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Latitude Adjustment: Two Former Northerners Retreat to Holden Beach

Story By Heather Lowery | Photography By Chris Campbell

Jennifer Tai and Mike Vidal were in need of a new latitude. Jennifer grew up in the hustle and bustle of Washington, D.C., and the New York/ New Jersey metro area. Mike, too, grew up in New Jersey. After getting married, they lived in New York City for several years — an experience that left them hungry for more space and a different way of life.

“We needed a change of pace,” says Jennifer. “We also had a dog and wanted another one, but we could only do so much in a 400-square-foot apartment.”

Three and a half years ago, the couple relocated to Apex, North Carolina, just outside of Raleigh. Once settled there, they started looking into purchasing a vacation home where they could get away from the stresses of work and daily life.

“We heard about the Outer Banks, but that was a little too far to go,” says Jennifer.

They found Holden Beach by happenstance.

“We were randomly looking at different properties in the area, and Mike found the one in Holden Beach,” says Jennifer. “We loved that Holden was not overly commercialized. It had people and plenty of things going on there, yet it didn’t seem hectic or touristy. It reminded Mike of some of the Jersey beaches that he grew up around.”

The couple got lucky in finding the perfect property and purchased it in February of last year.

“We found the lot, but another couple had already bid on it,” explains Jennifer. “Luckily for us, the [other] offer fell through and it seemed like a good investment, so we moved forward.”

The land held great attraction to them.

“We really liked the location,” says Jennifer. “We loved that it was canal front and we could see the marshlands … it was just so peaceful.”

Another plus was that it was only about a two and a half hour drive from their home in Apex. It would be far enough to feel like they had really gotten away, but close enough that they could make the trip for the weekend.

Jennifer and Mike were excited to try their hand at building their first custom home. They previously had experience on a do-it-yourself remodeling of an older home in New Jersey, and they also did a gut renovation of their studio apartment in New York City. They bought their permanent residence in Apex as a new construction and they were able to make decisions about certain features of their home. Each project seemed to be getting bigger, and they looked forward to having even more choices with the beach house venture.

There was just one obstacle: An older, one-story beach home was already located on the property.

“It was always our intent to put a new home on it rather quickly,” says Jennifer.

Jennifer and Mike were aware of the fact that the existing home had some recent updates; therefore, they did not want it demolished. With the help of their builder, Blue Sky Building Company, they found a company to move and re-purpose the home.

Moving the house was quite a sight, and the couple wished that they could have been in town when the removal took place. A sign was posted for islanders to prepare for traffic delays due to the fact that the house, once placed upon a trailer, would span the width of the two-lane bridge across the island to the mainland. The move went off without a hitch, and the building of Jennifer and Mike’s custom home soon began.

The couple chose Blue Sky Building Company to build their beach house. They found working with the Blue Sky team very easy and hassle free.

“The hardest part for us was just not being able to be in Holden Beach during the building process to see things progressing in person,” says Jennifer. “But Blue Sky was very good at keeping us posted with pictures and the ongoing development.”

In fact, the couple thought the process was fun and exciting.

“Mike and I are pretty compatible with styles and things that we like,” says Jennifer. “We love making selections and picking designs. So, that part of it wasn’t hard or stressful for us.”

They spent time looking online with the designer for house plans, details and an elevation that they liked.

“The designer really helped us to come up with a visually appealing home,“ says Jennifer. “They did a great job on the outside architecture.”

The home has approximately 2,100 square feet with four bedrooms, three and a half baths, decks that span the width of the front and back of the house, and an outside spiral staircase and shower.

The lower floor has a master guest room with its own private bath and two other guest bedrooms with a shared bath (each with their own entry to an outside deck).  It also holds a laundry room, an elevator and unique built-in cubbies and a bench in the hallway, adding a perfect place to stow beach gear. French doors lead to a den with access to the outside.

The upper level accommodates the master bedroom and bath, as well as the main living areas. It has a partly open design with the great room and dining area sharing one space and an adjoining kitchen, creating an L-shape design.

Views of the canal, Intracoastal Waterway and even the ocean can be seen from various rooms in the home.

“We wanted to keep the flow pattern open to maximize the outside views toward the front of the house,” says Jennifer.

The home is filled with interior design elements that are streamlined and sleek but at the same time exude a warm coastal feeling.

“We wanted a totally different vibe than our home in Apex,” says Jennifer.

The black interior doors make a striking statement, as do other features, such as a vessel sink and hanging light fixture in the powder room; the colored glass tile backsplash in the kitchen; and glass tile accents in the master bath.

“We were very lucky to have Stephanie Smith from Classic Designs Unlimited help us choose interior colors and the tile,” says Jennifer. “She understood the styles we liked and kept within our budget. Ferguson Enterprises also guided us with decisions on the lights and fans.”

The exterior color of the home is also a distinctive feature. The couple took a chance on the bright coral hue and they are glad that they did.

“We were a little nervous about choosing the color, but I had always thought of very bright tropical colors for a beach house,” says Jennifer. “Blues and greens are typically safer, and tropical reds can go very wrong, but we are really happy with the way it turned out. We feel it is a very happy, warm color.”

Jennifer and Mike named their beach house Latitude Adjustment. They were able to move into the beach house in May, and they wasted no time enjoying it.

“We celebrated Memorial Day there with Mike’s family,” says Jennifer.

Oscar and Allie, the couple’s boxers, are enjoying their new beach house just as much as Jennifer and Mike. The older dog had to have one its legs amputated this year due to cancer, so he is enjoying the elevator, as well as long walks on the beach, which help him build endurance in his other legs.

“The dogs love the beach, they love watching the water, and they love that they can always see outside because of the lower windows,” says Jennifer. “It is so funny because we were looking at the windows one day and there was just a series of nose prints on every window.”

It won’t take long for Jennifer and Mike to adjust to their new latitude. They are itching to purchase outdoor furniture for their decks so they can relish the views.

“We look forward to enjoying our new beach house and spending as much time as we can there with our family and friends this summer,” says Jennifer.

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