Cottage Contemporary

by Lou Anne Liverman

When the boxy, hip-roofed Holland Cottage went on the market a few years ago, Sarah and Paul Casey of Chapel Hill realized the timing was just right to make their dream of a family vacation home in Wrightsville Beach a reality. At the time living an ocean away with three children, on the front end of a two-year work assignment in Singapore,  We bought the house via email,  Sarah says.  It was next-door to Paul s sister and her family. We have children the same ages, plus Paul s mother has a beach house here. We are a close family, and definitely a full house when we are together. So the timing was just right.  

Fast-forward approximately three years, and after numerous cross-continent architectural and construction collaborations, interior design decisions and artistic detailing via Skype, email and texts, the Caseys have come home, at last, to their beach house.  Sarah says it is  an absolute dream come true,  crediting the vision and craftsmanship of those she calls amazingly talented people.       

From the start of the design process, an important overall goal for both local architect Michael Kersting and the Caseys was that their newly constructed 3,714-square-foot, five-bedroom home pay homage to the original cottage at 314 South Lumina Avenue. At the same time, they wanted to offer a more spacious, functional footplan conducive to large family get-togethers and entertaining guests.

 The Caseys wanted the house certainly to fit with the traditions of Wrightsville Beach, but were also interested in some edgier, contemporary details  -- ones that both reflected the traditional Wrightsville Beach cottage, but also worked well as a current home for the active family,  Kersting says.

For these more traditional purposes, Kersting s design included various exposed structural elements, asphalt shingles, paneled ceilings and, as a nod to the original home s dark green box porch, the same deep green color chosen for the current home s captured porch overlooking Banks Channel.  Kersting incorporated more contemporary elements, like the kitchen cabinetry, for the blended style desired.

 All along we wanted to mix the old with the new. More modern, but not all modern,  Sarah says.  And we wanted one big, open room in the main living area that was light and airy with high ceilings, and exposed beams because we wanted them as the focal point of the house. The beams actually started all of [the design style].

Meticulously constructed by local builder Fred Murray and his crew, the main level tongue-and-groove pine ceiling with exposed beams is a striking reflection of keen craftsmanship and precision. The design of the ceiling called for custom trusses for the purpose of free spanning. Kersting explains that this allows for big ceiling spaces without the need for columns. Also essential to the ceiling s structure and architecture were 50 40-foot cross gables, which were manually hoisted into the space with ropes and pulleys around existing power lines. Murray s crew accomplished this labor-intensive job in the course of one long workday, eventually cutting the gables individually into fitted pieces for the ceiling.

 We then built the roof around it,  Murray explains.

 The craftsmanship of Fred s guys is exceptional. Just phenomenal. The house is truly crafted like a piece of furniture,  Kersting says.

About the ceiling s angled craftsmanship, Murray says,  My guys insisted on those mitered corners.  He also notes that not much is ready-made in the house; a lot is handmade.

Virtually every space in the home reflects the Cape Fear area s local artisanship and artistic talent. Interior design consultant, Susan Covington of Sac Art Designs, was the eyes and ears when the Caseys could not be on site during the construction process.

 Susan was like an angel who took care of us,  Sarah says.  You have to have a Susan when you live away if you want your own home, your own look. I totally trusted her decisions. She was just an incredible resource and gave such attention to detail and accents, which was really important.

Most everything in the house is custom-made, says Covington, including an eclectic array of doors found throughout the home.

 Each of the doors has a little story behind it,  she laughs.

In all of her design projects, Covington strives to work with as many local artists and craftspeople as possible, acknowledging that she was very fortunate to incorporate so many talents into this project.

From vintage lighting, murals, wall art, pottery, and stuffed animals; custom-built coffee and dining tables and outdoor furniture, to locally cut and crafted concrete surfboards, countertops and benches, the home touts unmatched originality in its creative detail and custom accents.

 I am beyond impressed with the amount of detail in our home from people who are so talented right here in Wrightsville [and the surrounding area]. I am just very proud of that. Honestly, one of my favorite things about our home is that is locally built and designed,  Sarah says.

 My other favorite thing is the view. And then the deck, the ocean and the waterway. And the kitchen and the lighting and the beams,  she laughs, checking off her favorite amenities.  We definitely wanted this house to be welcoming and inviting and fun for our friends and family.

A wish-come-true, the overwhelming response to their new home is exactly what the Caseys hoped for. Having officially moved into their new home Memorial Day weekend, they entertained more than 20 guests. Sarah says no one got in the car the entire weekend.

 We have everything we need right here. This house makes us happy,  she says.

So much so the family  -- only two months into its new beach home  -- has plans to live in Wrightsville during the summer season, while commuting back and forth from Chapel Hill on weekends during the school year. 

ur dream came true,  Sarah says, while standing in her  new kitchen, making sandwiches for her 6-year-old and 3-year-old twins.  The minute we drive onto the island, I feel relaxed and immediately fall into island-time. We don t have to be anywhere, go anywhere. We just go from breakfast to bathing suits.

And by day s end, to the open-air upper deck for another evening s sunset.





Creating this Home of Distinction



Sarah and Paul Casey            



Michael Ross Kersting Architects


Building Contractor

Murray Construction    


Interior Designer and Project Manager



Appliances/Plumbing & Electrical Fixtures

Ferguson Enterprises Inc.



Port City AV


Kitchen/Bath Hardware

Atlantic Appliance



Bob West Plumbing



Hodges Electric


Lighting Fixtures

Louise Gaskill


Hardwood Supplier

Fulfords Antiques and Flooring


Hardwood Installer                                          

Jackson Floors


Tile Supplier

Southeastern Tile


Tile Installer

Inline Tile


Kitchen Cabinet Manufacturer/Installer

Archer Read Cabinets


Kitchen/Master Bath/Bathroom

Countertops/Installer/Stone Cutter/Back Splash/ Marble Framed Concrete Wall

Bluewater Surfaces






Thompson Painting



Greendot Heating and Air


Outdoor Lights/Doors  




The Blind Spot


Custom Cabinet Design

Cigar Guest Room Bed/Night Stands/Console/ Powder Room Vanity Design



Custom Cabinet Production

Cigar Guest Room Bed/Night Stands/Console/ Powder Room Vanity

Bryan Humphrey Designs


Custom Cabinet Finishers 

Ludlum Custom Finishing


Artisan-Designed Furniture

Walnut Dining Table

Tom Covington, SAC ART DESIGN


Living Room Coffee Table/Master Bedroom Headboard/Hanging Bed/ Guest Room Upholstered Headboard



Dining Room Sideboard Design/Master Bedroom Headboard and Hanging Bed Production

Bryan Humphrey Designs


Living Room Coffee Table Production

Murray Construction


Guest Room Upholstered Headboard Production

Maria Mendoza Upholstery


Bunk Bedroom and Office Fish Art

Michael Van Hout


Outdoor Dining Table Metal Base

Dumay Gorham


Outdoor Dining Table/Coffee Table/Sofas/Chairs/ Lounge Chairs

Bryan Humphrey Designs


Rugs and Bed Linens

Maran Home


Mural Bunk Room and Mudroom, Elevator, Etc.

Leisha Cascaddin



Sue Binns


Glass Stairwell, Textured Door Glass

Standard Glass


Original Art

Clyde Edgerton and Candy Pegram


Landscape Design/Fountain

Myrtle Vinca Landscape Design



Middle Sound Landscaping



J & J Concrete


Outdoor Daybed Swing Design



Outdoor Daybed Swing Design Production

Murray Construction


Surfboard Dock Shower

Bluewater Surfaces



JB Lawn Sprinklers Inc


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