North Beach Beauty

Like barbecued oysters on bone china or a strand of pearls with faded blue jeans, the Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House offers the perfect balance of elegance and coastal casual living at the North End of Virginia Beach. 

Located on a half-acre lot on the lovely 3rd hole of the Princess Anne Country Club Golf Course at 35 1/2 Street and Holly Road, just two blocks from the ocean, the inaugural Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House—a partnership between Stephen Alexander Homes & Neighborhoods (SAH) and Coastal Virginia Magazine—is a celebration of “old-dating.” This term, coined by SAH principal Stephen Quick IV, is a play on “updating” and describes a style that is “a little bit Virginia Beach and a little bit Nantucket, c. early 1900s.”

With an opportunity to participate in shaping the present-day vernacular at the North Beach, SAH, together with their architectural partners Retnauer Baynes Associates, LLC, has created an ideal marriage of the beach cottages popular in Virginia Beach in the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the legendary restrained and weathered beauty of Nantucket. In the process, notes Stephen, “We have reinvented some of our own details.” The happy outcome is the “old beachy-beach” Coastal Nostalgic style they sought.

However, while Nantucket is often referred to as “the little gray lady,” there is nothing gray about the Idea House. Clad in durable fiber cement siding with the look of real wood—both cedar shakes and horizontal lap boards—this home is bathed in a stunningly subtle tint of sea mist green with undertones so ephemeral that a definitive description wafts away on a breeze. With ultimate coastal curb appeal, both the home’s distinctive color and its architectural lines, set off by many nautical miles of crisp white trim, are at once graceful and handsome. And they will stop you in your sandy tracks. Like the beautiful girl next door, the architectural presence of this new kid on the block in its established beach neighborhood sports the kind of good looks that turns heads, yet fits in comfortably.

A Gracious Plenty

coastal virginia magazine idea house stephen alexander homes foyerImmediately upon crossing the threshold into the gracious and open first-floor foyer, the soothing comfort of classical proportions and scale are subconsciously perceived and felt. From this vantage point, the Idea House’s breathtakingly open floor plan unfolds with an unstudied and timeless harmony. “We wanted the home to look like a 100-year-old house that underwent a modern renovation without losing its character,” explains Stephen.

According to SAH principal, Steve Quick, Sr., the appropriate question to ask about this house is not “How big is it?” But, “How big does it live?” At nearly 4,000 square feet, this two-story, 5-bedroom, 3 full and 2 half-bath home sports a ground-floor, multi-generational suite designed for overnight guests who want to kick off their shoes and relax. So, it is plenty big. But, more importantly, its gracious, carefully-conceived proportions, right down to the tiniest detail, make it feel neither sprawling nor cramped; rather, perfectly human-scaled. 

Central to establishing an easy breathability and flow is a simple, uncluttered, upscale interior. Ten-foot ceilings downstairs—and vaulted ceilings in the second-level master suite and laundry-craft room—contribute to that sun-drenched, buoyant feeling throughout. Abundant, elegant coastal millwork is neither cloying nor contrived. Instead, high-end, perfectly proportioned, crisp white moldings, casings, wainscoting, built-in bookshelves, five-panel doors and a coffered ceiling in the main floor family room unify the spaces with a clean, streamlined look that creates an effortless continuity. A deep portal between the dining room and the foyer not only allows space for two flanking coat closets, but provides visual separation without bulk while drawing people in, as do paneled knee walls with square column details between the dining and family rooms. Light, neutral area rugs downstairs and wall-to-wall carpeting upstairs—except on the stairs themselves and in the upstairs foyer—simultaneously define and connect areas.

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coastal virginia magazine idea house stephen alexander homes kitchenWith a kitchen and related areas—a keeping or morning room, wine bar and beverage center, and walk-in pantry—that function as the hub of the home and account for nearly half of the downstairs space, proportions had to be on-point. The centerpiece of the expansive gourmet chef’s kitchen with its professional-grade Thermador appliances—including a 38-inch, French-style hood over the deluxe range—is a custom, 12-foot kitchen island with furniture detailing. As interior designer Susan Wilson of Goodwin Interiors, Inc., notes, “The ample size was needed to match the magnitude of the space.” According to SAH principal Alex Quick, its double thickness of white Carrera marblesque countertops similarly provides for visual heft that is harmonious with the volume of the kitchen space and in keeping with the ambiance of the home.  White inset and glass-front cabinetry continues the crisp look of the custom millwork through the kitchen area, contributing to the feel of seamless transition by further opening and brightening the space.

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The Golden Mean

Furnishings—selected with the assistance of Ricky Christian of Espirit Décor Home Furnishings in Chesapeake—combine the best of both worlds. The “Coastal Living” collection by Stanley Furniture proved to afford pieces that, like the flooring, create a harmonious duality of casual elegance in keeping with the rest of the home. Darker furniture with a weathered or distressed “driftwood” texture as seen, for example, in the dining room chairs and sideboard and in some of the master furnishings, brings together these two seeming opposites.

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Love this furniture? Check out our Silent Auction, which lasts through April 18.

The color white has a key role to play within the house. White can be associated with the ultracasual—think tidy farmhouses, crisp cotton sheets drying on a clothesline, and ships’ sails—or with the ultra-formal—think bone china and pearls. It can also be associated with the traditional—as in lace—and with up-to-the-minute chic—as in the any-color-as-long-as-its-white association with modernism. In the Idea House, it is all of the above. 

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A spectacular example is the master bath, where white marble shower walls and heated floors suggest the ultimate in traditional pristine luxury while three rain shower heads create, as Stephen notes, a more contemporary “spa-retreat experience to enjoy every day.”

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Immediately adjacent, an exquisite crushed volcanic rock soaking tub with impossibly simple and graceful lines evokes the footed tubs of yesteryear but with a profile that is somewhat sleeker.

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All That Glitters Is Not Gold

Like the sun’s rays glistening off the ocean’s surface, Wilson set out to create subtle shimmer, sparkle, reflection and transparency throughout the home.  Nothing bling-y here. Just sophisticated strategies for embracing two of the defining characteristics of a coastal community: sunlight and water, while still walking that fine line in the sand between classy and casual.

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Silk fabrics on throw pillows and window treatments provide a sophisticated luster, as well as a feeling of unity, while the judicious application of rhinestone trim to window treatments in the master bedroom creates an elusive twinkle rather than a blinding spectacle.

Also in the family room, an identical pair of antique-mirrored coffee tables and a long narrow sofa table reflect the abundance of light drenching this home.  

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In that vein, mirrors with an antique look, but not at that price point, create a glittering effect in the powder room. 

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Further insuring that the home is suffused with reflected light and transparency is the liberal use of both silver and glass for ceiling fans—described by Stephen as “high design statement pieces”—lamps and mounted light fixtures, some with swags of glittering crystals, and others—like the four glass “school house” pendants over the kitchen island—with retro glow; furniture and cabinetry hardware; and candle holders, picture frames, and other decorative objects.

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Inside Out

With a backdrop of landscape “borrowed” from the golf course and a neat-but-natural approach to the 25,000 square feet of traditional coastal-compatible vegetation in the front yard and open greenspace in the back, one of the driving forces behind the Idea House’s interior design was the desire to “pull the eye in and through” explains Stephen. Capitalizing on the beautiful view and blending the indoors and outdoors was accomplished in a number of obvious and not-so-obvious ways.

For starters, nearly 60 windows flood the home with natural light, creating a bright and airy feeling regardless of season, weather or time of day. A pair of French doors—one set leading from the kitchen area and another from the multi-generational suite—open onto the Easy Living all-season conditioned screen porch, softening the boundary between indoors and out where a raised grilling porch and a curved ground-level paver patio in a warm sandstone tone—perfect for a fire pit—beckon.

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All through the home, a color palette of sand and soft aqua blue in varying combinations—with very minimal pattern—repeats and shifts, sometimes almost imperceptibly, creating a soothing and tranquil atmosphere. “It’s a serene house,” notes Steve. Soft aqua blue paint in the kitchen and master bedroom create what Wilson calls a “sky effect” that opens up and almost dissolves walls. In the master suite, in particular, Wilson wanted to preserve the vaulted volume of the bedroom using the expanse of windows to deepen the room by pulling the eye out and over the golf course. 

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Further serving to bring the outdoors in are thoughtfully chosen natural fabrics, materials, and objects. A few highlights include gauzy drapable fabrics and of linens on the family room sofas and the upholstered bed in the multi-generational suite; woven rattan barstools with the look of driftwood at the kitchen island; wicker furniture on the covered back porch; grasscloth wallpaper with a mere murmur of a pearlized sheen in the powder room; shell beading on throw pillows and window treatments; and the restrained use of shells, coral, starfish, and birds in decorative vignettes.

While all of this visual merging of interior and exterior is a beautiful thing, according to Alex, extra insulation prevents too much of the actual outdoor environment from seeping in, making the home more comfortable, more efficient to heat and cool, quieter, and structurally stronger and more rigid.

Lighten Up and Hold Everything

The home’s more private spaces offer opportunities to get a little more playful with interior design and storage solutions, especially in the mudroom, pantry, the got-to-see-it-to-believe-it laundry room, closets, Boy’s and Girl’s Rooms with their Jack-n-Jill bathroom that also opens onto the “up foyer,” and the upstairs family room.  In these spaces, Wilson’s “lighter side” reveals itself in ways that are more clever than cutesy.

Storage solutions are all the rage these days and everywhere we look, from HGTV to Pinterest, ideas overflow. “People would love to be more organized,” observes Wilson, “but sometimes they aren’t sure how the ideas they’ve seen apply to their own homes.” 

The spiffy mudroom, located just behind the staircase, features four built-in cubbies whose bench seating and dividers possess a distinctive and intentional church pew aesthetic. Fabric-lined baskets here and elsewhere camouflage would-be clutter as decorative objects with organic appeal. Nearby, under-stair storage is staged as bookshelves, but could be outfitted with more baskets or bins to serve as stylish catch-alls. Up above, a round “?” wall hanging serves as a “surprise element” and “conversation piece” that Wilson likes to intersperse throughout a home. 

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No ordinary walk-in pantry, the one in this home boasts electrical outlets and an ample Carrera marblesque countertop that begs to be pressed into service as a prep station or baking center. The particular configuration of specialized storage compartments add up to, as Stephen predicts, “a space that homeowners will actually want to show off” from behind its French doors. 

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The same holds true of the show-stopping, second level, triple-duty laundry room/craft suite/ DIY headquarters with its “Dick Tracy”-style door labeled “Laundry” and transom emblazoned with the 757 “address.” Pass-through shelving accessible both from inside the laundry room and from just outside provides “get it yourself” convenience.

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Soft aqua blue walls further open up this sunny space with its vast windows and soaring ceiling, while black and white accents offer a spunky, retro feel. Wall-mounted clothespins display orphaned socks, and both Mason and apothecary jars provide sensible storage with a nostalgic nod and that luminous transparency that pervades the entire home.

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The value of custom closets practically tailor-made for each family member’s and guest’s belongings can scarcely be underestimated. And separate his-and-hers closets in the master suite—not to mention a separate water closet in the master bath—are sure to preserve marital harmony. Keeping the kids content is as easy as separate bedrooms reflecting each one’s passions—in this case, surfing for him and horses for her—and a shared Jack-and-Jill bathroom.

In this bathroom black and white grosgrain ribbon tacked at regular intervals creates a clever striped wall treatment, and various quotes and quips on blackboard plaques and labels make playful points about privacy, hygiene, and what sundries go where, e.g.  “Girls Only No Boys Allowed” in Jill’s half and the reverse in Jack’s, “Wash Your Hands” on the soap dispenser, and “Hair Stuff” on one of a number of wall-mounted retro-modern metal bins and baskets interspersed throughout the upstairs.

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In the Girl’s Bedroom, murals painted by Cathy Cox of Brushstrokes and wall-mounted three-dimensional letters spelling out “Keep Calm and Ride On” establish an equestrian theme both beautiful and whimsical with links to the coastal Virginia wild pony culture.

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In the Boy’s Bedroom, the team fashioned materials from a local home improvement store into witty and serviceable furnishings. Two galvanized metal buckets glued together top-to-top form a nightstand that doesn’t take up a lot of horizontal space and galvanized plumbing pipes and fittings make a handsome, full-size headboard. Both add a little shine as well as an industrial vibe, palatable to most boys. A framed cork display strip encircles the room and wall-mounted nautical cleats from a local discount department store serve as hooks for clothing, hats and backpacks.

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In the upstairs family room designed as a blended family space inviting to both kids and adults, clever décor comes in a variety of flavors:  a custom subway sign that Wilson describes as a “fun way to refer to the regionalism of the area, jars of sand from various surfing beaches, and a “money jar” to collect change for the next family vacation. In the kids alcove, an inexpensive and ingenious, easily changed-out display system of jute rope, silver rings, and bulldog clips salutes the nautical, echoed in the window treatments, while addressing the challenge Wilson noted of “never enough space to hang children’s artwork.”

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At the end of the day—preferably a fun-filled day at the beach that concludes with a hosing down at the outdoor shower fashioned from one of Steve Morgan’s custom surfboards—the 2015 Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House is a special place where wistful longing for the halcyon days of childhood beach vacations combines with a grown-up desire for contemporary amenities and a little seaside sophistication. Evoking a simpler time and a slower pace, but with a heaping helping of understated elegance, this home invites you to stop and smell the salt air. 

Want to learn more about the Coastal Virginia Magazine Idea House? Take a video tour here, then visit for a Home Inspiration Tour through April 18. Don’t miss our lineup of Tasting Events on Saturdays, and take home a piece—or several pieces—of décor that makes the house so extraordinary through our Silent Auction, happening through April 18.

Get 10 tips for decorating your own Coastal Virginia home here.

Categories: Idea House 2015, Issue Page Features

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