Explore This Spacious Morgan Creek Retreat

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Thad, Dale, Mary and Ethan Carey with their rescue dogs, Patsy and Chester.

The drive to Botanical Way is lush, curving through tree-lined streets around Morgan Creek. Turn onto Botanical, and the houses are substantial in scale and distinct in style; each one is its own statement and verdant retreat. At the end of the cul-de-sac, Dale and Mary Carey’s home is no exception. Stately and warm with a stone exterior, the 8,000-square-foot house the couple custom-built a decade ago sits on 1.4 acres. “We wanted it to be a cozy house, without anything too grand,” Mary says.

Mary says it took forever to decide on a backsplash in the kitchen. “I think we saw every option before we
found it,” she says.
The work of an ECU grad student, the bejeweled painting anchors the master bath and provides a connection to Mary and Dale’s sons, who are both students there.


While its 21-room, four baths/two half baths, four exterior porches and a sauna area might suggest otherwise, the Carey abode is, indeed, cozy, thanks to rich natural finishes throughout. The front doors are dark stained walnut, as is the entry to the wine cellar downstairs. Main level hardwood floors have a worn charm to them – because they’re more than 200 years old. “These are from the Jim Beam distillery,” explains Dale, who runs Eco-Site, the wireless infrastructure company he founded in Chapel Hill. “The distillery burned down [in 2003] and we bought it from a guy right here in Chapel Hill,” Dale says.

“We really appreciate the calm [the master bedroom] room affords us – especially when our boys were young and extremely active,” Mary says.
The floor plan is open enough to feel fluid (and ceilings and doorways are a lofty 10 feet) but purposefully not an open concept. With two college-aged sons, Ethan and Thad (alums of Glenwood Elementary, Carrboro Elementary and Culbreth Middle schools) and two rambunctious rescue dogs, Patsy and Chester, there’s a value to separate rooms, says Mary, a writer, blogger and active community volunteer.

Neither the brick nor stone came in a uniform color. “We had no idea if they were going to work together,” says Mary. “When it was all done, though, they looked so beautiful together.”


Separate spaces allowed for many decorating themes, too. The couple worked with Curt Hendrickson at Magnum Fine Home Builders to handpick every detail of the home. The kitchen countertops are a striking, stripy wood: “zebrawood,” says Dale, “from Africa.” Outside, the home’s stone exterior gives way to brick, which is “140 years old now,” says Dale. Reclaimed from an old warehouse in Greenville, N.C., some bricks are darker than others – soot left over from a chimney a century ago.

When Ethan and Thad lived at home, they would watch sports and hang out downstairs. “This is the man cave. The hangout,” says Dale. “I love it down here. We don’t get down here as much now that it’s the two of us.”

There was a rhyme and reason behind most of the Careys’ home choices, and each room – inside and out – has its own ambiance. The outdoor infinity pool and hot tub, for example, are set in bluestone slate as a nod to the couple’s Pennsylvania roots. “Growing up, we called that Pennsylvania bluestone,” Mary says.

The art is mostly local, from fine stained glass done by a Raleigh artist to spunky paintings picked up at Carr Mill Mall. Altogether, it’s a house that’s spacious but practical and abundant but restrained.

“We knew the kids played pool with other kids downstairs. We had no idea how good they had gotten,” Mary says. “Unless Dale gets on a streak, they beat us every game.”


Friends that stay in the guest room call it “the cocoon.” Mary says that the tranquil room is completely silent and calming.

Perhaps the home’s easygoing elegance reflects the Careys’ motivation to move here in the first place. The Pennsylvania natives had been living elsewhere in the Triangle before they read a real estate description they couldn’t ignore. “What they wrote about [this lot] was that James Taylor had grown up in this neighborhood,” Mary recalls. “We are huge James Taylor fans. That’s 90 percent of the reason we moved here.”

A decade later, this setting has lived up to the James Taylor tout. “I can honestly say I feel my blood pressure go down when I enter Chapel Hill,” Mary says. “It just feels so familiar and home-like. Nowhere else feels the same way.”

Both boys took piano lessons growing up. Nowadays the piano is a showstopping focal point of the living room.


The Careys don’t take their stunning home for granted – they view it as a place to rest from and recharge for community engagement. Mary, in particular, is actively involved in education and hunger relief issues Triangle-wide. She began the political action committee Bootstraps to raise awareness about childhood illiteracy and has served on the boards of Compass Center for Women and Families, Chapel Hill-Carrboro Meals on Wheels, SECU Family House and The Hill Center in Durham. Her latest endeavor is The Hundred Club of Orange County, a nonprofit she helped found to support the families of first responders in Orange County. “If a first responder were to die in the line of duty, $5,000 from the fund would be delivered the very next day to the surviving family to help with funeral costs or living expenses,” says Mary. “This is a way for the community to support our fire, police, sheriff, EMT and 911 community.”

A home gym means that Dale and Mary can get a workout in at any hour.

Photography by Briana Brough

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Jessie Ammons

Jessie is a former Chapel Hill Magazine editor-turned freelance culture writer based in Chapel Hill. She tends to structure her days around a morning cup of coffee and evening glass of wine.
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