Wilmington is pretty rich with artistic and multi-faceted people. So, when Tara and Shannon Gilmore arrived here 13 and 21 years ago consecutively, they fit right in. They’ve since established lives together here full of friends, a long list of clients and employees, and an intense love for this town. 


When it was time for them to find the home of their dreams together, after attempting to go it alone, they called long-time friend and Coastal Select Properties agent, Angie Greer.


Once we caught wind of their colorful back story and looked through their extensive portfolio, we knew we had to know more...so we could pass it on. 


Read the interview below to find out more about one of Wilmington’s coolest couples and the beautiful work and lifestyle they've created together. 

CSP: When did you move to Wilmington and why?


Tara: I moved to Wilmington 13 years ago to get out of the New Jersey metropolitan hustle and to enjoy warmer weather near the beach. Wilmington seemed like a big, small city that could support my business. It also felt diverse enough to eliminate the risk of culture shock.


Shannon moved to Wilmington 21 years ago from Topsail Island. Wilmington better suited Shannon’s social and economic needs. He has always worked in construction and Wilmington was seriously on the rise at that time. Shannon also loves to surf. And, the surf at Wrightsville Beach and on Masonboro Island is far superior to Topsail. 

CSP: Can you give us a little history about your business?

Tara: Of The Essence Designs was created in New Jersey over 15 years ago. We started as a 

decorative painting company, creating unique faux finishes for restaurants, businesses and homes in New Jersey and NYC. When I moved from NJ, starting a business from scratch was not easy. I attended builders association meetings and met with many interior designers to make connections. The business community in Wilmington embraced our work and I found my place in the design/building community. Shannon and I joined forces over 5 years ago and with Shannon’s background in all building trades, we expanded Of The Essence Designs to what it is today. We now don’t only offer faux finishing but remodeling, interior and exterior painting, custom carpentry and cabinet/furniture refinishing. We have grown exponentially since joining forces. Wilmington is a wonderful community that more than supports what we offer. 


CSP: What do you love about Wilmington architecture, design, culture, etc?

Tara: Well, Shannon and I love the beach and surfing. Downtown is historic and we absolutely love the architecture and history the city holds. There is a diverse culture in Wilmington, and an eclectic mix of different foods, music, and activities. It feels like a big city without being a big city. 


CSP: Why did you choose Coastal Select?


Tara: We chose Coastal select because of Angie Greer. Angie knows us very well but, aside from our friendship, she is a great listener and an extremely motivated and driven person. Angie knew our very unique needs for a home and we knew, without a doubt, that she would find us what we needed. And, of course, she did. We couldn’t be happier with the home we chose. 

CSP: Why did you choose your home?


Tara: Our home is EXACTLY what we needed. We were looking for an expansive piece of property in the heart of Wilmington that could support our business as well as our love of entertaining. We now have plenty of room for vehicles to park and a significant amount of open space where we plan to build workshops for the business. There is a pool with a deck off the back of the house to accommodate friends, family, and parties. Our dogs, Clyde and Penny, couldnt be happier with all the room they have to run around! The house is large enough for us host guests comfortably.


We also love the "old house" charm as it was built in 1936. We have a dreamy claw foot tub and  architecturally stunning details throughout the house. Oh, and the kitchen is huge, which is a must as we love to cook. The light that filters in through all of the beautiful windows brings us nothing but joy, and the sun porch, complete with its own separate entrance, acts as our office. It’s absolutely perfect! 


CSP: Given your background, did you try searching for a home on your own?


Tara: Yes, inadvertently. Shannon and I had been working on a home doing repair work for a friend on Peachtree Avenue after Hurricane Florence. In the midst of the project, she decided to to sell and buy a larger home for herself and her family. Her house was on a pretty large piece of property but the home itself was very small. Shannon and I made an offer and decided to buy the property from her. Our plans were to renovate - to build an addition and workshops in the back. But, after purchasing the property, we realized that the house was not going to meet our needs for our business or our lifestyle. So, we decided to turn it into a rental property. That’s when we decided to call Angie, trusting that she could help us find exactly what we wanted. 

CSP: How has your business grown and developed since you’ve been here?


Tara: The business has grown leaps and bounds over the last five years. When Shannon and I became partners five years ago, we added a wealth of services to the business. We were no longer just a faux finish and interior painting company. We became a full remodeling company - interior and exterior painting, and custom carpentry - along with decorative painting and faux finishes. We have become known as a the best choice for home renovation specialty services. People call us when they have unique design ideas or design hurdles. They know we can help them find a solution and bring their ideas to life. We have also recently added cleaning services to the business and this division of the company has taken off. We do a lot of post construction cleans for builders in Wilmington and also have residential clients. We service many Air BnB rentals on a regular basis. 

CSP: Can you tell me about the relationships and friendships you’ve established as a result of being here and running a business here?


Tara: We have come to know so many people in Wilmington as a result of running a business here.  We truly believe that relationships are the foundation of our success. Shannon and I are committed to being of service to others. First, we love to help people bring their visions to life. Being a part of others dreams for their homes or businesses brings us great joy. Second, we are committed to our employees and love to teach our trade to younger generations so they can carry on our mission of making dreams a reality for others. Because of our own experiences and hardships in life during our younger years, this aspect of the business brings significant meaning into our lives. We believe that passing along the help that was once given to us is what life is all about.


Many of our employees have come to us with no trade skills and difficult pasts and we have had the opportunity to teach them and watch them learn and grow. It is an amazing experience to do what we love for a living, and at the same time to be useful to others on such a profound level. Things don’t always work out the way we hope and plan but we find so much gratitude in building relationships and providing opportunities for those who didn’t think they would get another chance to repair their lives.  It’s such a gift that we have been blessed with to be in position to be of consistent service to God and others. 


CSP: What does the near future look like for you and your business?


Tara: The winter looks fruitful. We are booked with projects for the foreseeable winter. We are very appreciative for the trust our clients bestow on us and all of the referrals they grace us with. Because of the friendships we have built with our employees, we take vacations together. Work hard and play hard…always. So, we have a vacation planned for after the new year to a much warmer place! We are headed to Puerto Rico for a quick surf and relaxation trip. We need to recharge our batteries from time to time. We try to do this at least once a year. We find that when we treat our employees as equals and fiends, work isn’t so much a chore but a place where we come together and enjoy what we do and work as a team.

CSP: What do you and Shannon love to do in your free time?


Tara: Shannon has surfed for most of his life. The water is where he finds his peace. Shannon is also a drummer for the band Blank Hands. Blank Hands is an up and coming alternative indie rock band. They have recently made their way to streaming platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music. They have recorded and released a 4 song EP. and have recently recorded and mastered 5 more singles that will be released very soon. They are having a blast making music and 3 of the 4 members of the band work for Of The Essence Designs. Shannon also plays guitar and sings for fun outside of Blank Hands. Often times after a hard days work, he will serenade me and the puppies! We both have great love for the outdoors, music and animals. I practice hot yoga regularly at Wilmington Yoga center. This is were I find my center and get fulfillment, balance, and creative energy. I also combines my love of art with my work and am always trying to find new mediums to work with in decorative painting. We really love to travel. Seeing and experiencing new places and cultures fills our hearts and spirits. We do it as much as our work schedule will allow. We find that traveling brings a richness to our work and creativity on the job. 

CSP: Do you and Shannon consider yourselves artists?


Tara: Shannon and I are very much artists. I would say that we live artistically in almost everything that we do. We see art in all things and in all of our experiences . We are very fortunate that we get to express it in our work and in personal lives. 


For more information about Of the Essence Designs, visit oftheessence.net or give Tara a call at 973-951-6588.