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Tour of Homes 2011

Home of Lawton & Elizabeth Benton

5707 Canterbury Drive, Pine Lakes

The Bentons said, "Let there be light," and there was - in the form of a glorious loggia the couple added as part of the renovation they undertook a few years ago to their 1989 Pine Lakes home.

It's now the family's heavenly haven. "We decided to add it to the back of the house for more room," says Elizabeth Benton, "and, because of the addition, we spend a lot of time there in the family room and game room. It's cozy, with a lot of light and movement."

The lovely loggia, paneled in pecky cypress, also moves architecturally sans disruption from the home's original Louisiana plantation home blueprint and the neighborhood's inspirational Pine Lakes clubhouse classic style.

The Bentons' abode is regally classic-traditional, swept in fresh, natural wall tones and cherry hardwood floors. "It's definitely not contemporary," says Benton. "We like the traditional look."

Traditional, yet inviting: The handsome library is dressed in cherry paneling and equipped with a cozy fireplace feature. Elizabeth Benton has also personalized the home with wisps of her trained artistic ability revealed in the pretty lemon tree wall mural near the kitchen, the hand-painted grapes on the kitchen tile backsplash and an oil painting of wood storks in Huntington Beach that hangs in the master bathroom.

Although the Bentons' three children are now grown - "which changes the dynamics of the house a bit," says Elizabeth Benton - teen daughter Louise still makes a colorful splash in her contemporary hot-hued bedroom, complete with a complementary birthday cake canvas painted by the teen.

And the presence of elder sons Edward and Spencer are captivatingly captured in a pastel portrait by Alicia Rhett of Charleston above the living room and library hearths, and pencil sketches are framed in the master bedroom.

Home of William & Deborah Bullen

5617 Country Club Drive, Pine Lakes

Built on the hallowed grounds of the Pine Lakes Golf Course, the Bullen manor is the result of the magnificent handiwork of homeowner/builder William Bullen Jr.

While the Pine Lakes golf course and clubhouse were getting refreshed with a facelift, so were portions of the residential neighborhood; new homes were being built, like the Bullens' 3-year-old, 5,000-square-foot design. "But when we were choosing the architecture, we wanted it to blend with the overall look of the clubhouse and neighborhood, as if it had been here for years - that traditional, Georgian-style," says Deborah Bullen.

The couple also wanted to take advantage of the views of the historic greens golfers around the world rave about, so front and back verandas were incorporated into the building plan. "There are three French doors off the family room/kitchen area, plus upstairs in the master bedroom to take advantage of the views," says Bullen. "There are trees off to the left, and off to the right is the first green, which makes it restful and peaceful, so we spend a lot of leisure and entertainment time there."

Views are uniquely spectacular indoors as well, with 10-foot-high ceilings, antique wide-plank pine flooring salvaged from Marion, a precious Viennese crystal chandelier centerpiece dangling from the dining room ceiling, built-in bookcases and an impressive variety of Biedermeier furniture - the living room sofa, tables, mirrors, chairs and a chest - family heirlooms passed down from Bullen's father.

Modern conveniences abound throughout, of course, including state-of-the-art kitchen appliances, a gas fireplace and dual shower heads in the master bathroom.

Planning ahead, as the family grows along with its grown children, Bullen says the home's current game room could also evolve into a fourth bedroom or a playroom in the future. Now, the proud parents pay tribute to their son and daughter's college highlights through the game room's gallery of photos, such as one of their son, a placekicker for the U.S. Naval Academy football team, kicking an extra point in a 2007 game versus the Air Force Academy.

Home of Chip & Dallas Leavitt

4705 North Ocean Boulevard

Chip and Dallas Leavitt of Sunset Beach, N.C., discovered their own sort of buried treasure near the sands of North Ocean Boulevard. Theirs was buried beneath 60 years of termite destruction on prime "second row" ocean-view property, so the couple razed the 1950 damaged dwelling and built a new mission transitional-style vacation home.

"The home had been built in three different stages and just needed so much repair, so we knocked it down and started off new," says Dallas Leavitt. "But we used the landscaping and pool and back gate that was already in place."

The newly built 2,500-plus-square-foot, three-bedroom second home sweet home for the Leavitts is a marvel of modern masonry married with Dallas Leavitt's preference for Mediterranean/Spanish island-style features. Step foot through the detached arched entry and magnificent 8-foot-high wood plank radius door to witness more of her distinct design.

The open living area is framed by exposed beams overhead and ebony bamboo floors, softened by ancient Chinese silk paintings, Oriental rugs and a prized kazak rug (circa 1900). Chip Leavitt's great-uncle was once an ambassador to Turkey and Chip's grandfather would often accompany him on his travels, resulting in the couple's inherited international pieces, including carved Indian tables, French paintings and entry rugs from Afghanistan.

The master bedroom, offering views of the Atlantic, balances subtle gray with a bold bathroom that bursts with honed black granite countertops and pewter cabinetry atop white tiled floors, a freestanding modern tub and vessel sinks.

Dallas Leavitt's favorite little house feature, she confesses, is the half-bath constructed under the stairs in order to make the best use of what would otherwise be wasted space. It packs a powerful punch of character, complete with a textured wall of stacked tile work.

Home of Bill & Sally Stowe-Currence

9547 Edgerton Drive, Unit 1004, The Pointe

As Bill and Sally Stowe-Currence grew older, the couple desired a decrease in their living space. Turns out, moving out meant moving up - as in the penthouse of The Pointe on the north end of Myrtle Beach.

"We lived in a large home before and we're both in our 60s now," says Sally Stowe-Currence. "The Pointe is really beautiful and virtually hidden back here, with views of the marsh, ocean and [Dunes Club] golf course - and I have an indoor heated pool and no yard I have to take care of anymore."

The luxury condo in the sky not only boasts a beckoning picturesque outdoor balcony view, but a picture-perfect indoor layout that encompasses 3,300 square feet.

Sally Stowe-Currence originally designed the interior of the penthouse two years ago for a bachelor, but when the client was no longer single and moved elsewhere, she jumped on the vacant penthouse as a renovation project to make it a better fit for her and Bill.

Four bedrooms were converted into two, with one space transformed into a divine dressing room encased with built-in cherry cabinetry. The wall dividing the former "man cave" media room from the kitchen was knocked down to create a more open area, without losing the lavish indulgences of the theatrical sound and motion chairs, as well as the seven ovens in the chef's kitchen, its Viking appliances, cherry cabinetry and red African granite countertops. "I'm far from being a chef," she says, "but I'm a good country cook."

Every square foot of the penthouse oozes with coastal elegance - from its ionic column entrance into the spacious living and dining rooms, to the polished marble flooring underfoot to the details found in the collections of Flemish and nautical oil paintings, blue and white transfer ware, Chinese porcelains, and designer furnishings and accessories.

The master bedroom is enrobed in royalty, with a purple and gold color palette, private balcony overlooking the marsh and bathroom showcasing a massive marble and stone shower and shaving sink.