Their neighborhood has a more rural feel than their old South Durham one yet still has a sense of community.
By Courtney Hayes | Photography by Beth Mann
Alex Barker and Andrew Barker – along with their kids, Dylan, 4, and Milo, 2; pups Palmer and Finley; and cat, Moo – moved to the Chapel Ridge neighborhood in August 2020 from South Durham’s Audubon Park. “When we bought our last house, we only had one child,” Alex says. “We thought having three bedrooms was great because we had one for her, one for us and a guest room. Once we had our second child, we just felt like we were outgrowing it.” They started casually looking at homes and didn’t put any pressure on themselves to find a new one right away. But when they came across their current home, thanks to the help of Gretchen Castorina with Hodge & Kittrell Sotheby’s International Realty, they knew it was the one.
The new construction, built by Martin Beam with MJ Rose Homes, has more space – 3,470 square feet – and an open floor plan. The home was nearly complete when Alex and Andrew bought it, but they did get to choose a few customizations. They selected the paint colors for their fireplace, dining room and some bedrooms. They also had a hand in selecting some of the fixtures and mirrors for the bathrooms. “We’ve actually been able to make the neutrality of the interior colors work to our advantage because it’s allowed us to decorate as we would without restriction,” Andrew says. “Our style is definitely the rustic-yet-modern look when it comes to furniture and décor – cozy, but not cluttered, and a preference for earth tones.”
The house also feels more remote and scenic than their previous home. It sits on a half-acre, and the backyard is surrounded by woods, offering natural privacy when they sit out on their covered, screened-in back porch or around the cozy fire pit in their backyard.
“Another thing that’s different, neighborhood-wise, is that this is a community, but it feels a little bit more isolated out here,” Andrew says. “In Audubon Park, you feel like you can drive just around the corner to find restaurants or The Glass Jug Beer Lab bottle shop. It’s much more rural out here, but honestly, we like that.”
“We now love going to The Plant in Pittsboro,” Alex says. “It has so many great things for all of us, including beer, food, a coffee shop, a playground for the kids, walking trails and ax throwing. It’s also great because we can sit outside and socially distance.”
Plus, their home is near the Chapel Ridge Golf Club, which Andrew, who went to Professional Golfers Career College in Hilton Head, loves. “I actually just played there this weekend,” Andrew says, joking that he’s truly not trying to push the sport onto their toddler, who has already started picking up golf clubs and saying, “Golf!”
A downstairs bedroom was turned into a dedicated playroom for the kids to enjoy. “That’s nice because we don’t feel like the kid stuff is all out all the time,” Alex says. “Also it’s nice for the dogs, because they will eat anything. We can close the door and shut them out.” It will become a guest room for Andrew’s parents when they come to visit, but for now, the kids get to use it as a space for their toys and imagination. “Our daughter loves to make villages with blocks and put the dolls and furniture all around,” Alex says. “Because we can close that door, her villages can stay up for days on end without being in our way or getting eaten by a dog.”
The room is also conveniently close to the kitchen, so Alex can keep an eye on them while she’s cooking dinner. “I love to cook and bake, so the kitchen is, I would say, my dream kitchen,” Alex says of the bright space that opens up to the living area. “I don’t know if I would have done anything different with it.” She also is thankful for the scratch-proof floors that run throughout the house, which she says are a must if you have kids and pets.
Also necessary for a growing family – a showstopping pantry. “I never in my life thought I would have this, but the pantry is 9 feet [deep],” Alex says. “Our next goal is we want to get some awesome organizers in here,” Alex says, so that they can keep the space looking neat and tidy.
Another feature that allows for more utilitarian use are the striking built-in bookshelves in the living room. Andrew says their former home also had built-ins, but they were bulky and didn’t have a great aesthetic. “These are very much integrated into the construction and just look really nice,” he says.
Both Andrew and Alex enjoy the open floor plan, “but you still feel like you have your designated rooms,” Alex says. “We didn’t want a house that felt like it was one big space.”
Upstairs, Milo and Dylan each have their own bedroom and share an extended “Jack-and-Jill” bathroom. “When they’re older, they will have their own space and sink and can close the door,” Alex says.
The master bedroom is also on this floor, along with a space that Alex, a research assistant at UNC-Chapel Hill, and Andrew, a national account manager at Bandwidth in Raleigh, use as an office while they’re both currently working from home.
On the third floor is a bonus room that serves as another play area for the kids and also as a place for Andrew and Alex to host vinyl nights, a more regular occurrence prior to COVID-19. “We have family come over and everyone brings a record, and we will listen and have drinks,” Andrew says. “It’s one of our favorite activities.”
In the few months they’ve lived in Chapel Ridge, Alex and Andrew have been on the hunt to curate perfect pieces of decor and furniture for their new home. Sentimental items that they inherited are mixed among styles from Pottery Barn, West Elm, Target and Home Goods. “We are very excited about our dining room set that we got from the Unfinished Furniture Outlet in Sanford,” Alex says. “We also have family pieces, such as our kitchen table, which we had refinished. My great-grandmother bought it in the 1920s. We also love Smallwoods, an online printing shop. We have a few large canvas prints we ordered from them. We are also starting to explore the Pittsboro boutique stores like Chatham Home, New Horizons and Deep River Mercantile. Pittsboro Toys is a big favorite of our children!”
They were thrilled to have more space to welcome their loved ones in for Thanksgiving, ensuring the first holiday season in their new home is a memorable one. “We have kept our family in our bubble the entire pandemic (partially because our parents watch our children during the day), so we [are] still able to see them,” Alex says. Christmas will be spent with her folks, “opening stockings (a big deal in our family) and presents from Santa and one another followed by an early dinner with a roast, potatoes and lots of different side dishes.” CM