Designer Kathy McKenzie rolls out a whole-house interior plan that combines soothing coastal colors with casual, yet elegant furnishings that accentuate the homes breathtaking views of the marsh and water surrounding it
By JOHANNA COLBURN » Photos by G. FRANK HART
Nestled along the picturesque Topsail Sound in Hampstead lies a home where New England architectural-style meets with contemporary coastal. Built in 2013, the 4,500 square-foot house, designed by Wilmington architect Scott Sullivan, makes the perfect permanent address for the owners Bill and Lynn Gaches. The retired couple knew they wanted the waterfront to be given prime positioning, with no obstructions in order to provide a view that would bring the outside in. “I wanted a house set-up for entertaining that would enable me to still be a part of what is going on,” explains Lynn. With these initial ideas in mind, the couple collaborated with Kathy McKenzie, principal interior designer and co-owner of Wilmington-based McKenzie Baker Interiors. They started working together before construction and with Sullivan's plans in hand, began the design project which lasted a little over a year.
McKenzie’s highest priority was to reflect the Gaches’s personality, aesthetics, and lifestyle in a design plan that provided them with high quality, beautiful furnishings that did not exceed their design budget. The Gaches’ resided in Maryland during the entire process which can sometimes prove challenging. Despite this, the Gaches’ and McKenzie made good use of their time when they were in town and communicated through email, phone and photos to make decisions and keep the process moving. “The Gaches’ were great to work with,” explains McKenzie. “They made decisions quickly and were enthusiastic about my design ideas.”
Immediately upon entering the foyer, one cannot help but notice the breathtaking view outside, anchoring the center of the home and brightening the entryway. In the main living area, soaring high ceilings and tall glass windows maximize the scenic view and make the home breathe. Large plate glass windows frame the view and combine the perfect balance of nature and natural scenery, flooding the home with light. The design of the house revolves around the beauty of the outside, making it a perfect spot for star gazing at night, sunsets and being bathed in golden sunlight by day. A telescope and binoculars located around the home implore the curious to soak in more of the outdoor landscape. “The view of the marsh and water from their home is spectacular, and I felt that it should be appreciated from the moment you enter the home,” explains McKenzie. In order to achieve that a glass front door was selected which was both fresh and functional, and provided some privacy while still allowing a glimpse of the seascape colors. McKenzie advised using low furnishings and arranged them to maximize the outside view with sliding glass doors that withstand the wind, and fold back to give the most uninterrupted view possible.
The Gaches’ wanted to use a soothing coastal palette of blues, greens, taupe and grey inspired by the coast with the view in mind. They preferred not to use the furniture from their previous home, as it was heavy, dark, and formal. Now the home is just the opposite – bright, cheery and open. Downstairs, the open-floor plan incorporates separate seating, dining, and cooking areas in a space that feels light and connected with nature. McKenzie selected several finishes and fabrics that provided inspiration and direction. Lynn fell in love with a beautiful paisley from Brunschwig & Fils that was then used on the club chair, and as pillows on the custom linen sofa in the living room. The fabric was perfect, combining soothing coastal colors with a casual yet elegant style that the Gaches’ wanted to evoke throughout their home. Together, McKenzie and Lynn were able to pull in the room’s palette from this favorite fabric. Upstairs, McKenzie continued the nature-inspired color palette and curated mix of furnishings in the bed and bathrooms. The home also features a striking balcony and gym, creating a sanctuary of health overlooking the sound. The space truly exceeds expectations, inspiring health and wellness.
The home boasts carefully selected artwork and accessories throughout that beg for backstories. McKenzie kept her eyes open throughout the design process for the two huge show pieces that she knew they would need ― the contemporary seascape in the foyer and the abstract metal piece above the fireplace. Lynn approved both pieces without hesitation through McKenzie’s photos at the point of discovery. Many of the smaller pieces of art and some of the accessories are the Gaches’ that they have collected from their travels. McKenzie incorporated these treasures with a few new items to create a cohesive design. Pops of color are sprinkled throughout the home, anchoring all of the design pieces together to form a united look while maximizing the view.
A porch is not complete without a place to take in the idyllic scenery, and this home does not disappoint. The outdoor patio leads to a stunning pier and a salt water pool surrounded by a landscape brimming with palm trees. The outdoor living space is both comfortable and beautiful, with decorative pillows in varying shades of blue and green, creating a memorable visual contrast. Strategically-placed ceiling fans above are a must for providing a breath of fresh air in the summer heat.
Thoughtful consideration was given to the selection of cabinets, tile, mill work, hardware, fixtures and remaining furniture pieces evolved from that starting point and flowed easily. All of the rooms have skillful furniture placement, scale, proportion, and layering. Mosaic tile work sparkle both upstairs and down, and family photos are lovingly placed throughout. The only place that they felt pushed a little out of their comfort zone was with the paint color choices. Happily, they were willing to take a leap of faith and went with McKenzie’s paint suggestions. The end result is exactly what the couple envisioned. The airy kitchen is clearly the heart of this home and the go-to gathering spot. “We are now able to entertain several people in the same area, and the conversation stays fun and inclusive,” said Lynn. Southern style is all about connecting to the landscape and this home is a superb example.
Interior Designer: Kathy McKenzie, McKenzie Baker Interiors, 910-762-4222. mckenziebakerinteriors.com