Nestled on a peninsula in the protected waterways of North Carolina’s east coast, the River Dunes master-planned resort community exudes the relaxing ambience of outdoor-oriented living, maritime roots and timeless architecture. So it’s only fitting that the concept of this year’s Southern Living Idea House, recently completed across from the community’s marina, is “The Great Escape.” With a waterfront locale, cozy coastal vibe and ample outdoor space, there’s no question the show home lives up to its name.
With that theme in mind, architect William Court, of Bluffton, S.C.-based Court Atkins Group, designed the home as a getaway—both visually and functionally—for homeowners and guests alike.
Flexible space and multiple structures allow for up to five bedrooms without the main house feeling too large or inefficient. Along with a primary suite and two traditional guest suites, there is a carriage house with a garage and bonus space above that serves dual purpose as an office and a guest bedroom with an en suite bathroom. A third structure functions as an art studio but converts into an additional guest suite when needed.
“The home will work as a getaway property or as a permanent home where extended family can gather,” Court says. “The design allows you to open up spaces as needed for different tasks or when people show up.”
Furthering the home’s effortless accommodations is an abundance of porch space wrapping the main house, including a large two-story porch for the entry and primary bedroom suite as well as an adjacent dining porch. “That gave us extended gathering space,” Court explains. “What you’re creating is not oversize rooms, but pockets of space where people can congregate comfortably.”
Along with its exotic wood aesthetics, Zuri composite decking offers scratch and stain resistance, requires little maintenance and comes with a 25-year Colorfastness Warranty, ideal features for a coastal environment prone to high humidity and ample amounts of both intense rain and intense sun. “When maintenance will be an ongoing issue, we want to limit that as much as we can, and Zuri fulfills that need,” says Court.
The architect intentionally kept the porch floors simple, forgoing decorative inlays and patterns while leaving the nosing exposed. “We wanted everything outdoors to feel warm and have some thickness and heft.”
To create a seamless transition from indoors to out, the Idea House features large sliding and French doors with transoms above to let in plenty of daylight. The interior wood flooring is similar in tone to the Chestnut Zuri decking.
Because the home is on a heavily foot-trafficked corner of the walkable community, privacy was top of mind when designing some of the outdoor spaces. Most notable is a rear courtyard created by the three structures; a brick wall, gate and trellis fill in the gaps to create a zone almost entirely invisible from neighboring properties. On the exposed dining porch, a panel of interweaving squares shields guests while adding an extra decorative touch.
Indeed, the River Dunes community is known for its timeless architectural detail, and the Southern Living Idea house upholds that tradition. The home deftly blends two prominent local styles—historic Lowcountry and nautical. “Our challenge was to capture both of those but also make it current and relevant,” Court says. “Our details are proportionally in keeping with the Lowcountry vernacular—two-story porches, overhangs, exposed rafter tails. But we’ve made them current with a cleaner, streamlined feel.” This includes opting for flush shiplap with mitered corners instead of a more traditional lap siding, overscaled windows and roof overhangs, and simplified brackets.
The result is a home that combines the best of Southern, coastal living in both form and function. The architectural stylings will endure for years to come, while the thoughtful and purposeful design encourages a relaxing lifestyle alongside impeccable hospitality.
Read more about this year’s Southern Living Idea House here.