A North Carolina Designer Turned This Once-Abandoned Property Into Her Family's Dream Home
Flip it, and rent it. That was the plan when interior designer Liz Carroll purchased a one-story ranch-style house that was built in 1950 in Wilmington, North Carolina. Although the once-abandoned property needed countless updates and repairs, its desirable location along the Cape Fear Country Club golf course made it a worthy investment. But once renovations began, the designer and her husband quickly realized the perfect tenant was none other than their own family of five. After all, with a street name like Azalea Drive, it was only fitting for this former North Carolina Azalea Festival 1997 Princess and 2015 President (she's the first person ever to hold both titles) to call the neighborhood home. "It was in the stars. Brightening up the dark and dated house was our first order of business," explains Carroll, who worked with builder James Halls of The Craftsmen Group to remove the wall between the kitchen and living room and flood the space with sunlight. She swathed nearly every interior wall in Benjamin Moore's Simply White (OC-117), chose wallpaper for a few strategic spots, and returned the dark-stained hardwood floors to their natural color. Despite the sophisticated level of design, she prioritized using easy-to-maintain materials and furnishings, keeping both kids and pets at the top of her mind. "Low maintenance was nonnegotiable," Carroll says.
Make a Statement with Neutrals
"I kept the monochromatic living room from feeling flat by layering different shades of soft creams, tans, and blues with various textures, like the nubby fabric on the sofa and the natural rug," says Carroll. It was also essential for her to choose performance materials. "With three kids and a dog, Fiber-Seal is my best friend," she says. A travertine coffee table anchors the primary seating area.
Create a Place To Relax
"I knew if we put a dining table in this spot, it would turn into a drop zone for everyone's stuff," Carroll says. Having barstools as well as a formal dining room for eating, she added another lounge area instead. The daybed, originally bought for a client, is a coveted spot for reading or watching golf on the nearby course.
Let Your Lifestyle Take the Lead
"After we opened up the kitchen, we had room to add a bar long enough to seat our family. We can now see the backyard from the kitchen sink, which is a must for a mom of three," says Carroll. Floating natural wood shelves, light quartz countertops, glass sconces (from Visual Comfort), and shiplap walls carry out the airy feeling. The lower cabinets, painted Benjamin Moore's Iron Mountain (2134-30), provide a pop of color against the neutral palette. Carroll ran the quartz countertop up a small portion of the wall to make a subtle backsplash behind the stove.
Work On the Details
"When he's not traveling for his job, my husband works from home, so an office was a must," Carroll says. "Little did we know what a blessing it would be when COVID-19 grounded him full-time after we moved in." The room was painted Benjamin Moore's Sea Haze (2137-50), including the original bookshelves, which she further updated with wallpaper and new hardware. Linen drapes frame the bay window surrounding a draftsman desk by Bunny Williams Home.
"Creating something that was really restful and clean was the biggest priority in the primary bedroom," says Carroll, who combined natural materials like wood and seagrass with shades of white, cream, and gray to evoke a sense of calm. A photo taken in Italy by her youngest sister and fellow interior designer Teeny Morrison is prominently displayed above the custom bed upholstered in an ultrasoft textured fabric by Romo and dressed in bedding by Boll & Branch.
Throw In a Few Wild Cards
"I spend a lot of time in the laundry room, so I needed it to be as beautiful as it was functional," says Carroll. Infatuated with caned cabinets seen on a trip to Paris, she appointed local cabinetmaker David VanDamme to re-create the look with a custom floor-to-ceiling version painted in Farrow & Ball's Pigeon (No. 25). A drawing by her father-in-law, artist Robert Burton Carroll, accents the wallpaper (Coquette by Kelly Wearstler for Lee Jofa Modern). Soapstone counters and hexagonal gray concrete tiles by Clé finish off the stylish space.