Wellness Retreat

Heather Garrett and the Raleigh Architecture Company design a stunning wellness retreat right in one couple's backyard.

BROOKS BELL HAS ALWAYS DREAMED OF HAVING her home featured in a magazine. “As a child, I would read Architectural Digest,” she says, “and I always thought that that would be the epitome of success, to have my personal home published in a magazine.” Bell was aware that while she has an artistic mind, she needed a design scheme to help pull together a cohesive interior. “I was young, twenty-nine, and artistic, and I knew I had to leave it up to a professional, but it was a horrible disaster working with that designer,” she laughs. “And then we used another designer and it was the same.”

Feeling burned by her previous experiences, Bell and her husband Jesse Lipson felt stalled, and they were gun-shy about working with yet another designer. It wasn’t until the couple visited a friend’s house and became smitten with their interiors, designed by Heather Garrett, that they felt they’d found a perfect match. “Heather was the true designer we’d been looking for,” says Bell.

The couple initially enlisted Garrett to work on two of the rooms in their iconic midcentury-modern home, located in the Budleigh neighborhood and designed by renowned architect Fred Carter Williams. They were so impressed with Garrett’s work that they ultimately hired her to finish the entire home a few years later. “Everything was on time and on budget and just beautiful,” says Bell. “Heather designed the entire house, top to bottom. We went away on vacation for a week and she installed it. It was the most joyous moment of my life to walk into this fully installed home! Six months later we were in Traditional Home.”

Several years later, in 2014, the home next door went on the market. “We’d always had our eye on that lot because we wanted more privacy for our home,” says Bell. While they nearly missed out on purchasing the home three times, eventually they bought it. But instead of expanding their primary residence, the couple wanted to create a wellness space; a place where they could completely and fully immerse themselves in self-care. “We were both CEOs of our own companies and working extremely hard, but feeling like we were aging quickly,” says Bell. “We acknowledged that the best thing we could do was improve and prioritize our health.”

In 2018, the couple again hired Garrett, alongside The Raleigh Architecture Company, to bring their vision of a wellness retreat to fruition. The space they envisioned included a full-floor spa, a movement studio and gym, a spa and meditation lounge, a chef’s kitchen, and entertaining space. In addition, they wanted a large plot of the land between the two homes to be a lush organic  garden. “Originally, the interior aesthetic Brooks wanted was more of a 1950s Palm Springs midcentury-modern vibe,” explains Garret. “But after they went to Japan, things really changed. They wanted more of a 1950s Palm Springs-meets-twenty-first- century-New York-by-way-of-Kyoto vibe. We knew that that meant a lot of brass, vibrant color, some vintage pieces, and certainly  some classic 1960s shapes in terms of furniture, like a Platner chair or the vintage credenza in the foyer that’s from that period and place.

We wanted to punctuate the whole home with some pieces that made sense to her description.” Adds Bell, “We wanted to stand out from the rest of the South and have more of a West Coast feel to the space, but we didn’t want it cold and minimalist.”  Architecturally, the structure and interior details were classic midcentury modern, with walnut paneled ceilings and walnut cabinetry in the kitchen coupled with clean, simple, modern lines. True to the time period, a traditional sunken living room was designed as the ultimate entertaining space, with a large custom sectional designed by Garrett and The Raleigh Architecture Company.

Punctuating the sectional are bold turquoise plush cushions and Ikat pillows. “It was important that this space felt as 1960s as it could but with a contemporary edge,” says the designer. Functionally, the space also needed to seamlessly accommodate large gatherings. As CEOs, philanthropists, and donors, the couple hosts intimate dinner parties as well as large fundraisers, and the space needed to allow for groups large and small to gather. In lieu of one oversized dining table, Garrett designed the dining room with two large tables that pull apart so “they can move them around and arrange them any way they like,” she explains. As far as aesthetic, Garrett approached the dining area, which bleeds into the sunken living room, with the same midcentury- modern Palm Springs vibe, plus a dose of Japanese style.

The upholstered wall is in the channel-style of upholstery that was prevalent in the 1950s while the brass plated pendants give that Palm Springs–glam punch to the room.

While the public areas are colorful, bold, and vibrant, the couple also wanted a space that was Zen through and through. The downstairs spa lounge is where Garrett took advantage of the natural light, which floods the room. Sheer drapes filter the sunlight, giving the room a delicate, soothing glow. In keeping with the midcentury- modern aesthetic, a Malm fireplace and brick wall detail, which runs to the upstairs level as well, was added into the neutral color palette. “I wanted to bring that peacefulness and energy from the East and the fun party theme from 1960s California, but elevate it,” says Bell. “I wanted it to feel like you could sink into a sofa and be comfortable and warm.”

Ultimately, the home has become the couple’s daily retreat, with Bell heading there each morning to meditate, light incense, and drink hot tea while Lipson takes a steam shower to relax. “Heather so easily interpreted what we wanted the space to look and feel like and brought it together,” says Bell. “That’s why she’s so talented. She gave us a space that achieves everything we wanted and needed it to be.”