Walk into the Woodfin household and you are apt to be greeted with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, no matter the time of day. “Would you like water – sparkling or still? Or I can make a cocktail, or open a bottle of wine. And I have cheese, or I can fix a snack!” offers Terry Woodfin.
Terry and husband Chris Woodfin recently entered their long-planned downsizing phase after their kids – Chase, 27, and Chelsea, 24 – graduated from East Chapel Hill High and left the nest for college and careers a few years ago. The couple, who raised their family in a home off Weaver Dairy Road, made the decision to build a Craftsman house on a wooded lot five miles south of downtown Chapel Hill, and they designed and built it with an eye to hosting family and friends.
The Woodfins purchased their homesite in June 2015 and moved in a year later. “I had always wanted to buy a piece of property and build,” Chris, an EVP/CFO at Community Care of NC, says, “And once I make a decision, I like to go ahead and get it done.” His zeal is complemented by Terry’s organization – something that comes naturally for the interior designer. “Moving can be very disruptive,” she says, “but it should not stop your life.”
The decision came after much deliberation and planning. Once Chase and Chelsea were both out of the house, Terry and Chris began discussing a downsize. At first, the children were slightly unsettled at the prospect. But during Chelsea’s senior year at UNC, she returned to their former house and said, as Chris recalls, “You know, this house is where we grew up, but it’s just a house. Our home is where you guys are.”
Chelsea’s sentiment became the guiding principle for her parents’ plans for the new build, one dreamed up during two years living in a rental house. The new house, tucked away a few miles southeast of Southern Village, is based on an exterior design by an Atlanta-based architect. From there, the Woodfins designed their own floorplan.
Heart of the Home
“This was a downsize for us, even though we don’t feel like we lost much space,” Chris says. Rather than five bedrooms, they now have three; and instead of a formal dining and living space, they have a conjoined kitchen, den and breakfast nook punctuated by a soaring shiplapped cathedral ceiling and French doors that open to a roomy screened porch. “We still have all of the utility because of this open concept,” Terry explains.
Utility also comes from sheer space. The kitchen – accented with white beveled subway tile and dark leathered rough-edge granite countertops – features an island with seven barstools: five leather seats and two end stools. “We like to joke that one day we can have five grandkids sitting here,” Chris says, gesturing at the five leather seats, “and we’ll sit on the end and be able to look at all of them.”
Joking aside, the space is indeed arranged to promote conviviality. “In lieu of the formal dining room, we have this farm table,” Terry says. The farm table is a standout part of the kitchen, an example of both Chelsea’s family-oriented sense of home and Chris and Terry’s entertaining bent. “Chelsea salvaged the wood from a barn,” Terry explains. The barn was being torn down in Whispering Pines, North Carolina. “I found an artisan on Etsy based in Fuquay-Varina, and we had this custom-made.” It can seat 10, plenty of folks for a healthy dinner party, and also maintains the unique character of its salvaged history. “You can see where there were holes in the wood,” Terry points out. “Chelsea says she can still recall hearing the carpenter bees on the day they got the wood.”
The Right Fit
Like the wood Chelsea salvaged for the farm table, the entire Woodfin home is a balanced representation of the whole family. Chris and Terry built the home to be simultaneously rustic and fresh, a place where friends and family are always welcome. And they are. “Two nights after we moved in, we sat at the farm table with friends who brought us takeout for dinner,” Terry says. “That’s how we want this phase to go.” For Chris’s birthday over Memorial Day weekend, Chase and Chelsea, who works nearby at Strata Solar, returned home for a family staycation of sorts. “We ate on every surface,” Terry says. “We ate on the porch, at the table, at the bar. We broke it in.”
Before the custom-built farm table that now defines the kitchen’s eating nook, the Woodfins had another dining table. That one, smaller and circular, was made by a family friend 32 years ago. Chelsea and Chris shared family meals at the table for their entire lives, so when it came time to move, nobody could imagine giving it away. Instead, it now takes up a corner of the screened porch. When the kids are home, the Woodfins still dine alfresco around the familiar communal spot, and now, it’s great for hosting friends for a casual meal, too.
Not that the home needed breaking in. You’d never guess the couple have lived there for just a few months, and that’s by Terry’s professional design. “We said, ‘let’s not allow this move stop our life,’” she says. “She has a system,” Chris says with a chuckle, “and it works. We didn’t want to be those people who move in and six months later are still living out of boxes.”
With windows overlooking forest views and the open concept of the house, the settled feel is also simply genuine. “It immediately felt like home,” Terry says. “We’re very happy. This is our retreat.”
Photography by Briana Brough