Light and Bright

06 Jan 2021

A relaxing redesign in Autumn Hall


Tim and Pamela Martin have been married almost 40 years. The couple—she’s originally from California, while he hails from the Midwest—met in Oklahoma and, as Tim’s career carried them across the country, they proceeded to live in an additional 13 cities. When he decided to retire last year, they picked the Port City as their landing spot. “We’d lived in Wilmington once before, and our son just graduated from UNCW, so he was already here,” Tim explains. “We were familiar with the city, we knew we liked it, and it was a good fit.”

Because the Martins were retiring, they assumed they would find a smaller home to call their own. Things didn’t quite work out that way. “We fell in love with this beautiful home in Autumn Hall,” Pamela says. “It’s rather large and has a big open floor plan downstairs. You see everything—the dining room, the living room, the kitchen—as soon as you walk in.”  

The wide open layout provided an interesting challenge, but luckily the house had been staged when the Martins saw it. They knew it was possible to design the home in a way that felt relaxed, comfortable, and coastal—all things they wanted in their new home. In fact, the staging was so well done, and so close to what they envisioned for their home, that they decided to recreate it. “We saw that the staging was designed by Katie O’Neal from Custom Home Staging and Designs, so we tracked her down,” Tim says.

There was another reason Pamela was looking forward to working with a team of designers. Because the couple had moved so many times, she knew that setting up a new home could turn into an ongoing ordeal, especially without a clear plan or while trying to piece together a cohesive look from multiple sources. “We wanted it to feel like home as quickly as possible,” she says. The Martins knew the team at Custom Home could help them get settled in quickly and comfortably.    

Three Businesses, One Goal

Custom Home Furniture Galleries is Southeastern North Carolina’s largest display of furniture. It boasts over 50,000 square feet of quality home furnishings and accessories, making it easy for home owners to find exactly what they’re searching for.

“Custom Home Furniture Galleries is a furniture store and works along side designers at our sister company Custom Home Staging and Design,” Jessica Hall, one of Custom Home’s designers, explains. “The showroom is the main place for furniture, while niche., our gift shop, carries accessories, home décor, and gifts. Our team is able to bounce back and forth between both businesses and offer homeowners a full circle service.”

“That’s really what makes us unique,” adds Katie O’Neal, Lead Designer at Custom Home Staging and Designs, who originally staged the Martin’s home. “When you work with us, you’re working under the umbrella of a single company and shopping local at the same time. We’re separate, but we work hand in hand.”

When clients come to our family of stores, they have plenty options whether they’re looking for a single piece to pull a home together, or a complete redesign. Staging services can help with finish selections for remodels and new construction projects, or consulting on any type of design work. When clients are ready to furnish their home, they can visit the Furniture Galleries showroom to choose fabrics and finishes. The final stop in the home design journey is niche., where they can find everything they need to put the finishing touches on their home. “You don’t have to go to a million different places to get everything you need,” Jessica says. “From beginning to end, we have it all. And if we don’t have it, we will outsource and go shopping for you as well.”

“We don’t force you to start from scratch, or make you get rid of everything,” Katie adds. “We can seamlessly blend new or custom pieces with your existing furniture. We understand that some pieces are sentimental, and we’re happy to incorporate those into a home design. We’ll work with what you have and make sure it all works together.”

While the designers at both businesses can adapt to any situation or style the clients wants, most homeowners are looking for a coastal look, which isn’t surprising considering Wilmington’s area beaches and laidback lifestyle. “Coastal contemporary with a little flair of traditional,” Katie says. “That’s the overwhelming majority of what we see.”  

From Furnishings to Finishes

When clients decide to work with Custom Home Furniture Galleries for a home design, the process begins with a one-hour design consultation, which is followed up with a one-hour in-store consultation. For the Martins’ home, Jessica visited the house to take measurements, get an idea of the floor plan, and talk to the Martins about the look they wanted and their lifestyle. Meanwhile, Katie listened closely, took notes, and started thinking about the home accents and décor that would bring it all together. “Jessica says it best,” Katie says. “She puts together the outfit, and I choose the accessories.”

“Once we settle on a design, we’ll do furniture selections, then work on fabrics and finishes, and then narrow down accessories and figure out what will best compliment the space,” Jessica adds. For the Martins’ home, they touched five rooms—the master bedroom, the dining room, the living room, the game room, and the office.

Although the open floor plan presented a design challenge, the Martins wanted to work with it, not against it. “We wanted to keep it feeling open and not too cluttered,” Tim says. “But we also didn’t want it to look like a loft. We wanted each room to feel different, yet still flow together.”

Pamela agrees with Tim’s assessment. In addition, she hoped for a lighter look than in their previous homes. “We had a coastal home when we lived on Park Shore,” she says, “but that house was a lot darker and more traditional.” Because a lot of their furniture was from that previous house, it didn’t go with the lighter and brighter look they were aiming for, and they had to replace most of it with new pieces, which Custom Home Furniture Galleries helped them source and select.

That doesn’t mean the Martins got rid of everything. “When there were things that would fit the design, Jessica and Katie said, ‘Great!’ and found a way to use it,” Tim says. “But if something didn’t fit, they weren’t shy about being direct and saying so.” The Martins appreciated their honesty. “We needed someone who could tell us no and do it diplomatically, and they did that. We learned really quickly to trust their judgment.”

Settling In

The house in Autumn Hall has a unique look compared to other homes in the neighborhood. “It’s a little edgier,” Katie says. “It has a contemporary flair to it, a lot of mixed metals and gray tones, and we wanted to create a more coastal contemporary look to complement the design.”

The interior design features earth tone colors, shades of tan, gray, and bright white, and gleaming hardwood floors. “It really reflects this part of the country,” Tim says.

Katie appreciates the eye-catching gallery wall that lines the staircase. “The house didn’t have many places for art or built-ins, and we knew we wanted to display family photos. The gallery wall was a great way to do that.”

Each part of the open downstairs area flows into one another, yet feel distinct despite the lack of physical walls. Pamela’s favorite area is the family room, while Tim likes the dining area. Formerly a cavernous, empty space, it is now home to a large dining room table carved from rich maple. “We wanted something really special and American-made,” Pamela says. “The table we found was made by the Amish, and it’s truly the centerpiece of the downstairs area.”

Jessica also likes the table, but for another reason. “They had existing dining room chairs and wanted them to match the finish of the new table,” she says. “It was difficult to find something that looked cohesive, but the table we found perfectly blended everything together.”

The table and chairs is a great example of why the Martins wanted to work with a team of designers, and why the collaboration with Jessica, Katie, and the teams at Custom Home Furniture Galleries, Custom Home Staging and Designs and niche. were so successful. It allowed the Martins to blend the old and the new, and create a new beginning without starting from scratch.

“We’ve lived from coast to coast,” Pamela says. “Chicago, Boston, Nashville. We’ve had different homes, different styles, different needs. And this house, this city, the way it’s so open and relaxed—it just feels great.”

Custom Home Staging and Designs, 910-399-4017,

Prev Post Restaurant Romance
Next Post Floriana
Nest Interiors