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Winner of more than 50 local and national awards for jaw-dropping innovation in home design, including Best of Houzz Design, HGTV’s Designer of the Year finalist, National Home Builders Association’s Custom Home Builder of the Year finalist and seven Gold awards with the Parade of Homes, Tongue & Groove Design + Build firm owner Mark Batson has been busy keeping up with an increasing demand for comfortable yet incredible waterfront luxury.

By Amanda Lisk

Photographs by Raul Sojo Montes

“Our brand promise is we never compromise quality or coolness. You know it when you see it—that’s where those cool designs come from,” says Batson. “I’m not going to do it unless it’s done well and it’s done awesome.”

Tongue & Groove’s designed and built homes hit a record high in New Hanover County property sales in 2017 and 2018 and achieved a record-breaking real estate transaction with the sale of “Downton Abbey,” a T&G built, Normandy inspired estate named for its kitchen hutch, which was brought in from the very castle where “Downton Abbey” was filmed.

“Over the past four years, our business has more than doubled,” says Batson, who is also acting agent with Landmark Sotheby’s International Realty. According to the U.S. Census, Batson’s client base has doubled as well. The number of people living in New Hanover County who earn $200,000 or more jumped from 3.9% of the population in 2010 to 6.9% in 2018.

Batson grew up in Carolina Beach and later majored in history at UNCW. “College Road was just a two-lane road when I was in grade school,” he recalls. “Seeing all of the buildings going up downtown and the waterfront being developed is amazing and exciting to me. I still feel like this is a small town; it’s still a hidden secret that’s not really a hidden secret,” he laughs.

Specializing in custom built waterfront properties, Batson’s use of maritime touches such as porthole windows, frameless all-glass deck handrails and mahogany accents have become signature Tongue & Groove. Intertwining his craftsmanship, art and a love of history and the coast, Batson puts family at the center of every home he builds.

“A home is not about the structure itself; it’s a story about the family. It’s really about enabling families to spend more time together,” says Batson.

While most luxury waterfront homes are for onlookers to admire from afar, Batson believes in inviting people to come and see. He put his very own Lee’s Cut home on the Parade of Homes tour in 2012 where it won gold. Doing much of the work himself, including fabricating and shaping the stainless-steel handrail system and sculpting undersea scenes with dolphins and whales, the home is affectionately named “32” for its address and is where the Batson family of five resides.

What’s next for Batson?

A new era of Tongue & Groove design entitled “Yacht Modern” is rolling out, which will use more durable materials similar to those used for yachts to make waterfront homes much easier to maintain. “We still have mountains to climb and goals to be realized,” Batson remarks. “We will continue to strive to be the best and build homes worthy of preservation.”


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