Classic and Contemporary Family Retreat
A blending of traditional style and modern architecture makes for a magical North Carolina escape on the shore.
Watching the sun set on the marshes of Figure Eight Island is a little like peeking over the shoulder of an artist at work: First, the bright, unblemished blue of the sky deepens for a suitably moody canvas, and then the real show begins, welcoming wild streaks of coral, pink, and purple. It was this riotous act of color and composition that inspired designer Lindsay Henderson when she was tasked with dreaming up the interiors for a new family retreat for Steve and Jackie Bell. “The sunsets here are so amazing,” says Henderson. “I just incorporated some of the same shades in softer hues and carried that throughout the house for a seamless, magical experience.”
Get the look: The balcony seating is from Brown Jordan’s Fusion collection, with Sunbrella fabric on the cushions. The coffee and side tables are also by Brown Jordan. The rug is from Stark Carpet; the lantern and tray are from Crate & Barrel.
While the palette sets the mood for the leisurely summer days the Bells spend here with their son, Jon, and his wife, Allison, who are joint owners, it was the home’s architecture and carefully thought out placement that truly shaped its aesthetic plan.
Longtime lovers of traditional design, the Bells decided to take a leap of faith when they first met with the late architect Ligon Flynn. “We knew we wanted something different,” says Jackie. “It was paramount for us to live simply at the beach, without all the extra trappings or upkeep. Ligon dreamed up something more contemporary for us and sited it perfectly for the views.”
Without skipping a beat, Henderson then took the laid-back, carefree vocabulary of the architecture and translated it into each space, expertly outfitting the residence with furniture that has lines complementing the home’s modern influence without being a complete departure from a more traditional look. The effect is a house that is streamlined without being too sleek, and cool but not cold. Most importantly, it’s exactly what the homeowners had in mind: no muss, no fuss.
The dining room is a prime example: The simple, clean construction of the custom tabletop is underscored by a fanciful peekaboo pedestal below, while the irreverent, freewheeling brushstrokes of the modern artwork by Kate Long Stevenson form a stark contrast to the super structured, refined silhouettes of the coral chairs. “It was about finding that sweet spot,” says Henderson.
The adjoining living room, too, was a delicate balancing act. The Bells wanted the room, which is open to the dining area, to be sophisticated enough for post–dinner party mingling, but not completely out of touch with the home’s family-friendly vibe. “We have nine grandchildren ranging in age from 9 months to 20 years,” says Jackie, “so we needed the house to be fun and easy.” To accommodate the Bells’ requirements, Henderson chose deep-seated sofas that are as comfortable as their silhouettes are beautiful, opting to stay away from stark white in favor of soft, delicate shades of blue and rose.
As lovely as the interior spaces are, the outdoor spaces may be the biggest draw. Flynn and his associate, architect Virginia Woodruff, designed two covered decks—one screened and one open—ensuring that there will always be plenty of space for visitors to enjoy both the salt air and the inspiring sunsets. “It doesn’t matter if it’s raining or cloudy; it’s impossible to tire of the view from here,” says Jackie. “Whenever we have people over, it’s inevitable that that’s where they’ll end up. It’s really inviting and relaxing.”
Having a place to go to unwind and play is a nice perk when the Bells need a break from the normally high-paced lifestyle they’re used to, especially when the whole family gets together on the Fourth of July. Last summer, for example, they hosted a weeklong, multigenerational family Olympics, where the entire clan divided up into two teams of eight to participate in events like balloon tosses, swimming relays, a putting contest, and even a competitive hunt to find the largest sea creature. Steve went so far as to craft his own medals for the final ceremony from shells that he gathered at the beach right across the street, drilling holes in them and stringing them through with ribbon. “There’s always something to do here,” Jackie says fondly, “but the best part is getting to do it all together.”