Attention to Detail

Katie and Larry Sommers bring to life their vision for a home

It was a beautiful February day that finally convinced KATIE and LARRY SOMMERS that Wilmington should be their new home.

The sun was shining, the breeze off the ocean was warm, and the couple decided on a whim to visit an open house in Wrightsville Beach. That was the beginning of a search to find the perfect place.

“We looked for quite a while at a bunch of different properties, and we just couldn’t find the right fit for us, with exactly what we wanted in a house. We were really interested in that corridor by Airlie Road, but there are not a lot of properties that come on the market and they sell very quickly. So, we told our agent to watch that area and let us know if anything became available,” Katie Sommers says.

And their Realtor, Robbie Robinson with Intracoastal Realty, did indeed come through, finding a tree-lined property in Summer Rest that the Sommers made an offer on that day.

Building a house is an entirely different proposition than simply buying one, and a brand new adventure for the Sommerses, who were still living in Cary during the build itself. The design, construction, and interior design were handled by local firm Tongue & Groove Design+Build, headed by Mark Batson. Even when work was halted during Hurricane Florence, the Sommerses were impressed by the firm’s care and professionalism, keeping them updated remotely through the whole process.

“I picked Mark because I felt he had vision, a real design aesthetic, and an attention to detail that you can see in our house. I didn’t want a lot of square footage, but I did want it to be finished out beautifully,” Katie Sommers says. “We had a very formal house in Cary, with a classic formal living room, formal dining room, all the formal entertaining spaces. Coming down here, we knew that wasn’t what we wanted; we just aren’t those kind of people, in terms of how we live every day. So, we built this house for what we really wanted.”

The result is an open, airy interpretation of American Craftsman style that still manages to feel like a beach house getaway. The exterior borrows heavily from twentieth- century life-saving stations on the coast, with kingposts and cross-beamed eaves, while the cedar-style roofing, dormer windows, and elephant-leg columns evoke more classic Craftsman features.

The 4,000-square-foot home looks modest from the outside but is filled with light and space inside. Nana doors, folding glass doors that take up the entire wall can be opened to join the outdoor and indoor living rooms. The practical personal touches the Sommerses wanted, such as a master bedroom closet that connects with the laundry room, a downstairs guest room for elderly relatives, a mudroom for sand-covered dogs, and bunk beds for younger visitors all blend seamlessly into the family-friendly design. Outside, a saltwater pool and a dog run for their two Golden Retrievers, Kona and Maui, maximize the amount of time the Sommerses can spend enjoying the sunshine.

Inside, interior designer Bridgett Mazer used bright splashes of dark turquoise and cobalt to evoke the ocean, and ruddy oranges and sunset pinks for warmth. The true impact of her design can be seen in the details of the house, from the sparkling modern light fixtures and delicately patterned backsplash to a whimsical octopus-framed window in the powder room.

“Bridgett really understood that I wanted the house to be beautiful, but I didn’t want it to be a museum. It was very collaborative. We went out together to look at things. She truly listened and did a great job of giving me what I wanted,” Katie Sommers says.

Now, the Sommerses are happily settled in and enjoying their new home.

“Moving down here, we’re very grateful everyone has been so welcoming and loving to us, very open,” Katie Sommers says. “I think that says a lot about the Wilmington community and the people who live here. We were new to the area, it was a big change, and we don’t have family down here. But, we’ve really been taken in by our neighborhood, and we really appreciate it.”

To view more of photographer TJ Drechsel’s work, go to

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Categories: Features