“We are not makers of history. We are made by history.” Martin Luther King, Jr.
History isn’t just words on the page of a textbook. It comes alive in North Carolina. And now, you can spend the night in a piece of history.
Originally built in 1947 by the U.S. Navy, this stunning home was first used for Operation Bumblebee. There were eight original missile towers. Only two are available to for vacationers to rent. And this is one of them.
The operation began in secret, but the U.S. Navy eventually gave the public the inside scoop. They sent out a press release to inform residents about the amazing rocket tests. They had already been testing and developing supersonic guided missiles for months.
The supersonic flights we have today were made possible through the controlled ramjet engine. These engines were tested and checked at the Operation Bumblebee towers.
One day in 1998, a Southern entrepreneur was cruising down Topsail Island’s South Shore Drive with his real estate agent. They were looking for the perfect piece of oceanfront real estate. The agent casually pointed out Tower Four, which had been on the market for a while. John West dismissed the idea quickly because it would take so much work, but the seed was planted.
Through the following weeks, John West couldn’t shake the thought. Turning Tower Four as a vacation rental would take an incredible amount of work. The lot was overgrown with shrubs and vines. The pillars and ceilings of the tower were still standing strong. Hurricane Hazel had destroyed so much of Topsail Island in 1954, but the tower remained, unfazed by 100+ mph winds.
Best of all, the location was fantastic. Oceanfront. Near the Surf City Swing Bridge. Breathtaking views. Close to Surf City and Hampstead. Wilmington was just a short drive away. It had it all. Except walls of course. But those could be built.
The history buff with a strong work ethic couldn’t ignore the captivating historical significance of the missile tower. This was just the sort of project to merge his passion for history with his love for Topsail Island.
A local guy, John West had moved inland for his career, but he couldn’t get the sound of the ocean out of his mind.
“You get Topsail in your bloodstream and it’s hard to get out. It’s just the best place to be,” John West explained. “It was the childhood family memories of Topsail Island that brought me back.”
John West set to work and quickly discovered the many challenges that would come with the investment. Turning a neglected piece of history into a relaxing vacation home was no easy task. Especially with the task of preserving the remaining elements and the look of the missile tower that once was.
The walls were long gone, but the corner pillars and ceilings were solid. Imagine installing light fixtures and such into a rock. A very tall, very solid rock. A rock full of rebar and chunks of granite.
“From day one, it was a difficult process. Projects like these always takes more time than planned and things come up that you never would anticipate,” he recalled.
But it was all worth it.
Among the pastel, siding covered beach retreats, Tower Four is easy to spot.
Deep brick red colored stucco.
Swaying palm trees.
Crisp, white trim that highlights the elevation and shape of the missile tower pillars.
And tall. It is so tall!
The integrity of the original silhouette was maintained handsomely, even through the incredible transformation.
The side entrance deposits you into a dining room. There are chairs and a table and everything, I promise….
But you won’t see them!
Because the jaw dropping view of the Atlantic Ocean will overwhelm all your senses.
Floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows span across all three walls. The sound of crashing waves and the soul-quenching hum of the ocean plays in the room like sweet background music.
Enormous decks create a space to breath in the salty ocean air. A private beach entrance will lead you directly onto the sand. And at the end of a surf, tan, and sandcastle filled day, you can rinse the sea and sand away in a private, outdoor bathroom, complete with a bathtub and shower.
Sharing the dining room views, the living room and kitchen are equipped with everything you need to make yourself at home for a week. Near the kitchen is a vertical, spiral staircase, made of wood and iron.
Just like the original missile tower, the footprint of this dream vacation rental near Wilmington is vertical. That doesn’t leave space for traditional staircases, and the creativity John West employed to that challenge makes for a one-of-a-kind experience.
If the spiral stairs are too much for you to navigate, there is a second, wider entrance through a traditional staircase from the deck outside.
At the top of stairs is the master bedroom with all the amenities one would expect from a vacation home, like a king size bed, Jacuzzi tub and towel warmers. The ocean will beckon you through the glass doors and onto the deck.
The history buffs in the group will want to scale right up the captain’s ladder that’s perched near the window in the master bedroom. It leads to an enticing little cupola at the top of the tower. On the floor is an original brass stamp that reads, “1947 – Tower Four.”
Glass panes embedded in the ceiling for stargazing create an unforgettable space.
From an old missile tower without walls, Tower Four has been transformed to a delightful three bedroom, three bathroom, oceanfront vacation home.
Beach lovers, surfers, paddle boarders, and those who love an ocean sunrise will argue that the location is the most exciting feature, while those with a passion for antiquity will argue the structure itself is the most exciting aspect.
If you think every home I walk into is ready for pictures, you are wroooooong. Of course, by the time I have worked my magic (by magic, I mean hard work and carefully crafted skills and talent) they all look photo ready.
But if you want your home to have more visits, your pictures need to be amazing. The photos you post of your home online are the first piece of marketing. The photos will either catch the eye of a potential buyer or they will keep on scrolling.
Basically, you want your house to look like a staged home, void of your personality and mark. It should be neutral and generic in decor so the photographs highlight the tall ceilings, hard wood floors, and beautiful chandeliers. Not the espresso machine in the kitchen or the goofy family photo on the fridge.
The little preparations can go a long way. Some people think I can just fix their house blemishes with Photoshop, but that’s not how it works. I can’t create photos that don’t represent the reality of the house. It’s unethical.
I’m happy to change out the sky to give the outside a cheerful appearance. You can’t control the weather after all. But if your banister is broken, I’m not photo shopping it fixed. So before I arrive, go through this list. It takes a little time but I promise you, the photos will be worth it.
Are you getting ready to sell your home or know someone who is? Email me today to schedule real estate photos for your property.
Chandeliers are the jewelry of your house.
They can complete your interior or ruin it. The lighting also sets the tone of your design.
The current trendy tone is shabby chic and rustic farmish. The chandeliers that have come with that style have been fun and definitely upped the lighting game. But some trends are their way out and I have to say… hip, hip, hooray!
Sputnik was super cool when it orbited the earth in 98 minutes. And that’s about how long this trend will last as well.
I admit there is something super fun about a sputnik chandelier. It’s a timeless piece for a child’s room. But this trend is definitely a passing trend. Not timeless. This guy is going to fade soon, and is even already on its way out.
Replacing your everyday glassware with mason jars? YES.
Putting flowers in mason jars? YES.
Putting twinkle lights & candles in mason jars? YES.
Pouring an entire bottle of wine into a large mason jar? I mean….
Mason jars are awesome. Put all the things inside mason jars. But YES people, it is possible for mason jars to get cheesy. Flip them upside down and stick a light bulb in them and BOOM – it’s ridiculous.
If you jumped on this train, I’m sorry for the snark. This trend is fun! I bet this looks really neat in a super farm/country style home. But it is super trendy and I highly doubt we’ll see many more of these in production. This style is O-U-T. Just like your mom’s kitchen full of chickens and cows in the 90s.
They were a fun change for sure. But I guarantee these lights were just a trend and are on their way out, to be replaced with retro bulbs and new, clean shapes.
It hurts my heart to say that these ugly lights are timeless. I wish so badly they were a passing trend. Named for the obvious shape, they are just not cute. But they are cheap, so contractors will continue to shove them into every room until kingdom come, like it or not.
Hello you classic beauty! Thank goodness these glistening traditional light fixtures are coming back! They never really left, as they are completely TIMELESS. I think we’ll be seeing more of the classic chandelier in 2018 and beyond.
Changing up light fixtures to fit the trends is fun! But it’s also exhausting and expensive. For those of you with the skill and budget to toss up new lights according whatever the five minute fad is – well, I just hate you. Purely out of jealousy of course.
But for those of us with budget and lack of electrician skills, changing up lighting is a huge chore. So, the classic crystal chandeliers will be a welcome, upgraded, trend.
What’s in my photography bag? What camera equipment makes the cut & what gets left at home?
(I’ll keep the cherry chapstick, old gum, random change, and that crushed protein bar that’s still in the wrapper, out of the post.)
The questions that people ask me most are:
I finally took the time to sort through my bag so I can answer those questions for you.
I don’t actually use just one bag…I’m currently using three!! It all depends on where I’m going or what I’m photographing.
The bag I use most often for local real estate shoots is the Gracie by Jo Totes. It’s $119 on Amazon and perfect for my camera body, lens, and flash.
I can put my keys, phone and a few other items (batteries, memory cards, business cards, etc) as well. The exterior is so soft and it’s the perfect size for a real estate shoot. I do not normally use this bag for the beach, but I have once or twice.
For traveling and/or the beach, a backpack is a must. I am currently using the Manfrotto Pro-Light 3N1-26 Backpack ($170 on Amazon) and it fits so much stuff!!! I weighed it before I left for Ireland and I had 28 pounds worth of stuff in there. It made all the difference when you’re walking 6 miles in a day! Very comfortable and easy access to your stuff from all angles.
This bag is awesome on the beach too. I have yet to have any sand problems. It comes with a waterproof covering which could come in handy.
The newest bag I’ve added to my collection is The Libby 2.0 by Kelly Moore. I actually tried to buy this bag several times, but it kept selling out! I finally received it in August, at least 6 months after I tried to buy it the first time. It apparently was a very popular bag – although I haven’t found anyone else that has it!? Weird…
So far, it is holding up well, and I can get a lot more in it than the Gracie bag… it traveled nicely and has been to the beach. I was very comfortable hauling it, my iPad, camera body, flash, three lenses and all my other personal items across a few airports.
Something I consider often while carrying expensive equipment is that I don’t want a camera bag that looks like I’m carrying expensive equipment. The price is $249 on Amazon.
I think the answer to this will surprise most people, but the camera body I use primarily is the Canon 6D. I’m using the first version… but you can find the upgrade Canon 6D Mark II info here: http://amzn.to/2xWbT3V
When it comes to a camera body, it takes me awhile to upgrade. I’d prefer to put money into my lenses, and when I get to know the camera body inside and out, it takes awhile to get used to a new one. The images aren’t as great right away.
Most professional photographers that are Canon users shoot with the 5D Mark (whatever number we’re on now) … but I have yet to even look at those!! I’m pretty set in my ways. 🙂
Here’s the fun part for me. Which lens?
I actually posted on Instagram with some of my lenses while packing for my trip to Ireland in August. That was definitely the highlight of my packing!!
The lens I use the most is the Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8 III USM Lens. The amount of love I have for this lens would have to be a separate, sappy love post. It’s by far the most versatile lens I have and it’s what I use for most real estate shoots (but not all). This lens is the heaviest that I own, and at 16mm it usually needs lens correction during editing. Definitely my preferred lens in my photography bag though.
After that, it really depends on what I’m shooting or where I’m going. The following is just a random list of the other lenses I bring, according to what I’m shooting or where.
The Nifty Fifty Lens. This thing is just a must have for every photographer. This is my creative lens when I’m trying to do something different or out of my normal every day shooting. (Canon EF 50mm f/1.8) I’ve taken some really cool shots with this lens and it does NOT disappoint. It is also small and always fits.
Along with that prime lens, I use the Canon EF 85mm f/1.8 if I’m doing portraits (which is not often at all). But it’s a great lens for portraits and I’m happy to have it for those times I need it. Be careful you’re not using manual focus. It can be tricky but the resulting images from manual focus can be brilliant.
Another great lens for real estate, and great back up lens, is the Canon EF 17-40mm f/4 lens. I do usually have this in my photography bag as a backup, and also there are some spots you just need that extra 5mm. This is much lighter than the 16-35mm which is phenomenal.
Last but not least (and I may be forgetting some), is the telephoto that I take everywhere. I frequently end up needing it. Telephoto is not my favorite way to take photos, and this just isn’t my favorite lens, but this one does the job.
I’m open to suggestions on upgrading it though! Canon EF 70-200mm f/4 IS USM lens.
I tend to leave this on my crop sensor and have my dad use it because he enjoys seeing in the distance and taking photos of wildlife. When I finally get time to go through the photos of Ireland this winter, I’m excited to see what he was able to capture with it!
I’m very basic when it comes to flash, but I use it all the time for real estate. The Yongnuo YN600EX-RT II is what I currently have in my photography bag. Do you have any cool tricks to share about this one? TELL ME! I like it, but I’m open to suggestions too.
The tripod. Yes. The best invention that I wish I used much more regularly. I just don’t.
I love long exposure and for some reason it is something I save for the colder months (of course, when I’m freezing outside taking long shots). But hey, that’s when I actually have more time to be creative. The sunsets and sunrises are also more colorful in the winter.
Manfrotto BeFree Compact Aluminum Travel Tripod is very lightweight and fits perfectly on my Manfrotto 3N1 backpack. It works great on sinking sand. I do rinse it out so it won’t get rusty but I’ve had it a few years and it’s in great condition considering the salt water and sand elements I put it in. I do not use a ball head (although it’s on the list of things to try out) and if you are looking for a tripod or ball head I recommend reading up on the reviews by Mark C. Morris Photography here.
I use the Vello Wireless ShutterBoss II Remote Switch.
While writing this post, I chatted with my wonderful photographer support group about what was in their bags (and really, what a fun conversation that turned into!) but the best question posed was “What’s the oddest thing someone would find in your camera bag?”
The answer to this is definitely the Scentsy Bonfire Beach Car Bar. I use them in the car and once the bar doesn’t smell as strong in the car, I move them to the camera bags and tie it to the inside zipper. I wonder what people think when they see it!
If you enjoyed this post, be sure to join my Facebook group, where novice and skilled photographers alike, enjoy sharing their passion, tips, tricks, and of course, beautiful photographs. If you’re not already a fan, go follow my page for a glimpse of what I produce with all this gear!
As a real estate photographer, I am privy to a variety of home decor styles. Some of them inspire me. Some of them horrify me.
That is the reason for this new blog series:
Timeless or Trendy?
The spunky, fun, brilliant couple, Chip and Joanna Gains made shiplap famous. (They are so stinkin’ cute, right?) They put it everywhere and now EVERYONE wants to use shiplap on EVERYTHING. And I can’t blame them!
Shiplap looks right at home here on the coast with the Cape Cod style homes. Faux shiplap is an easy look to achieve. One can simple rip plywood, nail it up, paint it, and BAM. Instant shiplap (nobody bothers to clarify that it’s faux). And with that ease, comes excess. It. Is. EVERYwhere.
Here in Eastern North Carolina, there’s an abundance of spec homes. Shiplap is a wonderful DIY way to customize these bland buildings and give them character. Of that, I am a big fan. Inexpensive, on trend, and fairly easy to DIY: will it last the test of time?
I vote: No. It’s too trendy, not timeless.
There will come a day when the young ones of this generation will admire real shiplap (as in, the original or restored horizontal pieces of wood that created wall structures, back in the day) and mock our faux shiplap designs as pathetic wannabes. But, they’ll probably mock everything we do, right?
I am a firm believer in designing for yourself. Do you love shiplap? Do you dream of visiting Magnolia Market? Are you a wannabe Jo Jo? Then go for it. But just know that if you plan to sell your home in five years or more, shiplap will likely be a faded trend.
Don’t let me crush your dreams! Not everyone keeps up with the trends. Some people will prefer passing trends even long after the movement has passed.
Just be careful about not going overboard with shiplapping (can shiplap be a verb?!), and make a mental note that if you plan to sell your home in 5-10 years, you may have to change it out. That could be a bigger chore than the install was, as removing the nails is likely to tear up the wall a bit. But if you love it and don’t mind the work, jump on the trend!
Do you think shiplap is timeless or a trend? Vote on Facebook and I’ll update this blog when the tally is totaled!
…Continued from Part One by Kim Barry
This is the point at which I want to interrupt my story to explain what I wish I had done prior to the storm in preparation. Because I think it could be helpful to some people.
First of all…..fun fact….tropical storms wreck havoc on anything below sea level.
Houstonians just learned this (many of whom didn’t have flood insurance); New Orleans learned it when the levees broke, and I learned it when my neighborhood got washed out. It *almost* doesn’t matter how far away from the ocean you live when a tropical storm hits you, if your home/town is below sea level. The rain doesn’t stop, rivers overflow, and before you know it the streets are underwater. So, if you live in a low-lying area and a tropical storm is threatening, just pack up your stuff and be safe.