Sublime in St. James!









Retirement and Remodeling make for one happy couple.

Ralph and Kathie Caserta are amoung some of the original property owners of St. James Plantation.  They purchased their lot in 1992, when the streets weren’t paved and “you had to hope that they were gonna do what they said they were gonna do!” joked Ralph. 

2.--St_James,Founders_Day_Parade,10th_Anniversary,_compressed,-Homer-WrightSt. James Plantation was a vision of Homer Wright that began in the 1980’s with his partners, John Atkinson and Claude Smith.  In 1991, it officially broke ground and is now home to over 4,500 property owners.  
Ralph and Kathie are originally from Waldwick, New Jersey.  Ralph owned a real estate company in New Jersey and headed up the retirement division, which is what lead him to Southport.  “I was showing some folks Magnolia Greens and I saw the billboards for St. James Plantation advertising Golf, Beaches and more!  I said, let’s go check it out!”  explained Ralph.  Before they new it, the Casertas had purchased a lot in St. James to eventully build their retirement home.  Which they built 8 years later in 2000.  Over the course of 14 years, Ralph and Kathie used their home in St. James for holidays and family vacations.  It wasn’t until May of 2014 that they retired and became permanent residents.
Over a year after living in their dream home, they realized that they wanted to make some changes.  The screened in porch that ran across the back of their home, was not working for them.  It was too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.  But more than that, the dust and pollen created real problems.  They decided to enclose their screened porch and set out to find the right man for the job.  They received several price quotes and were deciding on which company to hire, when one of their friends, Madge came to them with a referral.  Madge had been eating lunch at the Southport Tea House and Cafe and was talking about Ralph and Kathie’s remodeling project.  The owner, Sherri French happen to over hear the conversation and mentioned that her husband, Greg was a Contractor and owner of Southport Custom Home Exteriors.  Madge passed along Greg’s contact information to Ralph and Kathie.

Kathie convinced Ralph to meet with Greg.  “He showed up the next day and it felt very comfortable with him from the get go!” explained Kathie.  “He was constructive and made suggestions that none of the other guys did.”  Ralph added.   For example, Greg suggested using 3/4 Wainscoting, “If you are going to do a project, you better do it right!”  Ralph quoting what Greg said during their initial meeting.

While Kathie and Ralph had an idea of how they wanted to update their sunroom, Greg really helped them through the process.  “We had a budget and we wanted to stick with it.  Greg helped us create our vision.  For example, the windows.  I had originally wanted them to go all the way down to the bottom of the floor.  Greg suggested that we not do that, and I am so glad.” says Kathie.  Greg thought the gliding side windows, that move left to right and not up and down like most windows would be a nice touch.  And while they are custom made, they are no more expensive.  “And they do not have the crosshair slats like double hung windows.” Greg explains.


The flooring of sunroom had the appearance of real weathered wood and I was surprised to learn that it was actually ceramic tile.  Kathy shares how Greg was instrumental in the flooring as well.  “I didn’t want wood and when Greg mentioned tile I thought of the traditional square tile.  But we went and looked at a sample, it hit me like it looked like barn board and I just loved it!”

It was important to Greg that the addition to the Caserta’s home did not stick out and look different from the rest of the home. He said, “Whatever we add on, I want it to look like it’s always been there!”

Greg made sure to match the new chair rail in the addition with that existing design of the adjourning living room.  Another nice touch was the addition of transoms in the sunroom, mimicking the original transom above the entry into the new sunroom. 5.----inside-sunroom-Home-Aug-2015

It was nice to see such give and take between homeowner and contractor.  Kathie had an heirloom 1917 antique stove that her brother had given to her from his home in New Hampshire.  Finding a place to display the stove was hard until the addition says Kathie,  “Now it is a focal point!”

I was curious if approval for adding on to an existing home in St. James was a difficult venture.  “The POA at St. James bent over backwards.  They were phenomenal.”  states Ralph.  However, Brunswick County was a little tougher to work with, but with the help of the St. James staff they got their plans approved.

It’s been over a year since Kathie and Ralph have been living full time in their retirement dream home.  The newly enclosed sunroom has proven to be the cherry on the top of their new lifestyle.  “We have a large family.  We have three children and seven grandchildren.  Food is a big part of our lives.  We love to grill out and use our porch.  The new enclosed sunroom really helps us bring the outside in.”  says Kathie.  
I asked Kathie and Ralph to tell me what were some of the things that they had come to love about Southport since becoming full time residents.  Ralph said the Yacht Basin in Southport reminded him of being a kid, “I am from Hampton Bays, Long Island and I used to watch the fish boats come in through the inlet and dock and we would go down to the dock and get our lobsters, crabs or fish.  I thought, geez…this is just like Shinnecok Bay.  Kathie agreed that she likes the seaport charm of Southport.



Ralph being Italian and an excellent cook, I was curious if he and Kathie had taken to any Southern fare.  “Shrimp and grits and fresh fish!” they both exclaimed.  They had recently enjoyed some Golden Tile Fish that Ralph said was the best fish he had ever eaten!

It was nice to see such a happy couple, enjoying the fruits of their labor.  And so pleased with the work that Greg French of Southport Custom Homes completed on their newly enclosed sunroom.  It was heartwarming and hopeful to see the evolution of their retirement plan over the 21 year span.  I think the founders of St. James would be proud and Ralph sums it up best, “Homer’s plan is coming together!  My hat is off to him!”

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