Every weekday, while commuting on congested I-40 to Research Triangle Park, she dreamed of the sun-baked beach - pristine sand, warm waves, fresh seafood, light breezes.
As the days turned to weeks, months, years, her dream only got bigger. Now, in her mind, she was sipping margaritas on the balcony of an oceanfront summer home.
When the recession hit and distressed coastal properties flooded the market, our Triangle gal finally was able to pick up an oceanfront Carolina condo. But, it wasn't called "distressed" for nothing!
She spent six months renovating the tired space into a lush seaside retreat. From floor to ceiling, she gutted and replaced almost everything. When the transformation was complete - shore 'nough - her long-time dream had become a reality.
Here's a look at how she made the big splash.
Contractors ripped out the ancient appliances, homely fixtures, and dark counter and floor.
Appliances from the Euro-Style Stainless Series by Jenn-Air became the highlight of the current, gorgeous kitchen. Euro-Style's clean lines are a stunning counterpoint to the updated porcelain-tiled floors, glossy fixtures, chrome lighting pendants and delicious granites.
On the outside, the cabinet-depth refrigerator sports a fabulous French door. On the inside, impressive high-tech marvels include electronic controls with an LED display and an internal water dispenser.
The slide-in electric range with convection is hot! To name just a few components, there are menu-driven electronic controls, auto convection conversion and a warming drawer with preset temperature settings.
The over-the-range microwave oven doesn't just look good -- it works like a charm, too. The stylish appliance boasts auto-sensor microwave cooking -- including reheat -- as well as a stainless steel interior.
The TriFecta dishwasher does a powerful job cleaning even heavily soiled cookware, yet it's Energy Star qualified and quiet as a whisper.
American Standard's scrumptious Prevoir stainless steel undermount sink, installed without the typical divider to suggest a modern farmhouse sink, and Jado's Coriander pull-out faucet both shine.
Rather than throwing cash at new cabinets, our beach-lover spent wisely by retaining the old cabinets and outfitting them with knobs from Top Knobs' Nouveau Collection.
Top Knobs' craftsmanship ensures that the knobs last for decades, so wear isn't apparent -- even on the hardware used most.
As a finishing touch, a coffeemaker and toaster, from Krups' Silver Art Collection, sparkle on the opulent granite counter.
Defining the dining area is Roger Wedegis' "Beach Bums," a whimsical painting of two salty dogs. To discover "Beach Bums," our second-homeowner simply focused on the "beach" category at FineArtAmerica.com. The site makes it easy to browse and buy art.
The sandy hue of Aura Everlasting, a super-smooth neutral from Benjamin Moore, presents a rich backdrop that's used here and throughout the property.
Benjamin Moore's top-of-the-line paint is self-priming, provides a mildew-resistant coating, washes easily and pledges to be long-lasting with no color rub-off.
Lending glamour to the round, glass-topped dining table are Chilewich's matte weave placemats, reversible napkins in white and flax, and stainless steel mesh napkin rings.
Fiesta Dinnerware, the beloved American brand, makes waves in festive colors on the plates, glasses and flatware.
The out-of-date tile was replaced with 24x24 slabs of Daltile's Fabrique glazed porcelain in Soleil Linen. Fabrique imparts a delicate elegance as its subtle lines and warm shades suggest fine fabric or exotic hardwood. Yet, the tile can withstand just about anything because it's made of unyielding material.
SpectraLock grout by Laticrete, a company whose handiwork can be seen in huge commercial buildings, lines the skinny area between the tiles and gives the illusion of seamlessness. Since SpectraLock is epoxy-based, it offers uniformity, durability and stain protection.
The Laticrete quality continues in other technically advanced items that aren't actually seen, such as the underlayment that was set beneath the tile.
Sew Fine II, of Durham, dressed the windows in an integrated system that includes designer roller shades, room-darkening drapes and wispy sheers. Capping a sisal rug on the floor and an Art Deco mirror on the wall, as well as a sectional couch and leather ottomans, is a lustrous Minka-Aire ceiling fan. The innovative design of the sleek Wing keeps the room cool while allowing unobstructed views of the turquoise water.
Bold, beautiful hardware from Schlage alludes to the grandeur waiting on the other side of the door. The striking design of its Merano lever, in satin nickel, promises style by the shore.
The luxuriously soft carpet is Mohawk's SmartStrand Silk with DuPont Sonora in the just-right color of Lighthouse. The fiber is gentle yet durable, which is a crucial consideration for a coastal residence.
The flooring's robust stain and soil resistance is built in, not topically applied, which means that the permanent protection never wears or washes off. For the life of the carpet, even the worst stains clean up easily with just water or mild detergent.
Mohawk installed SmartStrand in the rhino and elephant enclosures at a national zoo for two weeks to demonstrate the carpet's amazing ability to handle anything thrown at it!
This magic carpet calls for the very best carpet padding, and that's manufactured by a company called Healthier Choice.
The padding's memory foam enhances shock absorption and resiliency. The breathable barrier stops liquid from penetrating. Antimicrobial protection prevents growth of mold, mildew and bacteria.
TV mounts and bedding protectors continue the theme of assuring that what's not seen in this haven is as advanced as what is.
Large screen TVs were hung with low-profile mounts from OmniMount. The devices were foolproof to use due to the included template and "lift n' lock" technology. The frame went on the wall and rails went on the TV, then the TV was lifted and locked in place. An integrated kickstand propped the TV away from the wall to allow wiring to be completed.
Princess-and-the-pea beds, backed by custom-made headboards designed by Durham's Sew Fine II, are wrapped in Protect-A-Bed's Healthy Sleep Zone, which includes a mattress encasement as well as mattress and pillow protectors.
The waterproof AllerZip mattress encasement has a patented, three-sided zipper and secure seal, which locks the encasement in place. The mattress and pillow protectors bar bacteria, allergens, dust mites and perspiration.
Hanging above the lavishly furnished bedrooms (there are ritzy Bernhardt end tables!) are Minka-Aire fans. In the master bedroom, it's the Artemis with translucent panels, which offers an unobstructed view of the wild, blue sea. In the other bedroom, it's the retro cool Acero with a combination brushed steel and mahogany finish.
The existing oversized mirrors, framed in white wood, survived the remodel. Meanwhile, exquisite granite took the place of solid surface counters.
Square sinks, sculptural faucets and attractive accessories such as towel racks and double robe hooks, all by sister companies American Standard and Jado, add panache.
In the master bathroom, the double sinks get graceful Glance monoblock faucets, which create a waterfall effect when turned on. The Berwick and Serin single-control lavatory faucets in the "Cottage by the Sea" and "Sailing" bathrooms also contribute nautical flair.
Steamy mirrors, damp walls and fogged windows are more than annoying; they could actually indicate developing problems with mold and mildew as well as ruined insulation and wood rot.
So, the entire ventilation fan was replaced in the master bath while the motors were replaced in the other two. All are by Broan-NuTone.
Again, as in the kitchen, the existing cabinets were retained. Top Knobs' hand-finished "jewelry" makes the difference.
The bathrooms also get luxe with Coyuchi shower curtains and towels, which are made of organic and natural fibers.
The "Cottage by the Sea" bathroom sports a natural linen shower curtain in a check weave and towels in graphite. The "Sailing" bathroom spotlights a pintuck percale shower curtain in indigo and towels in taupe.
Even the electrical wall plates, outlets, dimmers and switches in this oceanfront oasis are refined. Here, and throughout the condo, they have a titanium finish courtesy of the Decorator line of Legrand's Pass & Seymour.
These upgraded devices, which are rugged and corrosion-resistant behind their pretty faces, complement the condo's contemporary style.
For example, screwless wall plates hide the fasteners that attach them to the wall, giving the wall plates a distinctive look that adds to the decor.
The bathrooms' maritime theme extends to wastebaskets by The Macbeth Collection, whose patterns are called West Palm Apple, Mermaid Pool and Beach Umbrella Pool.
Whether enjoying a cup of coffee or a romantic dinner, as the sun rises or sets, this is the perfect paradise to take in lovely shoreline vistas.
For snoozy idles, there are two Yacht Club stackable chaises from Trex. These sturdy lounge chairs are made of polywood, which is a low-maintenance material that looks like wood but lasts forever. The cushions are fashioned from Sunbrella fabric.
The patio table is festooned with multi-hued placemats and dishes, as well as footed ice tea tumblers, by Zak Designs.
After building a castle in the sand, for our Triangle dreamer, it's all just beachy!