Falling For Bald Head
How Wilmington Designer Nancy Mullineaux infused an existing beach house with Jois d’ vuev
Written by Anne Barnhill
Photography by Rick Ricozzi
Fifteen years ago, a good friend told Laura and David Hall they’d love Bald Head Island; the Kansas couple decided to check it out. As a very successful businessman, David, along with the rest of the family, wanted a private, peaceful place for some much-needed rest and recreation from their hectic lifestyle.
Bald Head Island, accessible only by ferry, promised the respite the Halls needed.
They flew across the country with their four daughters, Rebecca, Allison, Katie and Julia. Sure enough, after the first week, the Hall family did, indeed, fall for the charms of the island. “Initially, we loved the isolation and the quiet, natural beauty.” said Laura Hall by phone during our recent interview. “The island was not overly developed and had everything we wanted. Dave plays golf, so there was that.
About seven years ago, the Halls decided to buy a beachfront house on the island. The house came fully furnished and the family enjoyed it for a few years as it was. Then, in 2012, the Halls decided the time had come for a change. It was time to make the house truly ‘theirs.’
“We wanted to create a more personalized space.
Rebecca is a dolphin lover and a real ocean girl, Katie is into scuba diving, Julie adores the beach and Allison is happy to have family time. At home, it’s hard to find moments when we can come together as a family — everyone is so busy. Plus, there’s quite a span between our oldest, 24 and our youngest, 15. That’s what I love — all of us being together. There was something for everyone to enjoy at Bald Head.”
Plus, the girls were growing up and wanted to bring their friends along for our vacations. And, we knew at some point there would be sons-in-law and grandchildren. We decided to expand the house and give it a complete do-over,” said Hall.
Once the decision to remodel had been made, Hall was lucky enough to find Cothran Harris, the architect who had originally designed the house in 2004, to plan the renovation. She also contracted Parker Dudley of Dudley Builders to do the actual construction. Dudley Builders had also constructed the original house. But who to complete the team to design the interior?
Hall did what most people do when trying to decide who to hire; she looked online. “I was researching interior designers in Charlotte, Wilmington and Myrtle Beach and just really connected with one website — Dezign Inspirations and Nancy Mullineaux.” said Hall. “After we spoke on the phone, I knew she was the person I wanted to work with.”
Mullineaux grew up in Wilmington and attended The Art Institute in South Florida, where, after graduation, she spent twelve years honing her craft. Then, she expanded her business and made her way back home to Wilmington. She’s no stranger to beach life. “I’ve always been interested in color and texture. At first, I worked in clothing, but then decided to take my passion into interior design,” said Mullineaux.
Mullineaux design philosophy is personal approach. Perhaps her experience with clothing allowed her to bring the idea of personal expression into dressing a whole house. One look at her website portfolio illustrates how unique each of her designs are, from beach houses to more formal homes, they stand alone. She doesn’t repeat the same tropes of what’s ‘hot’ in interior design, but strives to reinvent each house to fit the owner’s lifestyle and tastes. “First, I’m very interested in color — it affects everything we do. We wear color, we eat color and we surround ourselves with color. Color tempers our moods. And each person has a different set of colors that appeals to them. I take an individual approach — every project is different because every person is different. I want to create a sanctuary that is tranquil and soothing for that individual,” said Mullineaux while giving me a tour of her designs in the Hall’s house.
Because of her focus on the client’s personality and desires — for example, incorporating a beloved family heirloom that might not ‘fit’ into a modern design, Mullineaux will make it work, even if it means extra hours and thinking outside the box. Mullineaux’s interiors are tailored to the passions of the people who will be living in the home. This quality is one Laura Hall found compelling when she was searching for the right designer.
“I loved working with Nancy. I communicated my desires by talking to her — she really listens and had a good way of asking just the right questions…We went through millions of sample fabrics to make sure every room started with a fabric I loved,” said Hall. Fabric color, texture and pattern, these are elements Mullineaux employs with an artist’s hand.
I communicated my desires by talking to her — she really listens and had a good way of asking just the right questions…We went through millions of sample fabrics to make sure every room started with a fabric I loved,” said Hall. Fabric color, texture and pattern, these are elements Mullineaux employs with an artist’s hand. Tons of pillows adorn couches, beds and chairs, not one of them the same pattern.
Mixing so many patterns could be considered ‘busy’ if not combined just right, but in the Hall house, it all works. The vibrant colors and bold fabrics energize the rooms, adding to the atmosphere of play the Halls wanted. The pillows give the home a feminine feel — which makes sense, seeing as there are five women to one man. But Dave Hall had only one request for his own comfort: he wanted a television set at the foot of the bed in the master bedroom. Not against the wall, not hanging like a picture, but exactly at the foot of the bed.
“I wanted everything to be comfortable. I wanted us to relax in furniture that was comfy,” said Hall. In the name of client and designer partnership, Hall and Mullineaux made a field trip to the furniture market in High Point, so Hall could see what was available and check it for comfort, color and texture. Hall wanted to test the pieces she liked, to see if they were as lush as they were stylish. Spending the better part of two days looking at the latest in furniture and decorative arts helped the two women get to know each other.
Mullineaux realized this beach house would be used by young people, often wearing damp bathing suits. She chose indoor/outdoor fabric for some of the interior furniture, the dining nook, for example. The materials are bright, colorful, and able to withstand the water and sand that come with beach living. You can dash in from a dip in the ocean and belly right up to dining table for lunch without thinking twice.
It’s a fun house,” said Mullineaux.
And fun is exactly what the Halls want from their paradise on the coast.
“We love swimming in the ocean, watching the dolphins at play. For the most part, our family is very low key. We watch movies, walk on the beach, play gin rummy. The changes we’ve made to the house have made the living space more open, allowing us to gather with family and friends more comfortably,” said Hall. Of course, being right on the beach, the house lends itself to a nautical theme.
Not only do the Halls love their peaceful retreat at Bald Head, they also adore the house and the way Mullineaux has been able to bring their dreams to life.
“There isn’t one inch of the house that I don’t love. Nancy said she would put something I loved in every room and she did,” said Hall. Treasures from the sea are scattered throughout the house. Even some of the items gathered by the family from the beach are displayed in interesting, artistic ways.“As a result, the house fits our family,” said Hall.
One of the key features of the house, besides the playful, brilliant colors in each room, is the way the furnishings reflect the natural surroundings. There are framed sea shells on the walls, a sculpture of coral, lamps made of pale blue glass that resemble running water, sea horses, a driftwood wine holder — even the backsplash in the kitchen is made of coral stone. One look at the interior of the house lets the Halls know “You’re not in Kansas anymore.”
The kitchen is spectacular and is one of the rooms that has been expanded in the renovation. The distressed cabinets add to the charm and help the cohesiveness of the entire décor, where many of the tables, dressers and chairs also shared the distressed feature. “I like to mix materials. I’ll use a lamp with an iron stand or a table with a stone top. But you’ll see those features reflected elsewhere in the house,” said Mullineaux. “Often, a renovation represents a new chapter in a person’s life. I want to make a space that will bring them joy — whether it’s a total re-do or whether they want certain pieces to remain in the house — I’ll find a way to make it work"
Upstairs, each bedroom’s colors reflects the choice of each of the daughters: Rebecca’s is orange and fuchsia, Allison’s is purple, Kate’s is aqua, green and orange and the walls in Julie’s room are a sandy beige. Kate’s room seems to echo her love of scuba diving, while Allison’s calming purple is the perfect shade for a slumber party. Each girl even has her color scheme included in the tile of her bathroom, a special treat
Even though these colors are quite different, they all work together to coordinate with the shades and hues from the downstairs area. With Hall’s approval on some things while also being given carte blanc, Mullineaux selected, custom designed and supplied pretty much everything throughout the home.
The inside of the house invokes a sense of play, but the outside offers just as much space for relaxing and enjoying the amazing view. At the entryway, there is a commodious porch running the length of the house. At one end, you’ll find sherbet-colored couch and chairs, with a table centering the arrangement. On the other, plush rockers in similar, delicious shades. On the ocean side of the house, a shaded porch offers a table for picnicking or a large deck with sunning chairs.
One end of the deck leads to a screened gazebo with lounging available inside on the main attraction: an oversized custom designed porch swing unlike any you’ve ever seen. Hanging by bulky ropes from the ceiling, this couch-sized swing could easily seat four. The ropes bring to mind sailing vessels and the colors reflect the bubbly palette used throughout the house.
“When the girls were younger, they were convinced they could run faster than the golf carts. We would spend hours in the evening having gold cart races where Dave and the girls would race me in the golf cart — everyone slept well on those nights,” said Hall. Of course, like all of us, some of the memories are bittersweet.
“Our favorite memory is one from a few summers ago when my mother-in-law visited for the first time.” said Hall. “Over the years, we’d seen many turtle nests hatch — something that never gets old. But we had never seen a turtle lay her eggs. One night, we were walking after dinner and stumbled upon a laying turtle. No one was more thrilled than my mother-in-law.Sadly, she died suddenly just a few months later. We hold that memory close to our hearts.”
Though the space is open, the arrangement of the furniture in small clusters promotes conversation and relationship. This house is all about family and friends drawing together for fun in the sun. In such a house, memories are made. For the Halls, the memories include a kaleidoscope of moments: walking on the beach after dinner, watching for shooting stars from the deck or enjoying movie night, and golf cart races.
It takes a special team to create a place where memories can be made — architect, builder, designer and owner — and this team has made this particular house a home. Like many teams, the people involved, especially Hall and Mullineaux, become close. The pair worked together for three years to perfect the Hall’s vacation home.
It’s not the colors, textures or fabrics that stick out most to Hall, “Nancy’s strongest point as a designer is the relationship she builds with her clients,” said Hall.
Mullineaux’s artistic skills are many, but she relies on her receptivity, “Everyone is different, like a grain of sand, having unique tastes and ideas. I listen and we get to know one another. It’s a very personal process and I approach each house as if it were my own — a person’s home should bring joy, light & love to everyone who enters.
For more designs by Nancy Mullineaux, Dezign Inspirations / Home Design Resource visit her website: www.dezigninspirations.com.