Archive for Home Design

From an old missile tower to an oceanfront vacation home, this is now one of many beautiful Topsail Island rentals. It was once used by the U.S. Navy in Operation Bumblebee.


Topsail Beach Rentals: Tower Four renovated into a vacation rental home


“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.

A former missile tower on the beach called Tower Four is ready for vacationing renters! 

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.


From Operation Bumblebee to Topsail Island oceanfront vacation rental


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.


Oceanfront Vacation Home Rental


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.”


pre sunrise topsail beach

Topsail gets into your blood and you just can’t get it out.


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.


Finally, the renovation of the former missile tower is complete. Now, Tower Four is available to rental on Topsail Island! From the remnants Operation Bumblebee to a stunning Topsail Island rental. 

He placed the care and management of Tower Four Vacation Home into the very competent hands of Ward Realty. They are a company that manages Topsail Island vacation rentals, located on the island.

Rachel Carter Images took photographs of the newly renovated beach home, beautifully capturing the unique design and oceanfront views.

Among the pastel, siding covered beach retreats, Tower Four is easy to spot.
Deep brick red colored stucco.
Massive windows.
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.

Sky, ocean, and sand. It’s all you can see and it’s breathtaking.


This Topsail vacation has oceanfront views that obliterate anything around you.


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.


Tower Four just upped the game for Topsail Island rentals.

Winding staircase in the vertically structure old Operation Bumblebee missile tower on Topsail Island


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.


Alternate staircase at Tower Four through the oceanfront decks

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.


Luxury retreat at Tower Four, with unique surprises and historical delights on every floor.


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.


Views so captivating, air so fresh, and an incredibly fascinating piece of history to rest in at night.


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.  

One thing is for sure: an old beachfront missile tower turned into a vacation rental home on Topsail Island, just can’t be beat.


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.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images

Now what should you do to prep your home for amazing pictures?


  • The kitchen counter tops should be nearly bare. Stuff things in the pantry. No knife blocks. No toasters. No dish drying racks. A fruit bowl is okay. No coffee maker. No salt and pepper. Bare.
  • Take three-quarters of the decor on your shelves, and put it in a box. Take down all personal photos.
  • Hang pictures over terrible wall blemishes (like the spot on the wall your toddler tested out some new markers). Strategically positioning furniture and decor to cover blemishes for the photos is perfectly acceptable.
  • If your closet is a mess, organize some of it, then stuff the rest in boxes and put in the garage. People love to see photos of closets, but a closet of chaos is a turn off. If you can’t keep it tidy, how is ALL their stuff supposed to fit? So thinks a potential buyer anyway.
  • Leave nothing but the lamp and a decorative item on your bedside tables.
  • Remove small pieces of furniture that are there for convenience but not for decorative reasons (like the comfy ottoman that you love to put your feet on, but it’s seen better days or the over-the-sofa end table where you put your hot tea and computer).
  • Hide dog bowls, kitty litter boxes, and other traces of animals. Someone with an animal allergy could write off your entire home, sight unseen, just because they saw a litter box.
  • Tuck away cords and extra electronics.
  • Remove trashcans. Because nobody wants to see a picture with your trash can.

Real Estate Photography Kitchen Rachel Carter Images


  • Do you have nice cupboards with pullout shelving? Stage it with just a few bowls or pans so potential buyers can see how spacious it is.
  • Are your closets spacious? Pack up the junk. Pull out extra clothes so the racks are spaced evenly.
  • Do NOT showcase the inside of your toilet. Put all the toilet seats down.
  • Open your shower curtains. Buyers want to see the bathtub.
  • Razors, loofahs, soaps, etc. should all be removed from the shower. Stash them under the sink and leave only shampoo and conditioner, unless the bottles are obnoxious (huge or brightly colored).

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Channel your inner HGTV star. Small bouquets of flowers throughout the home (dining table, kitchen island, bathroom counters) go a long way for setting the tone.
  • Make your bed. Make it fluffy and cozy looking with lots of pillows. Put a tray on it with a stack of books and a vase with a flower. Practical? Absolutely not. But buyers will look at those photos and imagine they too were spending their mornings waking in such a cozy, romantic, luxurious space.
  • Pull furniture away from walls. Arrange it in a conversational manner, even if that means you can’t view the TV from any of the angles.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Fabrics (blankets, pillows, drapes) create an ambiance of luxury and beauty.
  • Colors help the pictures to pop. Try to stick with solids or bold patterns. Pin stripes and small patterns can photograph weird.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • You don’t want bare walls, but you also don’t want your face on the wall. Large pieces of simple art make great statements. Canvas prints from Rachel Carter Images are the perfect way to spruce up your walls and showcase the beautiful area.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • See what I did there? Green grass… green money… haha 😉
  • If you don’t have a perfectly manicured lawn, there are still ways to add greenery. Potted plants on the stairs, porch, and deck create a feeling of care.
  • Put out chairs on the porch, put pillows in the chairs

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


  • Thoroughly clean everything, duh.
  • Open all blinds and curtains.
  • Replace all light bulbs.
  • Make all beds.
  • Remove all small rugs.
  • Turn off TVs and computer monitors.
  • Clean all magnets off the fridge, all notes off the peg boards, all words off the chalkboard (unless you want to write your address and your broker’s name)
  • Hang up clean towels, neatly.
  • No dishes in the sink.

Real Estate Photography Rachel Carter Images


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.

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