Living in Charlotte, Ruard Veltman dreamed of having a cabin high in the mountains, but his wife, Millicent, lobbied for a place at the coast. Ruard lost that debate but did get a second chance at creating a mountain-like retreat when he rehabbed this 1,800-square-foot Bald Head Island cottage for his young family, including son Fritz, 8, and daughter Perrin, 6. First, he replaced the interior's 1980s-era peach drywall throughout wiht mossy green paneling. Next, he created relaxing outdoor spaces and then finished the look with rustic accents—not a seashell or mountain marlin in sight. "It's a house tucked away in the woods, but near the beach," says Ruard. "We're both happy."