A Waterfront Cottage on the Banks of Hewletts Creek
By: Emily McCrary-Ruiz-Esparza
Down in the lowlands just beyond the rough-faced brick streets of historic Wilmington, NC, a thin slice of salt- and freshwater mingle in a perpendicular cut across the slip of land that sits between the Atlantic Ocean and the Cape Fear River.
Hewletts Creek is a tidal channel, a special brand of estuary that rises and falls with the ocean’s tide. The water is a swirl of salt water from the estuary and freshwater runoff from the land. Only about five miles from mouth to headwaters, Hewletts Creek is the vein that carries the blood from the sea to the lowland that gets its magic from the coalescence of waters.
We stepped inside a one-bedroom cottage that sits on the banks of the creek not far from where the watershed meets the Masonboro Channel. The noise of the city, of cars carrying beachgoers, and of boats dashing up the channel fades into the mild wash of creek waters, tinny calls of willets, and wind drawing itself through the expansive arms of southern live oaks.
Wilmington residents Bo and Jill had been searching for a property just like this one, never really expecting to find such a spot on the quiet waters. The couple will rent the cottage until their own nest empties, and they let House Method in for a peek.
A partial landing under flared eaves welcomes visitors to the creekside cottage
Visible from the home's entrance is a nearly full-facade sunroom and partial porch
An antique bench holds a sweet, smoky-smelling rosemary plant
The cottage's living room hosts the remnants of the original free-standing wood-burning fireplace
The original hearth features a herringbone pattern bordered by a long soldier course
A hidden wet bar makes it easy to host guests and keep a tidy space
The living room spills out into an extensive sunroom with blonde hardwoods and grasscloth shades
The circular dining space provides spatial contrast in an otherwise right-angled home
Decorative brickwork has been washed white, creating an easy transition between the bedroom and living area
Open floor plan
The cottage's single bedroom is separated only by a freestanding wall, providing privacy and light
Indigos in the bedroom echo the nearby creek's in deep blue tones
Small spaces like this bedroom benefit from symmetry, which balances and creates focus
Lack of traditional room demarcation makes the cottage feel fluid and expansive
The cottage's side porch serves most effectively as its facade, with a wall of single-panel hinged patio doors that open the cottage to the creek vista
Just beyond the the picket-fenced yard is a mild slope that spills out onto the creek
The property is rich in southern live oaks, an evergreen oak characteristic of warm, southeastern lowlands
A lengthy boardwalk connects the land to a dock that sits in the creek's salty waters
From the water
From the dock, the cottage is just barely visible through the canopy of outstretched live oak limbs
The cottage was built in the ‘70s and renovated in the ‘90s, well before we became the owners. There was a Civil War–era cottage on the land for a long time but it was torn down to make way for a larger home that was never built. Pity! We’ve seen photos and it was exactly the kind of cottage we’d build if we could. We should also mention that this cottage is for rent!
What led you to purchase this cottage?
It’s situated on a beautiful piece of property on Hewletts Creek, complete with massive live oak trees and a lovely dock out over the creek. The property is exactly like the dream property we searched for for years as a kind of fun pastime, never expecting to actually find “The One.”
What are you most looking forward to for this home?
We’re going to rent out the cottage and enjoy the land and water in the short term, then we’re thinking of building here eventually as the nest empties out of children and our current home becomes too big.
Tell us about a favorite feature of this home.
The view. No question. This cottage looks out over a large grass lawn dotted with ancient live oaks that slopes down to the creek, where grasses and water lead out to the Intracoastal Waterway and beyond.
What inspired the decoration for this home?
Jill had a beach surf shack in mind. White walls with art by Katherine Wolf Webb, rattan and wooden furniture with colorful cushions, jute rugs, and random junk store/vintage finds.
Have you done any work on the home since you purchased it?
We painted and decorated the interior ourselves. There’s a new roof, which we outsourced. Otherwise the cottage was pretty much ready to go!