A Reset and Respite in Pinewild
The poignant story behind a “forever” home custom built by a beloved Sandhills contractor
By Ray Owen » Photos by John Patota
For Bob and Sheri Fairchild the pandemic served as a reset switch, giving them time to dream new dreams and pray for new adventures. They decided to jump into the home-buying pool, slowly dipping in their toes before diving in headfirst with a custom homebuilder – something they’d never done before.
The couple was from Herndon in Northern Virginia, part of the Greater Washington metropolitan area. Bob worked for Booz Allen Hamilton in information systems management. For 20-plus years they lived in a fast-paced setting and were accustomed to city life – but they wanted space to breathe and room to grow.
They dreamed of finding a place where they could put down permanent roots. They wanted to customize their new house and invest in features that suited their desired lifestyle. Bob was able to work remotely, and they could live anywhere in the world, so their first important task was finding the right location.
Someone suggested the Raleigh area and that’s when Bob thought of Pinehurst. He’d played golf there a couple of times and really liked it, plus they had family nearby. “We came down in August 2021 and Sheri fell in love with it. Then we met a real estate agent, bada-bing, bada-boom, we got the house,” he says laughing.
At first, Sheri saw the single-lane roads and thought “oh my gosh, we’re in the middle of nowhere.” What they discovered was a picturesque community full of Southern charm. They were determined to live here after driving around with the windows down and encountering so many friendly people waving to them and talking with them in the streets.
“I wanted to go look at houses,” recalls Sheri. “Somehow, I accidentally clicked something on my phone. All of the sudden, I’m getting a call from a real estate agent. It was Lisa Murphy from Everything Pines. We met and I just loved her and we became friends. She was from Virginia and we had all of these connections that made things very easy.”
They looked at existing homes, saw a lot of nice places, but nothing quite fit. Plus, the older places required updating, driving up the cost. This prompted them to consider new construction. At their real estate agent’s suggestion, they met with Marcel Goneau, an award-winning local builder who had grown up in the area.
“Our initial meeting lasted for an hour,” explains Sheri. “Goneau knew our budget and showed us a house plan. Then I showed him a different plan, one I’d found online. We went back and forth, picking the things that we wanted and needed from each. The ultimate layout was created by both of us working in collaboration.”
The design was a farmhouse-style house with a nice open floor plan and high ceilings, similar to others that had won Goneau awards over the years. “I wanted one level and rooms with a view,” says Sheri, “These were all the things we never had in Northern Virginia where the houses were right on top of each other. And I didn’t want anything bigger than I could take care of myself.”
Pinewild was the first community the Fairchilds drove through on their initial visit. Bob particularly liked it because there were two championship golf courses, along with a nine-hole par 3. “We just loved all the trees,” says Sheri. “I insisted that we look around, so we kept going to different neighborhoods and were drawn back here.”
There were several available lots near the clubhouse, all desirable property. They decided upon a flat piece of land an eighth of a mile from the driving range and golf club. Although it was a bit more expensive than the other offerings, they would significantly save on the construction cost since there was no need for a basement.
According to Bob, the site was perfect for what they had in mind. “Our lot is on the Magnolia Course,” he says. “It’s located between hole number 10 and 11. We didn’t want to be directly on the golf course, like on the fairway. I play golf, I’ve seen people get hit and we wanted to be a little bit off of it.”
For about 10 months during the building process the couple lived in a nearby rental. That turned out to be important for making decisions on the fly. “You have to be engaged,” says Bob. “As homeowner, you can’t let weeks pass when your input is needed. Construction requires you to be rational, agile and decisive. You can’t overthink things either, so it’s a balancing act.”
Fortunately, their builder was able to control costs by anticipating supply chain issues and price increases. This was due to the strong ties he’d cultivated with vendors who kept him in the loop. “Marcel ordered our windows before we even broke ground,” says Sheri. Because of his foresight, we saved money on our garage doors, cabinets and many of the big-ticket items.”
Their first real dilemma was that the price of their trusses went up by $7,000. Which ended up being the only thing they couldn’t control. On the other hand, it only took a couple of days to find new flooring after their original choice was discontinued – staying calm and looking at options was critical for solving the problem.
“Working with flexible vendors was great,” says Bob. “Something that set us back a bit was when our countertops were discontinued and we didn’t find out until the day they were to be installed. Then some tile we picked out for the shower didn’t work, but the tiler helped us redesign the whole thing. Nothing is the end all, be all – it’s just not the end of the world.”
The only things non-negotiable were basic home systems such as electrical, heating, air, and plumbing. They were also firm when it came to structural matters affecting the core integrity of the house. According to Bob, “We said this is what we want, this is what you’re going to do. On the builder’s advice, we used rebar in the concrete to provide a solid foundation.”
The Fairchilds moved into their new home in December 2021, a week before Christmas. “I decorated the house myself,” says Sheri with a smile. “I’ve always enjoyed doing that and have never used a professional decorator. What we have in our home are pieces I’ve collected over the course of our marriage.”
Sheri finds inspiration for their decor from magazines and HGTV. She also gets ideas online through Pinterest. “I like things that tell a nice story,” she adds. “I do a lot of antiquing and repurposing. The floating shelves in our central living area are made of wood that belonged to my grandfather. I recently found it in my dad’s garage. How could you not use this?”
“We got our mantle in Carthage from Mark Thomas. He’s fabulous and we sourced other wood from him. He crafted the decorative corbels we use as wall ornaments, and he also created Bob’s desk. Other architectural elements came from estate sales and shops. We found barn doors in Greensboro and our pantry doors came from Paynes Stained Glass in Pittsboro.”
The old textures found throughout the house give rooms a natural appeal that’s comfortable and relaxed, while varying wall colors and surface treatments provide a sensitive backdrop for living. Adding to the effect are carefully placed furnishings and decorative elements that don’t overwhelm the space – rendering a light and airy feel.
What surprised them most about their move was how quickly they were accepted. “So many things pointed us here,” says Sheri. “Last summer, returning from a visit to Virginia, we got to Route 1 and Sanford, taking that turn to get on 15-501, all of a sudden it hit me that we’d found our forever home.”