This haven welcomes a family year after year to the Atlantic shore.

Time hasn't altered much on the pristine strip of beachfront property known as Ocean Ridge Drive. North Carolinians have been descending on this little Atlantic Beach enclave since the 1940s, when they came to escape the sultry heat of air-conditionless summers and catch the cooling saltwater breezes. Kids still chase the waves, and families linger on beaches and decks to watch cinematic sunsets--just as they did when A. Hobgood was a kid.

Family Legacy

"I grew up on this street in the 1950s. My grandmother had a house here, which my brother and sister now own, and my father had one down the street," recalls A. "It was a very family-oriented place and still is. We mostly stayed out on the water and did water activities such as sailing."

The neighborly atmosphere and laid-back lifestyle remain much the same now that A. shares the beach with wife Deborah; his sons, A. IV and Holt; and Deborah's daughters, Miller and Maury. There are still genteel Saturday night dances at the Coral Bay Club, along with cookouts and beach barbecues. The boys go deep-sea fishing with their father just as they did as youngsters. A.'s sons are the fourth generation of Hobgoods to enjoy the natural beauty of this beach community.

A Cottage Is Reborn

What has changed is the family's beachside residence. "There are 80 oceanfront houses on this beach and 60 are still owned by the original families, so they rarely come on the market," explains A. When a humble beachfront property went up for sale in 1991, A. knew he had to act quickly if he wanted to acquire it and reclaim part of his boyhood memories. "It was just an old-timey beach house with no heat or air conditioning," he says. "I basically gutted it, took it down to the frame, and rebuilt it. The entire process took 18 months."

The result is a tidy Cape Cod-style cottage with a sprawling back deck and covered dining pavilion that rests just steps from the water's edge. The three-story house easily hosts the entire family, with extra room for guests.

Bringing the Beach Indoors

Deborah, a Raleigh-based interior designer, added cosmetic touches, but her real influence can be felt in the clean and breezy interiors. The Hobgoods' updated home is awash in crisp cotton slipcovers, cool linens, deep rattan chairs, warm wood finishes, and cozy couches that one can sink into like a crab in the sand. "We enjoy a simple, classic feel, and I really like the idea of white and off-white," she explains. "Lots of the houses in this area are done in bright pinks, greens, and yellows. We wanted a quiet, tranquil surrounding, something a little more subtle and soothing.

"We also wanted a simple, natural look, so I incorporated a lot of natural textures such as sisal carpeting and rattan furnishings into the design," she continues. Indeed, the white slipcovers evoke images of sand and sails, while the natural tones and textures recall driftwood and sea grass. The slipcovers also allowed Deborah to repurpose many existing pieces.

Creating Casual Elegance

Deborah made two distinct seating areas in the extra-long living room by separating them with a decorative Chinese lattice screen. The spectacular ocean views serve as the focal point of one seating area. The second faces a fireplace vignette styled with a sling-back cane chair and a painted beach scene. The painting adds vibrant color to the neutral palette. Raffia-trimmed pillows, antique ship models, shells, and small nautical accessories reinforce the beach theme without overplaying it.

The crowning touch, however, is the robin's-egg blue French clock that graces the dining room. "When I found it in a Raleigh antiques shop, I knew it would be perfect. It provides just the right splash of blue against the white pine walls," Deborah says. The dining table, accented with two antique finials, is large enough to seat the entire family plus a few guests.

Living on the Coast

On most days, you are more likely to find the family out on the beach--kayaking, boating, fishing, grilling fresh-caught shrimp and tuna, hosting friends and family, or taking walks and bike rides. Another favorite family activity is joining the hundreds of boats anchored off Cape Lookout on any given Saturday in the summer. "You can jump off your boat, swim, set your grill on the beach, and stay all day," Deborah explains.

The dress code at Atlantic Beach is decidedly casual. The Hobgoods, like most families, favor sundresses and shorts, flip-flops, and the occasional Hawaiian print shirt. On weekends, the four teenagers take over much of the house--filling it with friends and cousins. "Sometimes we have as many as 15 kids staying with us at once," marvels Deborah. "The kids all grew up on the water," says A. "They love boating and hanging out with their buddies either fishing or water-skiing

Life couldn't be sweeter than at this fourth-generation beach retreat, and the Hobgoods' sparkling home reflects the serenity of sun-kissed summer days.