For Brunswick County native Grayson Cheek and his wife, Lindsey, having strangers look at the interior of their house and ooh and ahh or whisper “I’d have done that differently” is nothing new. When their Wilmington home opens its doors for the 2013 Azalea Festival Home Tour, they know what to expect.
The Cheeks’ home was featured in the January/February 2013 issue of HGTV Magazine, and it will be on display all over again in April as part of the Azalea Festival Home Tour. But no matter what readers or tour-takers say, the Cheeks’ home is their castle, one they renovated and decorated with their own hands, and there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
“I grew up here,” says Grayson Cheek, an attorney at David and Associates in Wilmington. “My mother was mayor of Sunset Beach, and my father a dentist in Calabash, so my brothers and I grew up down there on the waterway at Sunset Beach. When I went away to college, I thought I might like to come back, but you never know how things are going to turn out. I’m glad our path led us back to my childhood home.”
“Grayson says this is his perfect place,” says Lindsey, an interior designer and co-owner of Poplin and Queen Interiors. “He lives in his dream town with his dream job. How many people do you know who can say that?”
It’s no surprise that Lindsey turned out to be an interior designer. The daughter of a minister, she moved as a kid. A lot. Like 17 times in 20 years a lot. But she says the moving helped shape who she is now.
“Every time we moved, I was able to redesign my bedroom. I remember working with my grandfather to build new furniture or cabinets for our new home, and growing up, I thought that was fascinating.”
And it’s no surprise that their house looks fantastic in the pages of HGTV Magazine and in person.
“Moving so much, I didn’t have an ideal place in mind,” says Lindsey. “But after I met Grayson and we visited his family in Ocean Isle, that changed and, though I grew up in the mountains, I’ve adopted this place as my own.”
When the Cheeks moved here from the Triangle (he did his undergraduate work at UNC Chapel Hill, she at Meredith, and he studied law at NC Central in Durham), they knew that to make this place home, and that they needed to be able to leave their mark on it. To make that mark, Grayson joined a well-respected law firm and Lindsey started her own business — Poplin and Queen Interiors — with a friend.
But work wasn’t enough.
They bought a house and worked on it day and night. They tiled, painted, designed, repainted, built, installed, sweated and crafted a nest for themselves.
All the while, Grayson was serving his adopted home of New Hanover County and his true home of Brunswick County, leaving a mark in both counties.
“As a defense attorney, I help people who have run afoul of the law,” he says. “But more than that, I help protect the integrity of our community by helping my clients get their lives right and pointing them in a positive direction. In the courtroom, I advocate not just in words, but in spirit too, and I have been privileged enough to do so for classmates and friends and people who I’ve known all my life. I care about my clients and I care about the place I where I live and love, so I always invest in them and I do my very best to help better the situation.”
But that still wasn’t enough.
Grayson, who grew up involved with his father’s Rotary International chapter in South Brunswick, became a charter member of a Rotary chapter in Leland.
“We’ve got around 30 members, and we’re a really close-knit group,” he says. “It’s great to be part of an organization like Rotary, but to be a charter member and help this thing grow, that’s something else.”
While Rotary was growing, so was the Cheek family. In 2011 their daughter Tilley-Gray arrived, and their nest, well, it got a little cozier. It’s still a turn-of-the-20th-century home that’s chicly decorated with a mix of mid-century and modern pieces, and it’s still decorated with a professional’s eye, but now it’s a little more like home.
Is it enough?
Yes and no. Grayson and his brothers grew up on the water and he’s a self-confessed water dog. The experiences he had growing up in, on and under the water are something he’d like to share with Tilley-Gray and, at some point, a brother or sister. For Lindsey, the frequent moving of her youth is in her blood and she craves change. But not big change, not immediately.
“I told Grayson just in time for the Azalea Festival Home Tour that I need to redecorate,” says Lindsey. “Something’s got to change in here. Maybe a new table or couch, some new paint, just something to make the place, um, different from what it is now.” She laughs. “That’s my designer’s mind, always needing something new, needing to change something to keep it fresh. I think when I told him he got a little worried, but I don’t need to do anything now. I just feel the itch starting.”
Though she doesn’t want to do anything now, Lindsey sees their family growing, and growing into another home (one on the water if Grayson can help it) is part of it. But that’s a ways off.
For now, they’re in a home they love in a perfect place with the ideal family and they couldn’t be happier.
2013 Azalea Festival Home Tour
Every spring the azaleas put on a display of nature’s beauty, and the Historic Wilmington Foundation matches it with a tour of beautiful and important homes and buildings in downtown Wilmington. The 2013 Azalea Festival Home Tour features 10 homes and buildings open for ticket holders to tour. Homes will be open and staffed with knowledgeable docents on Saturday, April 13 from 1 to 6 pm and Sunday, April 14 from 1 to 5 pm.
Tickets cost $25 and are available at the Azalea Festival Office (5725 Oleander Drive) and the Historic Wilmington Foundation offices (2011 Market Street). Starting March 20, tickets will be on sale at Harris Teeter stores across the Cape Fear Region with a $2 discount for showing your VIC card. Tickets can also be found at The Sterling House, The Ivy Cottage, The Fisherman’s Wife, The Transplanted Garden and The Proper Garden. Don’t wait to purchase your tickets the day of the tour; day-of, tickets will be $30. All proceeds from the Home Tour go to advance the Historic Wilmington Foundation’s efforts to protect and preserve the irreplaceable historic resources of Wilmington and the Lower Cape Fear region.
In addition to the Cheek home, St. James Episcopal Church and the UNCW Chancellor’s Mansion (the Emerson Kenan House) will be featured on the tour. The Historic Wilmington Foundation asks that visitors refrain from photography while in homes on the tour.
For more information on the 2013 Azalea Festival Home Tour, visit www.ncazaleafestival.org/events/historic-home-tour-2013, or call (910) 762-2511.