photograph by Matt Ray Photography

From the beach, it’s an easy mile-and-a-half bike ride across the causeway, over the Intracoastal Waterway, past the Ocean Isle Fish Company and the Sugar Shack, to get home.

Here, in the easygoing neighborhood called The Cottages at Ocean Isle Beach, every home, custom-built to resemble Craftsman-style cottages from the 1920s, features a wide, welcoming front porch. Palmetto trees line the sidewalks; a communal firepit surrounded by Adirondack chairs encourages conversation. Blue hydrangeas and pink rose bushes complement the tropical hues of the houses.

Developer and owner of The Cottage Building Company Michele Cook and her husband, Scott, worked to create what they call a “pocket” home community — 157 cluster houses that overlook shared green spaces and courtyards — that checks all of the boxes for people looking to relocate or retire to coastal North Carolina. “Baby boomers have already had a couple of houses in their lifetimes,” Michele says, “and they’re looking for a way to escape the consumptive lifestyle. Here, it’s a downsizing of space, but it’s an upsizing of life.”

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Mike and Erin Toste with their 4-year-old boxer, Dana.  photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Before they’d even found their home, Mike and Erin Toste were set on their house color: blue. The native Californians who made their way to North Carolina — Mike’s a real estate agent in Lake Norman — have a penchant for the color of sea and sky. Even their 4-year-old boxer, Dana, sports their favorite color around his neck.

Mike and Erin Toste’s house. photograph by Matt Ray Photography


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Mark Ballard and Tom Finney at their home in Ocean Isle Beach. They chose the Waterside plan.  photograph by Matt Ray Photography

Mark Ballard and Tom Finney found their dream home at The Cottages at Ocean Isle Beach and made the move from Ohio to retire.

The sunny yellow exterior of their home is Benjamin Moore’s Golden Honey. photograph by Matt Ray Photography

With an eye for color and their collection of Americana furnishings, they turned their two-story home into a cheerful escape.

Pack Your Bags

The Cottages at Ocean Isle Beach maintains two “stay cottages”: well-appointed, short-term rentals to give prospective buyers a sense of what it’s like to live here. Two plans — the Seaside and the Sandfiddler — showcase luxury construction features like Rinnai tankless water heaters; Craft Master interior doors; wide-plank oak, hickory, maple, and eucalyptus hardwood flooring; and Mohawk plush frieze and Berber carpets.

The Cottages at Ocean Isle Beach
6460 Carrick Bend Trail Southwest
Ocean Isle Beach, NC 28469
(910) 579-2002

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Hudson is a native of North Carolina who grew up in the small community of Farmer, near Asheboro. She holds a B.A. degree in English from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and began her publishing career in 1997 at Our State magazine. She held various editorial titles for 10 years before becoming Editor in Chief of the 80-year-old publication in 2009. For her work with the magazine, Hudson is also the 2014 recipient of the Ethel Fortner Writer and Community Award, an award that celebrates contributions to the literary arts of North Carolina.