Newly married Pam Stowe and her husband, Harding, adored their little three-bedroom home on Westfield Road in Charlotte – charming, picturesque, and the perfect size for the two of them. But as soon as they discovered they were expecting their first child, the Stowes agreed they would need more space. Harding Stowe spotted an ad for a home on Pinewood Circle – a very family-friendly neighborhood in Myers Park built around a loop. It had gently rolling hills, no streetlights or sidewalks, and it was delightfully quiet. The only problem was, the home in the ad was terrible.
As they left the home feeling frustrated, they noticed a home across the street for sale – rundown, but a great size. It had potential. A few days later, they came with a realtor, and though it was tough to convince Stowe, her husband just knew they could make it their own. “The home had been on the market for a long time,” Stowe recalls. “It reminded me of a haunted house, complete with plywood on the front door. Light fixtures were hanging from wires, the hardwood floors were in terrible shape, and the kitchen was unusable. But the bones were good, and we bought it for a song. Thirty-four years later, we’ve never second guessed our decision.”
The couple moved in July and had it ready to welcome home their baby in September. A remodeled kitchen, some new paint, fixtures, and refinished floors, and they were ready to call it home. A family member, a designer by trade, jumped in and helped decorate the home. “She helped us pick paint colors, wallpaper, furniture (mostly vintage); I even bought some paintings from Jerald Melberg,” Stowe says. “She painted almost everything pink! Even the wallpaper in the kitchen was pink.”’
Over the years, the Stowes have gone through several iterations of design. In the late ’90s, they knocked out the back of the home and added a large family room and a back porch – and even remodeled the kitchen once more. “With more kids, we needed a bigger family room,” Stowe says, adding that at the time, the late, great Jim Essary came in, removed the pink, and helped them create a more sophisticated and updated space. The most recent redesign, done in collaboration with Holly Phillips of the English Room in Charlotte, is the Stowes’ favorite thus far. “Working with Holly was a joy. We were in sync; we have very similar tastes,” Stowe says. “We pushed each other’s boundaries, and it was great to be able to say, ‘Holly, what do you think about doing this?’ and she’d say, ‘I think that’s an awesome idea, and let’s add this.’ It just came together perfectly.”
On their honeymoon in Paris, Stowe noticed a sculpted hand in the window of a little shop and just adored it. Her husband bought it for her as a gift, and ever since, the Stowes have collected hand sculptures of every shape and size. “Most of the hand sculptures were given to me as gifts, and I can remember almost every single person I received them from,” Stowe admits.
Cherished items like these punctuate the Stowe home, from hand sculptures to paintings, carousel horses to the butcherblock bar island; every piece has a story. “My favorite quote says something along the lines of, ‘Decorate with things you love, and your home becomes the story of you.’ I just feel that’s so true,” Stowe says. “I used to be so concerned with making sure it looked perfect for company. Now, I just leave the newspapers on the table and straighten up – and that’s what makes it home. That’s what makes it ours.”
Most of the antiques in the home have been passed down from the Stowe estate, and vintage furniture have been recovered or repurposed over the years. Harding Stowe’s uncle, Daniel Stowe, left his estate to his nieces and nephews and the pieces Pam and Harding Stowe retrieved have served as mainstays in their home. “Not all of them are my favorite,” Stowe admits. “But they all have a story, and some of our more interesting pieces are from that house. We have a large, ornate antique chair that looks almost like a throne. And growing up, my children used to love sitting in it and acting like kings and queens. That makes it invaluable.”
A carousel horse sits perched in the window of the bar area, a perfect example of the whimsy and originality that Stowe imparts on her home. The horse, given to her husband as a Christmas gift when he was a boy, was a piece of the old carousel that once operated in Stowe Park in Belmont. When they dismantled the ride, Harding Stowe’s grandmother purchased three horses, sent each to be lovingly restored, and then gifted them to the three boys that Christmas. Such an heirloom finds a perfect spot in a home filled with similar interesting stories – including the reclaimed wood bar table in the same room – an original butcher block from Reid’s Fine Foods. “I walked into Reid’s with a baby on my hip and noticed a sign on the door that said, ‘Original Butcher Block Island for Sale, $400,’” Stowe remembers. “I ripped the sign off the door, took it to the clerk, and said, ‘I want it.’”
The jukebox in the library was purchased on one of the couple’s trips to California in the first years of their marriage. “Harding had wanted a jukebox all his life,” Stowe recalls. “We wandered into this little shop on Melrose, and he just gushed over how he’d always wished he had one. So I told him, ‘Why don’t we get it then?’ We had it shipped home, and it’s been here ever since.”
It’s the commitment to authenticity that has created a memorable home for the Stowes and a space that is as personal as it gets. Antiques, gifts, heirlooms, and treasured art dot each room; inexpensive but loved found objects nestle unknowingly among more sophisticated and purposeful decor. It is, as Stowe so artfully puts it, a gracious home. “My favorite part of the home is the generous and expansive entrance,” she offers. “I think every home should have a gracious entrance – it welcomes dogs and people all coming in at once – and if I ever design another home, I’ll make sure it has a welcoming entrance hall.” As warm and welcoming, surely, as the family that inhabits it.