In 2015, Hilary French, a director of human resources, and Jim Belanger, an attorney, moved from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to be closer to family. When a lot opened up in one of the neighborhoods they were interested in, they bid on it right away. Though they were originally outbid by a builder, they contacted him shortly after the auction and found themselves entering into an agreement to build their own house.
After nine months of hard work—and many design sketches—Jim and Hilary moved into their 2,800-square-foot home in December of 2015. From the width of the baseboards to the hardware to the historically inspired door trim, these homeowners wanted to focus on the details of the house to make it feel more like home. House Method got a peek at some of these functional yet beautiful details.
Greenscaping lines a brick pathway that leads right up to an expansive yet cozy front porch
Cushioned outdoor chairs and wicker pouf ottomans provide a comfortable outdoor space for the Hilary and Jim and their guests
A 10-foot ceiling, crown molding, and large area rug are just a couple of details that give the room a historic feel and make it a great space for gathering
A calming painting in cool colors perched atop a mantle is flanked by candles and a vase of pink flowers
The homeowners outfitted most rooms with large windows to provide more natural light
Living Room Details
A circular accent mirror hangs on a dusty yellow wall above a wooden chest
A marble island sits in the center of the kitchen while an understated, inverted pendant light hangs from the ceiling
This marble countertop is one of the many details that Hilary loves about the completely custom kitchen
A subway tile backsplash complements the periwinkle walls and dark marble countertops
Instead of traditional overhead cabinets, the homeowners opted for tall, glass-paned cabinets for a stately, classic feel
The kitchen's double windows face south and west allowing for more all-day light to enter the kitchen
Lavender walls and subway tile make this bathroom a serene, calming space
A screened-in back porch provides the perfect gathering space for warm, sunny mornings
Back Porch Details
Tall white ivory in rustic candleholders serve as a back porch centerpiece
We built the house in 2015. We were looking to move to North Carolina from Pennsylvania to be closer to family. Suddenly, a lot was available in one of the neighborhoods we were interested in living in. We bid on the lot and didn’t get it—we were outbid by a builder. We then contacted the builder and before we knew it, we had entered into an agreement to build the house. We moved into the house during the last week in December 2015. It took nine months to build the house.
What were the biggest lessons learned in the design/building process?
The design process started by looking at other houses in the neighborhood because we live in an area with a historic overlay, which required the outside of our house to fit into the neighborhood. Once picking the outside design, we started designing the inside. We looked at a lot of house plans and decided on the rooms that we wanted, then started sketching different possibilities. The process took three months and many sketches.
I was particularly interested in the flow of the house and wanted it to feel bigger than it was going to be. To accomplish this, we designed the house to have 10-foot ceilings on the first floor and 9-foot ceilings on the second floor. I tried to keep hallways comfortably wide enough.
There was a constant battle between which room was going to get the space—wider hallways meant smaller rooms. To accomplish flow, the rooms all have more than one entry point so people can move freely around. We also wanted the house to feel like it was built in the 1920s like many of the houses in the neighborhood. To accomplish this, we paid attention to the details—finishes, wide baseboards, historic-looking door trims, hardware, etc.
Where did you find inspiration for this home?
The neighborhood and historic houses from the 1920s. We had lived in an older house before and I love the details that used to be used in houses—door trim, moldings, wide baseboards, big windows.
Tell us about a favorite memory here.
Our family loves gathering in front of a fire. Even though we moved to the South, we designed the house with a wood-burning fireplace so we could continue to enjoy cold weekends in front of the fire.
What do you love most about your home?
I enjoy the details—bathroom tile, kitchen countertops, cabinet handles and knobs, door knobs. To me, that makes the house. I also love my kitchen. I didn’t go with the traditional overhead cabinets and instead have two cabinets that sit on the countertop and three sets of double windows, which allow a lot of light in the kitchen—it faces south and west. I love all my windows. The builder didn’t give me a limit on the number of windows and he made a comment that the window bill was quite large.
Anything you wish you could change about the house?
The front porch is not deep enough. It’s hard determining the “right” size of every space when you are drawing on paper.
What part of the home is your biggest indulgence?
The kitchen and bathrooms.
Any horror stories that can serve as cautionary tales?
No, but it’s important to check in on the building process to ensure no mistakes are made. It’s much easier to fix something as the building is occurring.
What would you say to others interested in building their own home?
Pay attention to the details. There are so many decisions to be made in the systems of the house (heating, cooling, plumbing, etc.) but also things like lighting (will there be enough and where should they be placed?), trim and finishes (do they match or is there consistency throughout the house?). Where are the light switches going to be? Where are coats going to be hung when you walk in the house?
It’s also critical to think of how you’re going to move through the house. It’s especially important to think through and educate yourself on the things you can’t easily change. I can’t easily change the depth of the front porch, but I can change a kitchen countertop.