Despite hailing from Michigan and Illinois, respectively, Steve and Joyce Winterbottom always knew where they’d end up. They spent three decades in Atlanta and raised their family there, but frequently visited North Carolina. “We thought we’d retire eventually in Asheville,” Joyce says.
It took one trip to Chapel Hill to convince them otherwise. They’ve found their home in The Woodlands to be a window to the world – both that natural one they fell in love with in the mountains and also the cultural one fostered within Chapel Hill and Carrboro.
Bringing The Outside In
The Winterbottoms bought their home five years ago, after all three daughters had flown the coop. Steve had accepted a job opportunity in Research Triangle Park, and they sought a nearby place to live that had an open layout. “We each had our own central points that we wanted to stay close to,” Steve says of the location. His was the RTP area, and hers was Top of the Hill. “Joyce thought Chapel Hill was a magical place,” Steve says. “I had to end up extending my radius a little bit. But when I saw this house, I knew I had to.”
The house was built in 2007, a few years prior to their move. “We feel a huge kinship with the builder,” Joyce says, “because it felt like home immediately.” In fact, builder Jim Henry and his wife, Kim, The Woodlands’ developer, are now friendly neighbors of the Winterbottoms. “When we walked in the front door, our eyes were immediately drawn to the trees out the windows in the back,” Steve remembers. “We really liked that. We love nature. … Having the trees right there was a real big plus.”
Those trees were no accident; Jim found inspiration for the home plans in famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright. “You feel like you’re almost in a tree house because the outdoors are right there,” Joyce says. “That’s very much a Frank Lloyd Wright influence. He loved to bring the outside in.” Floor-to-ceiling windows accomplish that. Then, an expansive floor plan makes the living and dining rooms and kitchen feel like one giant room with sections, but clean architectural lines are warmed by natural wood. It’s modern but earthy. Decoration is hardly necessary because, truly, the trees take center stage.
With no choice but to gaze out at their lush backyard, the Winterbottoms have stumbled upon new hobbies. “We’ve always been nature lovers,” Joyce says, “but when we moved here and saw the birds, immediately our focus was drawn to them.”
“We had bird books, but we never really looked in them,” Steve adds. They started paying attention to who showed up outside their windows and keeping a list, and then opening those books. Now, “we’re passionate about birds,” Joyce says. “And likewise butterflies.” They’ve turned a side yard plot into a butterfly garden, situated perfectly in front of their side porch. “In the spring and the summer, we eat outside and just watch the birds and butterflies,” Steve says.
Putting Down Roots
Steve and Joyce have found their neighborhood to be fertile ground for friendships, too. “Oh my gosh, the people here are fantastic,” Joyce says. “And very social! We have neighborhood parties and get- togethers, and people come over. We do like to entertain.”
When they get the itch to branch out even further, it’s an easy jaunt into town. “We spend a lot of time in Chapel Hill and Carrboro,” Steve says. “Durham and Raleigh, we don’t get there that much, because we just have such a good time here.” Favorite pastimes include evenings at Memorial Hall or PlayMakers Repertory Company and afternoons on the lawn at Weaver Street Market. Steve takes language courses at the Chicle Language Institute – “he just retired and is on a mission to learn German,” Joyce says. And they know just where to go for a glimpse at the future. “We really enjoy walking around the [Coker] Arboretum,” Steve says. “Their plants and bushes are so mature, and we just planted some of these things. We go over there and see what our yard is going to look like in 40 years. It’s really inspirational.” CHM
Photography by Briana Brough