Written by: Marimar McNaughton | Frank Hart Photography courtesy of Big Sky Design
“He had to have it,” says interior designer Jo Howell of Big Sky Design, recalling the day Barry Alexander set foot inside the company’s Masonboro Loop atelier — part studio, part showroom.
It was a capiz shell cylinder that hung from the ceiling like a pendant. And have it he did. The same chandy now hangs above Alexander’s kitchen island inside the Indian Beach pied à terre he shares with his wife and children. It’s a retreat from Raleigh for the Alexanders — Barry a healthcare attorney and DeLisa a bigwig at Red Hat.
But the drive is worth it to spend a weekend overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. Built in 2007, the Grande Villas at The Reserve is considered one of the only high-end towers on the barrier island strand sandwiched north of Jacksonville. Attracting mostly second homeowners, the amenities: clubhouse, pool, exercise room and indoor arcade take a back seat though to the extensive renovation Howell and her Big Sky teammates completed in 2015 not long after the Alexanders purchased two adjoining units and gutted both to create a grand, 3,000 square foot second-floor apartment.
Travertine floors were ripped out and replaced with bamboo, ceilings vaulted and planked with faux finished timbers as if they were authentically distressed. Every surface was touched and re-touched during the process with Barry Alexander calling all of the shots in the early stages of the project. Big Sky is known for magnetizing clients who entertain big ideas. Howell vividly remembers her first meeting with the Alexanders.
“Here comes DeLisa Alexander down this cascading stairway in these awesome red high heels. She is sweet as can be. Barry is bold, and big, and loud, and has this presence about him; he’s just a showstopper. They’re very personable. They know what they like.”
With a mandate to complete the extensive renovation in six short months, Howell squired the Alexanders around the High Point Market in April 2015 and hired an all-Wilmington-based contractor, craftsmen, and tradesmen to articulate the upscale design.
Aside from the obvious intensity of a fully gutted renovation, the commuting distance from Wilmington and the time constraint between start to finish, one of the biggest obstacles to the overall aesthetic desired by everyone involved was un-beaching the condominium tower’s stuccoed sunshine yellow exterior.
Howell coined it: “horrific yellow,” though the shade is not likely to be found on a corporate color wheel anytime this decade. She controlled the saturated pigment with solid Sunbrella fabrics over upholstered all-weather wicker settees, ottomans and chaise lounge chairs on the extended balcony.
Introducing a palette of soothing blues with flashes of metallic textiles, imported capiz shell tiles and cork veneer wallpapers with a subtle silver sheen that creates the illusion of tree bark in full moonlight, she set the tone from entry to end in the foyer she formalized by repurposing an owner’s closet into a wine cellar. The living space — appointed with furnishings, and upholstered pieces in supple leather, luxurious velour and serviceable Sunbrella textiles, lighting and accessories from Michael Weiss, Bernhard, Vanguard, Arteriors, Summer Classics and Frontgate (to drop a few names,) the overall feel of the space is timelessly elegant, with a twist of Rat Pack swank, largely due to the billiard table and wet bar. Commanding the spotlight beneath that capiz shell pendant is— you guessed it— Barry Alexander in his element, popping a few corks and orchestrating most of the evening meals.
Howell says, “He’s a surf and turf kind of guy, and lots of pasta.”
With two master suites and two guest rooms — one is a do-not-disturb kids’ cave furnished with twin-over-queen bunks wired for gaming — the Alexanders and their children are prolific entertainers.
Sandwiched between Emerald Isle to the south and Morehead City to the north, the interior landscape is anything but beachy. More like Old Hollywood.
“Old Hollywood Homey,” Howell laughs.
How to get this look?
Visit Big Sky Design’s spanking new 1,200-square foot showroom at 4037 Masonboro Loop Road. With three design vignettes — in Coastal, Contemporary and Glam — you can channel your inner Barry Alexander.