There’s something to be said for the ability to see, touch, and feel something tangible to figure out how it works. This is especially true for houses and it’s something you just can’t get from a flat floorplan.

Exterior front porch of the Pamlico Cottage.

We kept hearing from people that they wanted to “downsize” to a manageable 3 bedroom 2 bathroom home. The typical wish list would include master on the first floor, screened in back porch, and an open floorplan.

Brooks Ballard Cottage plan

We already had the perfect location on Muscadine Court and bungalow designer Brooks Ballard had the perfect cottage plan, so we found Kim Willis, a general contractor and owner of Coastal Heritage Construction to handle the build.

And just like that the Pamlico Cottage was born, along with my love for selections.  From the floors to the lights and everything in between, hooked is an understatement.

My obsession with finding good deals for quality things also hatched at this time. I was however raised by hippies so perhaps that just comes naturally?

Ready to take a look at some plans? Browse our updated home plans book here.


Back yard view of the Pamlico Cottage.The Pamlico Cottage under construction.

Lots to love in this craftsman cutie. Details like exposed rafter-tails, a pergola over the garage, two-toned board and batten accents, a throwback brick foundation, witch-hat porch columns and a stained glass front door make this cottage craftsman to it’s core.

Oh and a tall trellis on the backside of the garage to add interest to a boring wall, with sweet smelling Carolina Jasmine that quickly crept to the top.

Despite the color pallet being warm, the combo turns out to be seriously cool… like frozen cool.

We nicknamed it the ice cream house because the siding looked like mint, the trim vanilla and the accent chocolate… yum.

The inside was shades of tan with white trim, kinda ho hum but also appropriate because it matched everything and fell nicely into my comfort zone… at the time.


The Pamlico Cottage kitchen under construction.

The plan was designed with dimensions in multiples of 8′ because that’s how many building materials are sold. How smart is that?!? Less cuts, less waste, less labor… cha-ching. The simple floor plan maximized space and function in a small footprint.

The kitchen was open and had cream colored cabinets that looked kinda stark when they were installed so we ended up adding a chocolate glaze, perfection.

The counters are from our favorite Brazilian, Marcio, who owns IC Granite in Beaufort. I have a love for stone yards and Marcio always finds us neat new products, overstock deals and unique slabs you don’t see everyday.

That said, this is probably the safest we’ve played it with counters with a tan-ish swirl… and we matched the baths to the kitchen, which is something I rarely do now.  I find myself having a lot to say about kitchens so I’ll stop here for now and save it for another post…

The Pamlico Cottage living room.

The fixture finishes inside and out were all matching oil rubbed bronze.  This was before I knew it was okay to mix and match… most of the time. My current favorite fixture combo is chrome + matte black… a far cry from my O.R.B. days.

So what was the best learning experience for us on this project?

It has to be the missed opportunity for what could have easily been a room over the garage.  There was a beam over the garage that sat higher than the second level floor.

If we had just lowered the ceilings in the garage, which were super high anyways, we could’ve had a walk-in storage area or even a bonus room.  No build is ever without a woulda, coulda, shoulda moment.


Can you believe they let me furnish it? I had zero experience furnishing anything let alone an entire house with someone else’s money. Seems like eons ago but I remember being obsessed with this Pottery Barn ikat lumbar pillow.  Man I wish I could find a picture of that pillow.  It was a mix of cream, dusty blue and mustard yellow and I liked it so much I bought the other furnishings to match it.

That was my splurge, $90 I think.  Ask me if I’d ever pay that much for a pillow again, um… no way. I think my max is $25, $30 if it’s super cool. But I thought I was big time using a pillow for “design inspiration”.

I ended up getting furniture deals at a Bostic Sugg in Greenville. They’re really nice guys and they gave me a bundle package price, delivered and set everything up too. Needless to say Blair was thrilled that he didn’t have to do the heavy lifting (that day).

Tip: Furniture has a crazy high mark-up which leaves plenty of wiggle room for negotiating price. When you go to buy new furniture be sure and talk to the store manager. Tell them your budget and that you’ll be needing pieces X, Y and Z… they’re usually happy to work with you on price.

This also gave me endless excuses to go to TJMaxx, Tuesday Morning and Target which remain my go-to stores for accent pieces and décor. I also remember getting a lot of good things at Pier 1 for this cottage but for some reason every time I go in now I strike out.

Probably worth another try, but sometimes you just can’t beat the deals and revolving selection at good ol TJs. And while you’re there it can’t hurt to peak at the clothes, but I of course limit myself to the perimeter racks only, such willpower.


The Pamlico Cottage master bedroom.The Pamlico Cottage master bathroom.The front porch of the Pamlico Cottage.

When the house was finished, the market s-l-o-w-e-d way down so it didn’t sell right away. At the time, families who were coming to look at AP stayed in New Bern and came out to visit the neighborhood for just a few short hours. They just couldn’t seem to wrap their heads around our area UNTIL we started booking them at the Pamlico Cottage.

Once they were here they could quite literally ‘try the neighborhood on’ to see if it was a good fit. And guess what? They started signing on the dotted line! Using the Pamlico Cottage for weekend rentals was a happy accident that has evolved into 10 of our best sales tools!  You can read about them in A Cottage Revolution.

And that’s how we got our start building homes. Next up, I’ll share the many learning experiences we had when we built our first personal home in AP on Sassafrass Loop…

Arlington Place blog author Becca Lang. Story by Becca Lang

Hey there, I'm Becca... my husband Blair and I were thrown into the deep end of the development game in 2007. I have overlapping passions of real estate and design, he has overlapping passions for building and fishing. Between the two of us, we gotcha covered on all fronts! Each build is unique with it's own successes to be celebrated and lessons to be learned, and that's what I hope to share with you in the 'Sink or Trim' series.