We built a laid-back coastal home that embodies the no-hurries, no-worries vibe of Bald Head Island, North Carolina.
If you imagine a Southern Living beach home, you probably envision a pastel-colored, stilt-supported, porch-wrapped house resting between a sandy, panhandle-shaped beach and a blacktop highway. Surprise! Instead, we headed north and as far east as we could go (off the coastline, actually) to Bald Head Island, North Carolina, a car-free, accessible-only-by-boat barrier island located about 35 miles south of Wilmington, North Carolina, and 70 miles north of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The Cape Fear River borders it to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east. Bald Head's conservation ethos—nearly 10,000 of its 12,000 acres remain in a preservation easement—shapes a more organic "island style." The homes may still be surrounded by porches, but they rest quietly on sand dunes or beneath the maritime forest canopy. Don't count on rows of condominiums or reliable Wi-Fi. Bald Head is a real retreat.
Enchanted by the unplugged lifestyle, we paired three Southerners—architect Eric Moser of Moser Design Group, designer Lindsey Coral Harper of LCH Interiors, and builder Jeff Sanderson of Whitney Blair Custom Homes—with similar visions to build an authentic Carolina coastal getaway. "I wanted to fit a comfortable house in this landscape so it felt like it had been here forever," says Moser. Harper's vision: "The interiors should nod to the locale and be light and comfortable—with a bit of beachy cheekiness." Step inside our home to see how the duo balanced livable and lively ideas.
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Buy the house plans for the Islander Cottage (SL-1951) here.
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The Living Room
"The chocolate-colored floors directed the home's warmer palette," says Harper. Bronze windows and doors that "look more expensive and command attention" line both sides of the living room. To keep the browns from falling flat, Harper splashed out with a fern-print sofa fabric. "It's not for the timid, but it carries the room," she says. The "big but relaxed" printed sofa sets the living area apart in the house's open floor plan. A traditional English roll arm frame by CR Laine checks the sofa's wildness. A bodacious green ottoman that's for "sitting or plopping feet," says Harper, balances the room's composition and grounds the corals. A sweep of vintage rattan and brass accessories completes the room's look.
The Living Room
Glass lanterns from Circa Lighting are a simple alternative to chandeliers.
Harper also added interest to the mantel with a few vases and brass boxes. "Play around with accessories on your mantel, but less is usually more," the designer advises.
The Dining Room
In the open floor plan, Harper created the dining area with a rectangular table placed on an Oriental rug. "Fit all the chairs at least partially on the rug," she says. The furniture arrangement is also centered under one of the living and dining areas' matching lanterns. With a furniture plan devised, the first components Harper found were the chairs from Palecek. "They don't scream "dining chairs." Because of their relaxed style, they can be pulled elsewhere in the house," she says. While the table may look like a British antique, it's actually a new, low-cost item from Hayneedle. You can find the Hillsdale Pine Island Extension Dining Table here.
To get the updated look of dark windows, paint only the sashes Urbane Bronze from Sherwin-Williams. These floors are 101-year-old joists salvaged from the Wilson Tobacco Company in Wilson, North Carolina.
Harper's Picks: Living & Dining Rooms
1. For the dining room chairs, striped fabric in Flamingo from duralee.com
2. For the ottoman, upholstery fabric in Evergreen from duralee.com
3. For ottoman trim, 7-Inch Cotton Tassel Fringe in Natural from samuelandsons.com
4. For the living room lamp shades, Melong Batik fabric in New Brown on Tint by China Seas from quadrillefabrics.com
5. For the sofa, Ferns Cinnabar Brown on Ecru fabric from quadrillefabrics.com
The Powder Room
"People aren't in powder rooms for long, so I like to make them really interesting," says Harper. She's already a fan of tortoiseshell, so when she heard about the island's serious conservation efforts with sea turtles, she went for Tortoise in Amazon by Schumacher and accessorized with resin turtle shells from Hayneedle on the walls. The Absolute Black granite-topped vanity makes the dark walls and hammered-brass sink by Nantucket Sinks stand out even more. Harper also added customizable acrylic-and-brass sink legs. "I do this all the time. It makes any sink look really beautiful," she says.
"No matter what, the kitchen will be the gathering spot, so I try to make it inviting while also defining it for the cook," says Moser about this free-flowing, open space centered around a 4- by 8-foot island. An opening in the ceiling lets hot air escape upstairs, cutting down on energy bills and creating a great vantage point from above. Harper marked the spot with an oversize lantern from Coleen & Company and had no qualms about combining it with two Hicks pendants. "It looks richer to mix finishes," she says. Cocoa touches—like the tan island cabinetry in Dormer Brown by Sherwin-Williams and the outside countertops made of sand-colored quartz—warm up the kitchen.
The Butler's Pantry
The Back Porch
The kitchen's bifold windows from Marvin Signature Series fold open like a drive-through window, providing easy access to the outdoor serving area and the grilling station tucked in the corner. The window's striped cabana-like valance is double-sided, so you can admire it from inside and outside.
The Back Porch
Behind the bar on the porch is an outdoor seating area with a mix of different furniture styles, including the dining chairs from inside and pops of coral and green for continuity with the interiors.
The Master Bedroom
“Aqua bedrooms are so soft and livable. They work equally well for both men and women. This whole room began with the Thibaut fabric," says Harper about the print that she used strategically and practically. "The big window needed curtains. These are actually the only ones in the house." Bedrooms require privacy, but the rest of the downstairs sits curtain-free to maximize the views. "The smaller windows needed softening with Roman shades," she explains. A row of three 26-inch Euro shams fills out an 83-inch-wide king bed (inserts make the shams less wide) and are an "approachable way to use pillows," she says. Harper chose the Bamboo Bed by Bunny Williams Home. The rich wood is perfect for a master bedroom, while the bamboo details add to the coastal environment.
The Master Bedroom
The lower wooden bed was selected to fit under the window, and its finish is dark enough to add some importance to the room along with the different bedside tables. "There's no rule that nightstands must match," Harper adds.
The Master Bath
The bedroom's aqua palette and pattern play continue into the master bath with the floor's cheery cement tile. "Patterned tile has returned," Harper says about this design element that had, until recently, been put on decorating's back burner. Now, the color combinations are more subdued and the finish is matte, which is particularly unexpected for tile. Also, cement tile requires zero grouting because it's held in place with mastic instead.
The Master Bath
The patterned tiles continue in the large walk-in shower with white subway tile walls. Plenty of natural light gives the room a light and airy feel.
Harper's Picks: The Master Bedroom & Bath
1. For the pillow shams and draperies, Fair Isle fabric in Aqua from thibautdesign.com
2. For the bathroom, Mod Hex Cabinet Pull in Polished Nickel from emtek.com
3. For the bathroom floors, Lili Cement tiles from cementtileus.com
4. For the shower walls, Rittenhouse Square tiles in Biscuit from daltile.com
5. For the bedroom walls, Seagrass Wallpaper in Celeste from cowtan.com
The Upstairs Landing
Harper treated the floors of the upstairs landing as works of art with painted ferns inspired by Matisse, created by painter Jay C. Lohmann. "I [created] my own stencils by cutting patterns into heavy paper. Using paper may sound odd, but the paint dries on it, creating a sort of seal," said Lohmann.
The Sleeping Porch
"I like unexpected combinations that most people might be scared to try. But trust me—I test them out for a living!" says Harper.
The Yellow Bedroom
"This room is very adult and beach chic. The yellow has a bit of brown in it, which works well with the natural bamboo and rattan elements in here," says Harper. "I had the wainscot built 54 inches tall so the wallpaper wouldn't overwhelm the space." An airy but substantial bed from Mecox fills the room. "Clearance is key with canopies," Harper advises. "Leave at least a foot between the top of the bed and the ceiling."
The Yellow Bedroom
A vintage fan chair rests in the corner. "Because it's such a statement piece, I paired it with a plain upholstered chair," she says.
The Yellow Bath
Harper worked all new fabrics into this bath. "Using coordinating—not matching—prints in adjoining rooms looks more interesting," she notes. A vintage double-X bench gets renewed with a tropical geometric-print fabric, and grosgrain ribbon trims the gray-striped wallpaper. Yes, it's possible to pair ribbon with wallpaper.
The Cassidy sink fixtures in bronze by Delta modernize the classic pedestal sinks, while vintage mirrors and rattan sconces hang above. The 26-inch rattan Hermosa Pendant from Serena & Lily is "like a beachy disco ball!" says Harper. It works in here because the ceiling is 9 1/2 feet tall.
Harper's Picks: The Yellow Bedroom & Bath
1. For the bathroom floors, Venetian Calacatta 3 x 6 Subway Tile Polished & Honed from daltile.com
2. For the bathroom walls, gray-striped wallpaper from sonias-place.com
3. For the bedroom walls and shams, Palmyra in Yellow fabric from hinescompany.com
4. For bathroom walls trim, 1" French Grosgrain Ribbon in Sunflower from samuelandsons.com
5. For the bathroom bench, Flora Too Custard farbic from mallyskokdesign.com
The Lounging Porch
This pair of colorful chairs graces the upstairs lounging porch, which opens right off the yellow bedroom.
The Twin Bedroom
In the main house's third bedroom and bath, Harper built the design around a new textile she had to have: Radish Moon's Orange Grove. Kismet led her to the bedroom's orange chandelier–sort of. "They're actually apples that I painted to look like oranges," she says. It hangs high enough so no one can tell. A zigzaggy double valance made of green and khaki fabrics is "simple but unexpected," and a round orange lamp by Christopher Spitzmiller adds an extra pop of color on the desk.
The Twin Bath
In the bath, Harper selected Suvi wallcovering in Clementine for a vibrant pop of color, bringing in the orange accents from the twin bedroom. The scalloped green mirror by Oomph complements the wallpaper's clementine print. She also painted the flooring in the bathroom Evergreens by Sherwin Williams to bring in more of the green hues.
"Crofter" is a peculiar term that describes the golf cart garages on Bald Head Island homes; it's also a great place for a guest suite. "Coastal houses need flexible accommodations," architect Eric Moser says.
Harper lured visitors to this suite by scheming it around a monkey wallpaper motif by Lee Jofa. "I didn't choose it just for the monkeys. I like the colors and the way it's drawn too," she notes. A vintage banana chandelier hangs in the center. "It's like the monkeys are climbing to get the bananas!" she says. Deep blue cabinets and trim in Turkish Tile by Sherwin-Williams counteract the wallpaper's playfulness.
The crofter enjoys great natural light through its large windows, and a backgammon table gives an fun activity for guests.
The Crofter Bath
The Front Exterior
"I looked to historic homes along the Southeastern coast for inspiration," says architect Eric Moser, who also surveyed Bald Head Island's existing homes to ensure the new house would fit into the community in both shape and spirit.
A compilation of James Hardie products (HardiePanel vertical siding, HardieTrim boards and Artisan lap siding) look like classic wood siding but are actually a fiber-cement composite that will hold up better in the coastal humidity—with no painting required! For a similar palette, try Gray Screen and Pure White from Sherwin-Williams. A low-maintenance aluminum roof tops off the exterior.
Moser chose Cambridge Cobble pavers in Savannah from Belgard Hardscapes to welcome visitors up to the house.
The Back Exterior
This house has over 1,300 square feet of outdoor living space. It is provided by the ample porches surrounding the home. Moser says he always treats porches like outdoor rooms. To furnish them and circulate air, make them at least 8 by 8 feet. Use 10-foot porportions on screened porches.
Moser used the same pavers from the front of the house in the back patio. He also added a fire pit from Belgard Hardscapes for cool nights.
With inspiration stemming from homes in the community, the result became a straightforward coastal cottage that's "free of refined ornamentation, with extensive porches and long overhangs on both the front and back to protect from the sun and rain as well as pull people outdoors," explains Moser.