Refined and Spacious

Photo by Bethany Turner

Photo by Penumbra Productions

I grew up in a neighborhood that was populated but remote. Each home was designed with its own signature and neighbors were separated by a raw row of nature, from pine trees to scrub oaks. As kids, my brother and I had plenty of friends to play with—and we actually played outside. “Capture the Flag” was an often celebrated pastime in the woods, and we fell asleep under the glow of starlight to the sounds of crickets.

Today, many neighborhoods across the country fit the Suburbia bill, with cookie-cutter homes merely changing the colors of shutters and front doors from one home to the next. Trees are sparse and you can see the roofline of every house on the block. Kids play in the street and yell, “Car!”, because they have minimal yard space to play in.

Porch - Photo by Bethany Turner

Porch – Photo by Penumbra Productions

In Winding River Plantation, there are many lots that offer the same childhood I experienced; 1821 Baywater Court is one of those. With the house shielded from too much viewing by tree branches and wetlands, the home belonging to Mike and Jackie Craft was a refuge for their grandchildren who sought out frogs and bugs as kids—while the home itself is refined and the plantation offers much to do for the neighborhood habitants.

Mike’s telecommunications career spanned working with AT&T and the U.S. Department of State, leading the Crafts to spend 13 years living abroad in Europe and the Middle East. The couple had a home in Maryland but they knew they wanted to return to North Carolina where Mike was born. “We started looking down the coast, so every year we’d visit someplace with a nice golf community, but we didn’t want anything too big,” Mike explains. “We hit everything in Virginia and Carolina over five years. We came down and saw the big plantations; they were beautiful but too big for us. We actually went into Mr. P’s Bistro, and the bartender suggested Winding River.”

Foyer - Photo by Bethany Turner

Foyer – Photo by Penumbra Productions

This was in the very early stages of Winding River. The Crafts loved the layouts of the lots and committed. “We wanted to have a good golf course in a medium-sized community, and we loved the people we were meeting,” Mike notes.

“When we first got to Winding River, we wanted to do a house from the ground up,” Mike tells. “I conceptualized this house, and then we worked with Michael Connor of Alternative Architecture in Wilmington so that he could flush out my ideas. We were living in Saudi Arabia at the time; we did most of the design work long distance. We picked our builder and architect from Saudi Arabia.”

Fireplace - Photo by Bethany Turner

Fireplace – Photo by Penumbra Productions

The Crafts desired many design elements that influenced the final look of the home. “The goals were to have it angled on the sun so that we’d have breakfast with the morning sun and that we would have it as energy-efficient as possible without having special systems—that paid off,” Mike described. “And then I wanted to be able to come in the front door and see out the to the back. We wanted a living room with no upstairs above it. Jackie wanted a masonry fireplace. We wanted a place to display the items that we’ve collected over the years.”

Living room - Photo by Bethany Turner

Living room – Photo by Penumbra Productions

Their treasures reflect the couple’s global travels and experiences. From French paintings to Turkish silks, Murano glass to 700-year-old bracelets. An Iranian lock from the time of Cyrus the Great, a solid silver duck (a present for Jackie from Mike), and an Ethiopian bread basket (a gift to Mike from an employee’s mother as thanks for allowing her son to return on a 14-month trip to his remote village) are all on display.

There are hundreds of other wonders from China, Egypt, Sweden, Italy, and many more locations. The Craft house, meticulously cleaned with shining hardwood floors, is essentially a museum one can get comfortable in.

Dining room - Photo by Bethany Turner

Dining room – Photo by Penumbra Productions

The home is built on six-inch timber and full of insulation; the Crafts report that their electric bill is comparable to those of smaller homes in the area. But the 4,300-square-foot house features plenty more space.

Jackie’s prized room is the living room, complete with her large mantle and built-in display nooks. “I like the living room the best because of the fireplace and I can see out to the woods,” she says on the comfy sofa. “We gather here.”

Kitchen - Photo by Bethany Turner

Kitchen – Photo by Penumbra Productions

Mike’s favorite room is the breakfast space they’ve dubbed the “Carolina Room.” With a farmhouse-style table and a corner of over a half-dozen windows, it’s the perfect spot to take in a great view. “I hesitate because it should be the kitchen with the Viking professional, commerical-quality range, but I like the Carolina room, to sit in there.”

The kitchen was designed so that each person helping with dinner could have their own space and not get in the others’ ways. There’s a separate sink in the island for salad prepping, a space for the bread person, Mike’s spot at the stove, and more counterspace to spare.

Carolina room - Photo by Bethany Turner

Carolina room – Photo by Penumbra Productions

The dining room offers great wine storage, chilled and not, and there’s a wet bar nearby. With the wraparound porch and great deck out back, there’s several places for folks to spread during entertaining—and they especially gather by the outdoor tiki bar in the warmer months… perhaps in the hot tub in the cooler months.

Screen porch - Photo by Bethany Turner

Screen porch – Photo by Penumbra Productions

In fact, there is an entire apartment guests, complete with a bedroom, living room, kitchenette, and a great view of the wetlands.

Within Winding River, there is plenty for the residents to partake in, from the fully equipped exercise facility to the tennis and bocce courts and Olympic-size pool.

“Our amenities are set up to really make the neighbors stay together,” Mike adds. “We have a volunteer organization like you wouldn’t believe. There are so many special interest groups [from culinary adventures to cycling groups, men’s poker night to Red Hat]. There’s a brand new clubhouse. The River House is like a library with a fireplace and a picnic area right outside. You can get on the boat in the marina and you can get to our other marina, which is down at Holden Beach. We have a boardwalk on that property with a beach club.”

Between 1821 Baywater’s three bedrooms, three  and a half baths, and a few bonus rooms, the Crafts have had plenty of space to enjoy their home for the past 12 years. But even with all the treasures and spaces, the Crafts believe it is time to downsize.

The home is being marketed by Renee Yost with Intracoastal Realty. Find more information at or

“We had an open house here and a gentleman came in from Connecticut,” Yost shares, “and he said he would never find a house like this for this price. I think the quality of the home for the price is hard to beat even in Winding River. It’s high quality and it’s a beautiful family home.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Southport Area's Culture & Events Magazine