Take a luxury hotel. Shrink it down to a manageable size, get rid of the other guests, the hidden phone and minibar charges, and the insecurities about who and how much to tip. Add a kitchen outfitted with multiples of everything-two stoves, two sinks, three dishwashers, three refrigerators. And throw in a movie theater with tiered seats, cup holders, and built-in snack bar. Welcome to Sunny Side Up, a fantasy rental perfect for housing the whole family for the holidays-especially with the off-season rate.
This oceanfront home in the northern Outer Banks community of Whalehead offers something for all ages and interests: a game room and wet bar, an exercise room with a TV, even an office space with Internet access. There's a private pool, of course. On cool, off-season days, you can heat the water and then towel off beside a gas fireplace in the poolside cabana. Oh yeah, and if you find the time, there's always the beach.
"Instead of staying at a resort hotel, people want to rent a private home but still have hotel goodies," says the home's designer, Mark Miller. With the homeowners, he and designer Suzanne Lyell created a mini Marriott suitable for the owners' brood of five children that would also attract family reunions and groups of vacationing friends.
What hotel would be complete without an elevator? At Sunny Side Up- ding!-you drop luggage on the second floor and- ding!-take groceries to the third, where the kitchen, dining, and living areas share sweeping views.
"You can always find a quiet space," says Jill Labriola of Gibsonia, Pennsylvania, whose family recently joined two others at Sunny Side Up for a total of 15 people ages 13 to 62. Bedroom suites add to the privacy: All eight have private baths, seven boast king-size beds (the other features two sets of pyramid bunks, with full beds on bottom and twins above), and six open onto one of the breezy verandas.
No matter the season, guests find plenty to do-visiting the Currituck Lighthouse, the Wright Brothers National Memorial, and local eateries. Blue Point in nearby Duck dishes up delicious crab cakes and Hatteras tuna.
But the most striking thing about the Outer Banks in the fall and early winter may be the natural beauty. The fishing gets good, the migratory bird route known as the Atlantic Flyway passes overhead, and a few miles north, wild mustangs roam.
If you're lucky, like the owners were one year, you'll spy a bold horse exploring the dunes right there in front of the house. If not, you can always pop some popcorn, dim the lights, and watch Misty of Chincoteague in the Sunny Side Up cinema.