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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
NO PLACE LIKE HOME
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.”
PAY IT FORWARD
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.”
Photography by Briana Brough