Anyone who has driven the stretch of stilted vacation homes along New River Inlet Road has most likely noticed one that stands out – not because it’s grand in stature or painted some willy nilly color. This house is tiny.
The story on the little blue wonder rewinds back to November 2019 when Weston Lyall drove his wife, Amanda, to North Topsail Beach after dark on her birthday. By the illumination of headlamps they were wearing, Amanda saw an empty lot covered in weeds up to their hips with a for sale sign that said ‘pending.’
“That’s how he told me we were building a beach house,” said Amanda.
Weston’s real estate agent friend had quietly been searching for the ideal piece of property in the background when news broke that would leave some landowners on the island in a pickle to either sell or build before getting stuck with land they couldn’t develop.
Onslow is one of 20 coastal counties covered under the Coastal Area Management Act (CAMA) that regulates development projects along the coastline. The CAMA line was about to change from a 60-foot setback to a new requirement that all new construction must be at least 75 feet inland from the normal high water line.
“We got a very, very, very good deal on the lot,” said Weston. A search of the county property records shows the couple paid $29,000 on a parcel that appraised for $175,000.
The deadline to have a minimal amount of construction complete to grandfather in under the old setback was quickly approaching. The couple had just under two months and not a lot of space to make it happen.
“We had to have tiles in and the first floor framed prior to February 1, 2020, and we closed on this (property) December 5, 2019,” said Amanda. “We were in a tight spot.”
As an engineer and land surveyor, Weston and his team at Weston Lyall PE PLS PLLC are not strangers to designing custom residential house plans, even on a time crunch.
“If it wasn’t built when we did, nobody would have ever been able to build on this lot,” said Weston. “This was pretty easy for me. I surveyed it and knew what my limits were and figured out what could fit.”
Weston designed what is essentially a 14-foot by 24-foot box with 766 square feet of living space in the tiny two-story structure situated on 14-foot pilings. The house is very snugly sandwiched between the road setback and the old water line setback they met the requirement for just under the buzzer.
“That’s why the front of the house is flat,” said Amanda. There’s just half an inch of wiggle room on the front and back of the house.
Weston’s design and Amanda’s vision for the beach house were brought to life by framer Ben Johnson. Johnson crafted every detail of the interior, from the hand-built cabinets and butcher block countertops to the tongue-and-groove ceilings. He gave the walls a budget-friendly shiplap look by coating panels of T1-11 exterior siding with white paint.
“I wanted a driftwood bed,” said Amanda. Johnson stained planks of cypress to construct the master bedroom headboard and built-in nightstands.
The top floor of the home has two bedrooms, each with a full bathroom attached and private access to the back deck overlooking the beach. The rooms are connected by a small foyer with a built-in reading nook and custom spiral staircase that leads down to the living room.
The tiny home manages to keep a roomy feel with an abundance of natural sunlight streaming into every room and clever storage built into every detail. The bed in the master suite has drawers and compartments underneath to maximize hidden storage. The second bedroom features a trundle bed.
“The kitchen is my favorite,” said Amanda.
The butcher block countertops are consistent in the kitchen and upstairs bathrooms. One brilliant feature in the bathrooms are vanity mirrors that hinge open to let natural light peak in through hidden windows.
The downstairs features a cozy living room with an electric fireplace, a view of the Atlantic, and an additional half bath. The living area flows into the craftsman kitchen Amanda will spend many evenings unwinding in after a lazy day in the sand. All that’s missing now are a few appliances and furniture to be delivered.
The home is full of beachy details. The bathrooms have whale’s tail towel hooks and nautical rope toilet paper holders. Another clever aspect of the home’s design is a third full bathroom with its own separate entrance from outside. The Lyalls will still have access to private facilities and parking on beach days without having to disturb guests who rent the home.
For those wondering how the tiny house would hold up to a Category 4 hurricane, Weston said it’s covered.
“It’s overdesigned strength-wise,” he said. The windows and doors are rated for 160 mile per hour winds, and the exterior walls are six inches thick to maximize strength and insulation. The pilings the home sits on are thicker than the standard.
The Lyalls live in Sneads Ferry with their 17-year-old daughter, Noa, who will be a senior at Dixon High School. Amanda teaches at Dixon Middle School.
They named the house ‘Hook, Wine, and Sinker’ after their favorite pastimes of fishing and sipping a good glass of vino. Amanda couldn’t be happier with her little dream beach house that’s not far from home.
“It far exceeds what I ever thought it was going to be,” she said.