Home Is Where You Make It

04 May 2024

Deep roots and artistic inspiration brought the Atkinsons back to Wilmington

By Brittany Conley  »  Photos by G. Frank Hart

There is something universally loved about the concept of coming home. It’s where we long to be after a hard day at work. Even a lavish vacation begins to lose its luster and we look forward to our own bed again. Countless movies and songs are centered around the comfort and familiarity of returning to one's old stomping grounds. Many of us spend our youths scrambling to leave it all behind and embark on adulthood in a faraway place–but sometimes, we can’t deny the pull to go back to what we know and to what and who we love. Such was the case for B.T. and Jenkie Atkinson when they recently built their Wilmington home.

Originally from the Piedmont region of North Carolina, B.T. met West Virginia native, Jenkie, while both attended college in Charlotte. As he pursued a degree in accounting at UNC Charlotte, Jenkie’s free spirit was pursuing an art degree at Queens College. It was a classic combination of opposites attracting and a love that continues to thrive. The pair have always called North Carolina home, living in Chapel Hill while B.T. attended law school, then Raleigh and Greenville, followed by nearly thirty years in Charlotte. Making the decision to pick up one’s life and move isn’t one taken lightly, so they might have resisted some, but when B.T. had the opportunity to rejoin the ranks of his first law firm, Ward and Smith, they knew the timing was right. “This is the perfect place for the next chapter of his career,” says Jenkie.

While neither B.T. nor Jenkie lived in Wilmington as children, the Atkinson roots run deep throughout this part of the coast, with ties from Scotts Hill to Sloop Point and Surf City that go back as far back as the 1700s. B.T. speaks with pride of his family’s historic pecan groves, which many places in the area still memorialize. Feeling a deep connection with these shores means a lot. “Charlotte outgrew me a bit, too,” says B.T. “I prefer the size of Wilmington.” As a young boy, B.T. grew up visiting family in the area and roaming around their lands on Futch Creek with his siblings and cousins—some of the very same property he and Jenkie purchased in 2021. 

“We looked at buying a place in town, but this place is special,” says B.T. “We bought this acre and a half from my cousins. I have several cousins that live [nearby], an uncle who lives up the creek from us, and my brother retired here, too.”

It was B.T.’s brother that introduced them to his golf buddy, Mack Braxton, founder and co-owner with his son, Travis, of RMB Building & Design, LLC. It would take someone special to realize Jenkie’s dream home, and with decades of experience, Mack was perfect for the job. Jenkie’s heart was set on something a little less common than a typical beach home. 

“I found this article in a magazine about the low country feel and I wanted that,” says Jenkie. After showing the article to Mack and talking with him about her style preferences and the way she lives, he presented her with ideas she could hardly believe. “After we talked, the next thing I know he has drawings and I swear, we only changed one thing. He’s as good or better than anyone I’ve ever seen,” she says.

The Atkinsons’ dream home is situated on their own little slice of paradise, Futch Creek in view at all times of the year. “The water was of course a main draw for us,” says B.T., who even says he bought a boat before they bought the house. “We like to get out on the water. There’s an uninhabited island nearby with lots of shells, which Jenkie likes to collect. And we like fishing, too. Jenkie enjoys it just as much as the boys,” says B.T. But the water does more than just provide recreation—it is a vital creative outlet for Jenkie’s artistic soul, inspiring many gorgeous paintings from coastal scenery, to boats, to the most lovely oyster shells captured on canvas, many of which are displayed throughout their home.

Knowing how important the water is to the Atkinsons, Mack and his team were able to orient the home perfectly on the property, so the water is a central focal point and even made sure the prevailing breeze blows across the back porch in just the right way. Not one detail was overlooked. 

“We kind of live out there most of the year,” says B.T. “We eat out there a good bit, there's a TV, a couch, a fireplace…it’s very relaxing. And our master bedroom opens up to the back porch, too, so it makes it easy to take the dog out at night.”

“He worked with us to make sure everything was just right,” says Jenkie, who from all accounts had a rather humorous working relationship with Mack. “I told Mack, ‘That is an awful lot of ceiling to look at every day,’ and he came up with the idea of breaking it up by doing a coffered ceiling.” The pair came up with a similar idea to interrupt the monotony of the sheetrock on the staircase by implementing board and batten. 

“They were both so much fun from day one! They were staying close by, so it was always fun seeing Jenkie ride up on her pink Vespa,” says Mack, who enjoyed The Atkinsons’ level of communication. “After our first meeting we all felt very comfortable with our processes and working together. Jenkie was very prepared and knew exactly what she wanted…which is paramount in designing and building custom homes.”

A departure from current home building trends but speaking volumes to their commitment to family and stewarding the family roots, Jenkie wanted a formal dining room to accommodate her large, antique dining table. Mr. Braxton and his team designed a spacious, 18-foot-long dining room which the Atkinsons proudly use to host family and friends for all sorts of gatherings. “Sometimes people ask us why we built a house this large just for the two of us. But we want it to continue to be a magnet for our children and future grandchildren,” says B.T.

“I’m very proud of how we blended traditional and modern elements using the open concept while still having Jenkie’s formal dining room. [And] the creek views are apparent from the moment you walk in the front door,” says Mack. The views and ample natural light were very important, especially to Jenkie, who had grown to love and admire the Dorothy Draper-esque design elements of oversized windows and bright colors.

In keeping with the theme of fostering generational roots, Mack and his team are committed to exceptional quality in the bones of their work, so that all families living in their custom-built homes, like the Atkinsons’, can rest easy knowing their investment is as solid as they come. “Whatever the building code, he goes above and beyond,” says Jenkie. Not only does RMB Building & Design do things like use 2x6s in place of 2x4s for exterior walls, but they are also a Certified Green Professional company–a designation not easily obtained nor kept.

“As a Certified Green Professional, we believe it is the duty of our society to meet the needs of today’s generation without compromising God’s planet at the expense of future generations,” says Mack. “We design and build to minimize material waste, maximize energy efficiency and comfort. We also employ a third-party energy company to inspect and approve our homes at rough-in and final phases. We’ve won two NCHBA Stars Awards for the most energy efficient home in the state.”

If you are interested in planting your roots in the Wilmington area and would like to know how Mack and his expert team at RMB Building & Design can make your dream home a reality, visit RMBBuildingandDesign.com or across their social media channels.

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