“It’s a home of activity and gathering – of sandy feet and wet bathing suits,” says Matt Benson, director of Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson, who designed this coastal build on North Carolina’s Figure Eight Island. North with his wife, interior designer Barrie Benson. And even though it was Barrie’s third project on the island, she intended to make sure it had its own unique style: “I’m very into personality, I make sure that the house feels like her house and no one else’s,” she says. For these owners – an active, tight-knit family that loves to entertain – that meant an easy, welcoming space with a stylistic nod to the 1970s when the island was developed.
The setting literally influenced the design: Due to strict federal and state laws protecting the coastal ecosystem, all utilities must be constructed a safe distance above the area’s “high water mark”. As a result, the main living and dining areas are on the second floor of the house, creating a treehouse effect that allows for both ocean and marsh views. Matt worked to make sure it would feel as natural as possible for visitors. “When you arrive, an outdoor seating area draws your gaze through the house and out to the water beyond,” he explains. “Special attention has been paid to the best views, the layout of the rooms according to the path of the sun and the facilitation of access to the porches.”
To better serve the client’s constant rotation of guests, we “wanted all the interior rooms to feel connected yet separate,” says Matt. They developed a louvered oak pattern that rises up the central stairwell and separates the centrally located dining area from the outdoor patio, making room for a bar facing outside. “We thought, why not create this screen so that the room is always bright during the day, but still nice and cozy at night?” Barry said. “When the owners have guests staying, the other side is a bar in the evening and a coffee and pastry station in the morning.”
The warm wood of the louvers, which is repeated on the kitchen shelves, echoes the designs of the 1970s. Beyond that, Barrie, working closely with project manager Avery Castellow, “kept things a simply colorful and light” with walls paneled in a warm white paint, pale striped textiles and natural fiber accents. It’s a bustling place, after all: “Throughout the day there are morning swims, paddle board trips, fish caught off the dock and boat rides,” says Matt. “But afternoon naps and cocktail hour cocktails are all enhanced by the changing colors of the swamp.”
The Bensons opted for Brazilian ipe, a dense hardwood known for its durability and, when FSC-certified, a sustainable choice. For alternative eco-friendly options, look to a composite like TimberTech or Trex.
A covered sitting area on the upper level of the house offers sound and ocean views. Sofa: Century with Link Outdoor fabric. Chairs: Kingsley Bate with Perennials fabric. Table: Century. Pillows: Perennials.
The Bensons wanted to keep the loft space light and bright to focus on the views. Carpet: Rigid. The couches: Highland House in Perennials fabric. Low table: Nicky Kehoe. Stool: Sean Rush Workshop. Side table: German/Moore for Tucker Robbins. Lamp: vintage, presidential.
Warm wood on the cabinetry and open shelving connect the airy kitchen with 70s-inspired louvers in the stairwell and dining room. Pendant: Manufactured goods. Dinner table : Tom Dixon. bench: Hickory Chair in Perennials Fabric. Dining chairs: vintage Harvey Probber.
Barrie Benson has outfitted this kitchen area with comfortable furniture so guests or family members can keep the matriarch, an avid cook and host, company while she prepares the party. Sofa and armchairs: Highland House in Perennials fabric. Carpet: Rigid. Accent chair: Anthropology. Side table: Mecox. Lamps and art: ancient. Pendant: PET lamp.
Louvered oak panels let in light while recalling the development of Figure Eight Island in the 1970s, the site of this home by power designer couple Barrie and Matt Benson. Carpet: ABC Rugs & Home. Buffet: Manufactured goods. Table: custom, wood with a Saarinen edge and an antique faux parchment top. Chairs: vintage, in Cowtan & Tout fabric. Table runner: R. Runberg Curiosities.
The cutout on the back wall of the kitchen is a coffee station for guests. Cabinets: Coastal Cabinets. Cover: Charlotte Carpet Gallery. Material: Rocky Mountain Hardware.
Verdant Hermes wallpaper de Dedar offsets the white walls of the living space. Vanity: Customs. Sconces: The Urban Electric Company. Sink: Kohler. Material: Decorative bird and bath material. Faucet: Brizo. Mirror: antique.
Bedroom with bunk beds
Custom beds from Coastal Cabinets are accessible via rope ladders. Drapery: Kathryn M. Ireland. Bedding: Isabella. Acapulco chair: ancient. Carpet: Rigid.
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Hadley Keller is Beautiful housedigital director of. She oversees all digital content for the brand and works on the print magazine. She covered design, interiors and culture for 10 years in New York. She served as Associate Market Editor, Design Journalist, and Managing Editor for Architectural Summary and AD PRO before joining Beautiful house. Hadley is an ardent maximalist and a vocal opponent of the open floor plan.