New Homes and Ideas

The first thing that strikes you when you walk in to Lew and Billie’s Morrisville home is the captivating view from the two-story windows in the living room. Beyond the windows are a flagstone porch and a stand of pine trees overlooking a golf course.

The open, airy, natural feeling extends throughout the house. From a stunning limestone fireplace in the living room, to a beautifully tiled hearth room off the kitchen, the house keeps the retired couple close to nature. “It’s a California-style look that we like,” Lew says.

The couple’s original goal in retirement was to stay close to nature by building a house at the beach. They still have that house, but bemoaned the fact that it took too long for their daughters to reach them. Wanting to see more of their grandkids, the chose the Raleigh area for a home base.

But finding a large home site in north Cary wasn’t easy. “They were all about one-third acre,” says Lew, who wanted a bit more land. The lot they ended up building on is little over one acre.

The lot was attached to Rex Bost of Bost Custom Homes and while Lew and Billie could have chosen another builder, a reference check and interview convinced them to go with Bost. “He had a reputation for integrity,” Lew says. Not only that, but Lew says Bost made the process very easy. “He just told my wife, write down everything you want in a house.”

Bost is one of the builders reviving the stucco style in the Triangle. (Stucco was briefly abandoned when it was placed over foam, turned out to cause drainage problems.) Bost built Lew and Billie’s house like a brick home: Stick construction with 4-inch masonry blocks (instead of bricks) finished off with real stucco. The home is a hip-roofed soft contemporary with French and Mediterranean accents.

The couple had a few hurdles to overcome in choosing a design and outfitting a new home. Lew has had some hip problems. Lew felt he couldn’t live in a two-story house without an elevator. The solution: A small elevator discretely built into what would have been the walk-in pantry. Paneled in wood and equipped with a phone, the elevator was a surprisingly inexpensive upgrade – costing about the same as a gourmet refrigerator.

The other concern was Lew’s insistence on skipping hardwood floors in favor of tile. “It’s unique and easier to maintain,” Lew says. But tile can look – and feel – very cold in a Piedmont home. To give the tile a warmer feeling, the couple worked extensively with designer Pat Cashman, owner of Today’s Interiors in Raleigh, to help choose tiles and patterns.

The most striking example is in the hearth room and kitchen. Rather then choose one tile, Cashman helped them select six different designs and developed a pattern that gives the rooms a bigger texture boost then any carpet or hardwood floor could provide. From a white tile that looks like broken pieces inset into it, to a very natural stone with pale streaks of orange, the pieces work beautifully together.

The tile in the kitchen plays off the granite countertop that has a speckle pattern that resembles a cheetah’s coat. The countertop is paired with maple cabinets. The cabinets along the edge of the kitchen are stained a rich brown. The cooking island cabinets have a creamy finish. The overall effect is layers of complimentary colors.

Billie, who acknowledges she’s not a big cook, likes several other features of the kitchen including a large appliance garage (to hide the toaster and coffeemaker) and a built-in warming drawer that keeps foods just the right temperature if you are cooking for a crowd. “It’s wonderful,” Billie says.

And the couple does get crowds. “We had 15 here at Christmas,” Billie says. To keep the grandkids entertained they turned the bonus room into a home theater, complete with a 10-foot screen, surround sound and additional television monitors (to check who’s at the front door – and watch a second program). There is also a set of four roomy chairs and a wet bar. All the equipment that runs the home theater and stereo is kept neatly hidden in a closet behind the big screen.

For more formal entertaining, the family uses the living room with its soaring windows and the dramatic limestone fireplace. The fireplace has a story of its own. When there were complications ordering the mantel, builder Bost and his son located a couple of tons of Tennessee limestone and did the work themselves out on the deck. “It took two to three weeks to do it in the evenings.” To secure the mantel, Bost stacked the blocks to make them self supporting – so nothing needed to be secured to the wall. The rich creamy-looking mantel is another slab of limestone framed by stone that extends out along the edges like a picture frame. It’s the perfect spot for a piece of artwork – although the family hasn’t found exactly what they’re looking for.

On either side the living room – in the halls – are lighted art niches that display the couple’s collection of glass gathered during international travels.

Bost says art niches are wonderful “whenever you have a dead space. Better yet, they aren’t a particularly expensive upgrade and can be worked into smaller homes.” The niches have an arch at the top, a feature that is repeated frequently in the home. As with all Bost homes, the edges of the walls are rounded. Entryways are arched and the windows on the second story of the living room are also arched. Bringing the theme to the furniture, the chairs sitting near the windows have arched backs.

The other theme that extends throughout the home is the mixing of hues of gray and taupe – a tough design task made easier by using a variety of metals that are found in nature together. The master bathroom is a perfect example of this design. Tiles with silvery inserts, pale gray wallpaper, and distressed vanities with the creamier tones combine flawlessly. “Pat did a great job putting it together,” Lew says.

Speaking of bathrooms, Billie is particularly fond of one attribute: When the day ends she can slip into a relaxing bath that overlooks the gas fireplace. The fireplace forms the wall between the bathroom and bedroom. It provides a toasty way to finish off a busy day.