room where everyone seated would have a view of something interesting. I caught some flack for being so stuck on the dining room. Nobody uses them, so if we were going to have one, I was determined it would be unique,” he says. The family also loves that the room, which extends from the house, is surrounded by dramatic fifteen-foot floor-to-ceiling windows creating the effect of a “reverse snow globe” — a magical treat when winter’s white blanket makes an appear ance in the Carolinas.

The equally impressive wine and whiskey room feature stone walls, wood beam shelving for a display of spirits (Buck Hunt is a whiskey collector), and two Sub-Zero wine towers. “Many hours were spent considering every last detail of this space, and the extra effort definitely paid off,” Serany says.

The Hunts moved in just over a year ago and got a chance to put the house to the test this past summer with a wine pairing dinner. They say the entertaining spaces functioned beautifully, especially the flow between the kitchen, great room, and bar. “Our guests were able to spread out and have multiple conversations separately but all in the same space, just as we had envisioned,” Buck Hunt says. And if the party wants to move outside, guests can gather on the large screened-in-porch with a stone fireplace, television, and grill, while the kids can retreat to a playroom featuring a fun loft area.

Serany says there is nothing more rewarding than seeing a home interior she and her team created be shared with family and friends for great gatherings. “The timeline of this project required several years. In our world of instant gratification, we are constantly reminded that quality craftsmanship takes time,” Serany says. “This home is proof that it’s worth the extra effort and patience.”