Opportunity in Disguise
After a fire, a second home in Pine Island is reborn in timeless style.
On April 16, 2012, Carla and Mitch Norville were celebrating Mitch’s retirement with some friends in Boston, relaxing around a firepit and looking forward to Mitch’s first opportunity to spend the entire summer with his wife at their beach house instead of flying in for the weekends. Little did they know that the house in the Pine Island community of Corolla would burn to the ground that very night.
At 9:30 p.m. a fire broke out in a Pine Island rental home, and strong wind quickly spread the fire to two other houses, one of them the Norvilles’. It took 11 departments more than six hours to extinguish the fires, and by 4:30 a.m. the rental house and the Norville’s were completely destroyed, and a third was severely damaged. No one was hurt.
After the initial shock wore off, the Norvilles were ready to rebuild immediately.
“It happened and no one got hurt,” says Carla, “so we just pulled up our bootstraps. My husband had just retired after 28 years of working and we wanted to get this thing back up.”
Four days after the fire, their builder, Jimbo Ward of Beach Realty and Construction, pulled out the original plans and headed to get the permits. But a few days later, he gave the Norvilles more bad news. The oceanfront setback laws in North Carolina had quietly changed and they could no longer rebuild their exact house on the same footprint. It took four months to figure out how to rebuild on their site, and they started pulling permits in August 2012. Re-construction began in November.
Though they had moved to Greenville, S.C., seven and a half hours away from the Outer Banks, by then, the Norvilles still wanted a house in Corolla. They chose Pine Island as the location to build their original beach home in 2003 because it was fairly close to where they lived at the time in northern Virginia and because they discovered that their money went a lot further for Outer Banks real estate than it did in the Charleston, S.C., area, where they had vacationed previously.
The Norvilles wanted the exact same house design they had before. They had directed home designers Florez & Florez to create a Southern-style home with lots of porches. “We wanted it to look as Southern as possible because that’s where we’re from,” says Carla; both she and Mitch grew up in Charleston. They did not work with an interior designer on the first beach house build; instead, Ward encouraged them to pull pages from magazines to show him what they liked. They wanted a beachy, Southern look with cottage doors, transoms in the windows and beaded board walls, and they wanted to take full advantage of their ocean and sound views. At that time, many of their choices were somewhat generic, based on the fact that the house was going to be rented.
With the rebuild, however, the Norvilles had the opportunity to make the same house even better.
“The whole idea of the house was to stay the same, but there were changes,” says Carla.
They made a few structural improvements— a bigger west-side porch and an additional bedroom and bathroom — but the biggest changes in the rebuild would be in interior design; they had stopped renting the house in 2008 and could now upgrade the furnishings. Carla’s vision was to transport the Southern style of a Charleston-area beach cottage into an almost 7,000-square-foot oceanfront home.
“I wanted to have that feeling that when you walk in the door you know you’re at the beach,” she says. “I wanted you to walk in and forget where you came from. And I wanted a comfortable feeling so you didn’t have to worry about putting your feet up.”
Carla called in the help of interior designer Amy Crisler of Urban Cottage to help with colors and furnishings.
“She said she wanted a lot of cool blues, serene and very soft,” Crisler says. “And knowing the old house I knew that she liked clean, simple lines and coastal style.”
The result is a house that flows. The colors — soft blues and sea greens, tans and lots of white — and materials — white paneled cottage doors, brushed nickel fixtures, white subway tile, white marble, wood floors and sisal rugs — carry throughout the home and are highlighted with understated coastal accessories. Crisler is most proud of the cohesive design throughout the eight bedrooms, nine and a half bathrooms, open-floor plan great room/kitchen and three sitting areas.
She says she achieved this with the paint palette first: “I laid all the colors out together as a whole, making sure they blended and that one wasn’t jarring. Once you pick the colors, fabric and furnishings fall into place.”
It was a challenging task given the scale of the home, but the result is soothing and serene coastal Southern style. One step in the door gives a feeling of instant calm.
“For as big as it is, it’s very comfortable,” says Crisler. “It’s not too formal. Everything is high quality, but nothing is too precious, fussy or ornate. The common thread is simple, clean lines, from architecture to tilework to colors and all the selections we made.”
She also notes that all of the upholstered furniture is slip-covered. “On the coast that makes so much sense,” she says. “Being about to sit down and relax and not worry makes for easy living.”
The house was completed in October 2013 and the Norvilles have been enjoying it, making the long treks from Greenville to spend time with family and friends for weeks at a time.
story by MOLLY HARRISON
photographs by KRISTI MIDGETTE