Simply Elegant: MA Allen Designs a Home for a Retired Couple

Neutral tones, clean traditional furnishings and loads of light combine in a space that’s both relaxed and refined.
Written by Ayn-Monique Klahre | Photography by Stacey Van Berkel

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When Karen and Matt King planned for retirement, one element was key: The right home. They envisioned a space that was comfy enough to put their feet up and settle in with a book—but elegant enough to entertain friends in style. They found the perfect location—in Bellewood Forest, a new development off Glen Eden with homes designed by Carter Skinner and custom built by Williams Realty & Building—then set about creating interiors that worked with their lifestyle. “We always knew we wanted to retire in Raleigh,” says Karen King, who had worked in the area twice during her career. “We love the small-town feel—even though it’s getting bigger—the access to the mountains and the beach, the college town vibe, everything!”

The Kings enlisted interior designer MA Allen early in the process. Along with project manager Margaret Richards, Allen worked with Skinner as well as Joel Williams and Chris Chapman from Williams Realty to plan the layout, flow and design details so that every element would work together seamlessly. “Carter’s a master at hitting that classic note with ample room sizes—I’m never fighting for inches!” Allen laughs. “We tailored it to how they live day by day.” For the Kings, that meant thinking about how they live now—both retired but still active—and how they’ll live in the future. “We knew this would be our last address, so it was important for us to think about aging in place, even though we’re healthy,” says Karen King. Throughout, that meant doing things like keeping the garage floor at the same level of the house, raising built-in storage, incorporating a zero-entry shower and including an elevator to access the second floor. ”It’s beautifully done, but doesn’t feel like assisted living,” says Karen King.

Another important element for two people who now spend more time at home: Having defined spaces within the building where the couple could either be together or alone. “The library feels totally different from the living room and the kitchen,” says King. In some cases, that meant designing big—for example, opening up the living area to the kitchen—in others, it meant going smaller, including breaking up the master bedroom to add a library and framing out part of the guest room as a reading nook. The Kings prefer muted tones, so Allen used a scheme of whites, beiges and blues in almost every space. “They wanted the home to be soothing, to envelop you,” she says. Allen furnished the home with a mix of new pieces, antiques and refurbished favorites from the Kings’ prior homes. The result is considered but unfussy, a welcoming spot for friends, family or just the couple.