After an exhaustive house search, the Skurkys decided to build their dream home in an established neighborhood
By Marie Muir | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Neera Skurky first met Dave Skurky when she moved to Atlanta in 2002 and joined an adult recreational kickball league. Neera played on a team with fellow UNC alumni, while Dave was on the University of Virginia alumni team. They were both energetic post-graduates at the time.
Fast-forward through first dates, a wedding and moving in together. The young professionals were eager to switch gears after they realized that corporate careers and the cost of big city life had left them in a state of exhaustion. So in 2010, Dave and Neera decided to do what most people only ever dream of doing: They quit their jobs, traveled around the country and Europe for a month, and then they moved to a completely different state.
“I don’t want to paint a bad picture of Atlanta, but we were ready for a smaller or medium-size city,” Dave says. “Both of our families were in the Southeast at the time, so we wanted to live somewhere around Richmond, Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham or Charleston. … So we said whoever gets the job first, we’ll go to whatever city that is.”
Dave got an offer first from a Raleigh-based civil engineering job, and Neera was excited to move closer to her network of professional peers at UNC. She accepted a job as an in-house employment attorney at UNC not long after the move and later transferred over to Duke.
They rented in Durham for awhile, a nice midpoint between their offices. In 2013, following the birth of their first child, daughter Indira, Dave and Neera began to search for a permanent home in Chapel Hill.
The couple noticed an abundance of vacant lots for sale while house hunting. Curiosity led them to compare the price of an older house with a newly built one. “It was comparable, if not cheaper,” Dave says. Armed with this new knowledge, they began to window-shop neighborhoods instead of houses.
That’s when they discovered a half-acre vacant lot in Silver Creek, a wooded neighborhood built in the 1990s. The established subdivision, which is located within walking distance of East Chapel Hill High School and Cedar Falls Park, checked all of Dave and Neera’s boxes.
“There are young families and empty nesters,” Neera says. “It’s a great mishmash of people, and it’s a good community. We also have beautiful hikes in our neighborhood [with Dry Creek and Cedar Falls Park trails close by], and it’s near everything. I never knew at the time we built that I would end up working at Duke as an in-house attorney, but it is so perfectly equal distance between Duke and UNC.”
Within a year, Dave and Neera purchased the vacant lot in Silver Creek and completed construction of their 3,500-square-foot Craftsman-style house with guidance from Robert Huls with Franklin Street Realty, Atlanta-based architect Patrick Seferovich with S House and local builders Jim Bulbrook with Carolina Ventures Mortgage and Beau Long with Long Developers.
One of Dave’s favorite architectural elements of the house is that a window is situated directly across from the doorway in every room. “It feels open,” Dave says. “Natural light is a big theme in our house.” That light reflects beautifully off walls painted in a light gray color palette. But Indira isn’t the only kid who gets to enjoy Dave and Neera’s dream house. Her sister, Naya, 5, and little brother, Nadal, 3, add to the family’s kickball team.
The entire brood spends most of their time in the neighborhood these days. Wasted space does not exist with both parents working from home and both daughters enrolled remotely at Ephesus Elementary School. Indira and Naya attend school in their shared pink bedroom, Neera set up a work-from-home office in the guest bedroom, and Dave holds down the fort from the second-floor loft, which overlooks their open concept living room and kitchen.
The family’s decor depicts their shared love of the natural world. A rainbow of color-coded books line a built-in bookcase underneath the staircase in the foyer. Fallen tree branches plucked from the neighborhood hiking trails and pieces of coral found on family beach vacations fill every other nook and cranny. Evidence of Neera’s passion for nature and art can even be found in the downstairs bathroom. She used a black permanent marker to freehand an intricate tree mural that encircles the bathroom mirror.
“I’d seen wallpaper that looked like trees before, and so I just decided to draw it instead,” Neera shrugs. “It was kind of hard doing that in front of your 3-year-old child. I remember Indira walking in and wondering what I was doing. And I [told her], ‘Don’t do this, only Mommy can do this.’”
But Neera isn’t the only parent with an appetite for DIY home projects. Dave picked up woodworking five years ago when he needed a side table for their grill on the back deck. He applied his newfound skills throughout the house, creating matching twin beds for Indira and Naya, a bathtub caddy for Neera and a play set for all to enjoy in the backyard.
The Skurkys forgo their formal dining room and instead gather three times a day for meals at a massive granite island in the kitchen. Neera thought the island looked enormous when it was first installed, but now she realizes that it could have been made even larger. “Our lives revolve around that counter,” she says.
Four black-and-white framed photographs of Dave and Neera’s grandmothers hang in the hallway outside of their children’s bedrooms.
“You can see an Italian woman in her 20s, that’s Dave’s grandmother; my grandmothers are both wearing saris, they’re from India; and then you have Dave’s other grandmother, who is from Chicago,” Neera explains.
These pictures showcase just one aspect of Dave and Neera’s wish for their children – that they grow up in a home and a town that embraces diversity. CHM