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Fascinating Fayetteville

Family history on Hillcrest

Blending memories with modern appeal


One Sunday morning after church, Eileen and Tom Hatch were making the slow crawl up Westmont Drive in the heart of Haymount. As usual, Tom peeked down Hillcrest Avenue as they drove past, his eyes settling on the white craftsman cottage he knew so well.

This day, it looked different. Tom could see notices taped to the windows and doors. A swift detour revealed that the home built by his great grandfather, S.T. Hatch, in 1937 for his grandfather, J.L. Hatch, and grandmother, was in foreclosure. 

Only several years prior, Tom and Eileen had sold the home to a neighbor after Tom’s dad died.

“When Tom’s dad passed, the boys were in school, and it was a two-bedroom, one-bath house. We thought about renovating for about five minutes, but it was too fresh. We were grieving,” Eileen said.

On that Sunday morning, the Hatches were figuratively in a very different place. Leighton and Sam, their two sons, were grown and gone. Tom was settled into his principalship at Terry Sanford. Eileen was director of Haymount United Methodist Church preschool, both within a stone’s throw of Hillcrest. 

“We just monitored the situation in the background,” Tom said. Upon learning that the home would be auctioned, he looked at Eileen and asked, “Should we make an offer?”

The rest is Haymount history. They submitted the winning bid and began the work of bringing the craftsman cottage into a new decade in a new century. At the helm of reconstruction were general contractor Neill Guy and carpenter Don Warpoole. Jana Donohoe offered input on the floorplan.

Projects ranged in difficulty from transforming Tom’s grandmother’s Spanish-tiled sun porch into a full guest bath, to a mostly aesthetic update to Tom’s father’s childhood bedroom upstairs.

While the home had been updated several times before, the goal for the Hatches was renovation, not restoration, and to safeguard the history.

“I don’t know that I would have wanted to take on this project if not for the history of the family,” laughed Eileen.  

The timing was fortuitous. The Hatches moved in April 2020. As the world slowed, Tom worked remotely, and Eileen enjoyed decorating their new home.

“Everything you see, it was her idea. I was just along for the ride. She had this vision I couldn’t even wrap my head around. She said, ‘Just go with me,’ and I did,” Tom said of the spaces eclectically curated by Eileen, who fused timeless elements, like the original glass doorknobs and Tom’s grandmother’s china, with spunky, modern finds from Wayfair and Home Again in Wilmington. 


For several months, the Hatches enjoyed a brand-new interior while they waited patiently for the rain and pollen of spring to subside.

Eileen used the downtime to finalize exterior paint color combinations.

“I knew what I didn’t want,” she said.

She stayed true to a traditional craftsman color combination, which generally employs a few complimentary earth tones. She settled on a surprisingly cheerful combination of gray hues that accent the peaks of the gabled roof and highlight the brick chimney as a focal point of the cottage. They removed old shutters and added a friendly scalloped awning over the entryway. 

After much deliberation, Eileen settled on a purple front door. Neither pastel nor plum, it is the jolly color of wisteria that festoons the entirety of Haymount in early May to welcome summer. 

“I wanted a door that pops,” she said.

The Hatches brought back to life the adjacent detached garage, by literally righting it, as it had developed a marked lean. The electrical wire that ran to the garage was slack and had been that way as far back as Tom can remember. Their carpenter and his son straightened the structure with a strap and a pulley. When they winched it, the slack wire became tight enough to pluck like a guitar.

 Tom laughed and said, “Don told me, ‘That’s how it’s supposed to be.’”

The backyard is a hidden oasis, charmingly flanked by original camelia, rose and rhododendron bushes. The patio, one of the Hatches’ favorite features, opens out onto a lush, well-manicured lawn that Tom enjoys maintaining.

Personal touches are everywhere in the home, and the same is true of the exterior. A cabinet enclosure for the television on the patio and wooden American flag that hangs beside it are both fashioned from reclaimed wood, rendered in the remodel.

While Eileen insists she lacks creativity, elements of the yard tell a different story. On a trip to Maine, Eileen was inspired by the popularity of peace poles, which dot landscapes and gardens from coast to coast. Created to promote a message of harmony, the trend broadened to reflect elements of life that owners hold dear. Naturally, nestled into the shrubbery of their back yard are three poles Eileen commissioned from a talented AP Art student at Terry Sanford: one for Leighton, one for Sam and one for Tom. 


Hardwood floors, which Tom uncovered under several layers of tar paper and linoleum, along with high-profile baseboards and intricate trim, preserve the cozy craftsman design and ground the 1937 home to its roots. 

An updated kitchen, a mix of modern lighting, and an overlapping of textures and patterns work together to welcome guests into the modern home.

Because the Hatches elected to create an open floor plan by removing a wall between the living and dining rooms, the aesthetically interesting mixture of old and new elements are all visible as soon as guests walk through the front door. 

Tom and Eileen’s bedroom is spacious for a cottage and boasts an en suite full bath, restfully and cleanly appointed with a mix of white tile and marble. They widened the bedroom closet and cleverly fashioned the old, solid interior doors into space-maximizing, trendy sliding barn doors.

The kitchen is in the rear of the home, as it has always been. It features a popular white porcelain apron-front farmhouse sink and white marbled quartz countertops. The Hatches enjoy breakfast every morning at the blue island, which harmonizes with a cerulean subway tile backsplash. 

Not the Hatches’ first choice, the showstopping tile quickly became one of their favorite features and a focal point of the kitchen. On the gourmet gas stove lives a blue Le Creuset dutch oven, ready for action. Times have changed, but the kitchen is still the heart of the home.

“There was a couch in here. There was a table in here. The washer and dryer were in here. It’s where my grandmother lived,” Tom said.

Between the kitchen and living area is nestled a rather elegant laundry room. A modern chandelier illuminates the space, neatly designed to accommodate a washer and dryer and utility sink with space to spare. A few rust-colored imperfections dot the hardwood floor, but Tom chose not to sand them out.

“I told the man to leave it. It’s part of the story. This is where the refrigerator was. It would leak,” he said simply. 

As Tom stands on the front porch reminiscing, he points here and there. So much of his family history is within the distance of a nod or a gesture. He went over his bike handlebars “right there” in the middle of the street, and his dad, as a child, accidentally started a fire “down there” in the basement.

He reveals his grandmother’s favorite hiding places, the nooks and crannies that held Astor coffee cans filled with coins and cash, unearthed by the renovation team. 

When the Hatch men made the trip to Huske Hardware to buy materials in 1937, they set out to construct a house, and now, Tom and Eileen are profoundly home.  

Tom and Eileen Hatch, Haymount, renovations