The Saxers ‘wished upon a starfish’ for the perfect coastal getaway, crafting a custom home on a five-acre plot

All my life I have lived by the Atlantic Ocean. Many times I have crept past the undulating dunes to set myself in the damp, taupe sand, knees pulled to my chest and tresses whipping with the wind. I have always looked to the ocean–for relief on its calm, blue-sky days, and for inspiration and strength on the days when the green and gray waves crest against each other in frothy turmoil. The sound of gulls and other shore birds cackling in badinage melds with the gushing crash of each wave upon the sand, and I am at peace.

My sense of home, however, has always been rooted in the salt marsh. The sultry smell of the soggy pluff mud–offensive to out-of-towners–is the scent of life to locals. Estuarine creatures thrive along the tidal flats, within the serene waters and between the reeds and cord grass. We share our world with fiddler crabs and minnows, and the tranquility of the salt marsh breathes into us the assurance that we are alive–and we are home.

Owning the best of both worlds is why Chris and Janet Saxer were drawn to Oak Island. “Chris and I moved to the Raleigh area in 2011 and soon fell in love with the coast of North Carolina,” Janet begins. “Oak Island offers a unique diversity in coastal landscape and wildlife and is known for its un-crowded beaches, close proximity to Southport, and opportunities to fish, sail, windsurf, bird watch and kayak. Bicycling and kayaking are regular activities for us.”

Janet says that in their search for the perfect vacation home, the Saxers discovered the unique Oak Island property at 197 16th Place East. It is there they decided to build a custom vacation home and guest cottage.

“Who could resist?” she muses. “We can walk two blocks to the beach for a day in the sun, relax on our private deck overlooking the wetlands, or enjoy a peaceful kayak paddle from our dock in the tidal canal of the Montgomery Slough. One of the best things about being on the marsh is the abundant bird population. Pelicans and cormorants dive for fish in the winter months and there is an osprey that perches in a snag on the property. We never tire of the view and are constantly entertained by the rituals of the herons, egrets, ibis, hawks, and other resident wildlife including box turtles, gray foxes and white tail deer.”


Thus the Saxers began the journey of building a house from scratch. “Our vision was to build a custom Craftsman style home and carriage house with a coastal flair,” Janet describes. “The houses are designed and positioned on this distinctive five-acre park-like setting to take in the unrivaled views of the coastal wetlands, outstanding wildlife and extraordinary sunsets from just about anywhere inside the home and on the property. We built the one-bedroom carriage house and aimed to limit the amount of bedrooms in the main house to three, to create a generous gathering area to entertain friends and family. Our vision came true at the completion of Once Upon A Tide [the main house] and Wish Upon A Starfish [the guest cottage]. With a private pier to a deck and kayak dock, we don’t think there is another property such as this anywhere on Oak Island!”

“This is a lifestyle property,” REMAX realtor Robert Carroll, a leader in luxury home sales in the area, shares. “Those fixtures and things don’t matter that much, although they’ve put a lot of quality into the home, such as glass subway tile, granite countertops, and all wood box cabinetry.”

Janet, Robert says, brings a fresh approach to Oak Island style from Raleigh. “They’ve done a lot of things in this house that you wouldn’t normally see,” Carroll continues. “The main house has a reverse floor plan; downstairs we have three bedrooms and the bedrooms all have en suites. The guest cottage has a master bedroom, full bath, and full kitchen and living area.”

The Saxers rent out the guest cottage to discerning couples on www.VRBO.com, bringing in over $25,000. “The main house has never been rented, and they live exactly how you see it. The house is well taken care of and very clean,” he assures.

“We designed both houses with open-concept living areas, lending a light, airy, comfortable, and casual coastal atmosphere,” Janet urges. “Inspired by our natural surroundings, I chose textures and a color palate in organic hues, then coordinated with accessories echoing the calming colors of the sea and sky. Balance and harmony are inherent to life along the shore, and the propinquity of nature produces a feeling of well-being. The overall sensation we feel upon entering our home is, ‘ahhhh.’”

The outdoor-inspired décor provides a seamless vantage of the Montgomery Slough even from indoors. The colors range from taupe to sea-foam green to slate blue, muted so that the marsh commands attention from every point. The dark green maritime forest snuggles the home, peeking out in window corners amongst the cord grass and blue sky. Earthy textures such as sea grass woven chairs and a capiz shell chandelier mimic the wild coast just outside.

Janet adds that her favorite spot in the home is the family gathering area, encompassing the entire upper level of the main house. The kitchen opens out to the living room on the left and the dining room on the right, and uninterrupted views of the salt marsh are the main event. “There are remarkable views in every direction with a full panorama of the outdoors; whether we’re in the kitchen preparing a meal, gathering with friends at the dining table, or just cozying up with a good book,” Janet recommends. “From the living area we are presented with the sparkle of the morning sun reflected off the ocean as well as the vibrant bands of color from evening sun setting over the wetlands.”

While the Saxers have cherished their Oak Island getaway, the couple is building another custom property in St. James. At 3,101 square feet, 197 16th Place East is listed with Robert Carroll for $897,000. The sale includes many of the home’s furnishings, such as the Sharp 60” HD Flat Screen Smart TV, custom slip-covered couches, and the GE Stainless French Door Refrigerator. For more details on the abode or to contact Robert for a tour, visit www.robertcarrollproperties.com.


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