When Stan Russell got the call five years ago, he wasn’t surprised. A Charlotte couple had reached out to Russell about fifteen years prior to help design their mountain home. And while the collaboration back then didn’t pan out, the couple (and Russell) knew that when the time came to design their primary residence in Charlotte, there was only one architect they would consider. It was Russell.
The project, it turns out, was renovating the homeowners’ circa-1939, traditional, Georgian-style home, which the couple had lived in for eighteen years. “The home was originally designed as a duplex, so it had a bilateral symmetry to it,” Russell explains. The previous homeowners had renovated the home two years before the homeowners moved in. It was during that renovation that the home had been converted into a single-family residence. Beyond that, though, there wasn’t much else that had been updated, including the traditional architecture and finishes of the home. “The layout was choppy, with a fireplace dividing the entire downstairs living area,” Russell explains. “The home really didn’t take advantage of its stunning views to the front and the back, either.” Drawn to a more contemporary, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired look, the homeowners knew Russell could develop the overall aesthetic they were looking for.
Russell pulled together several schematic designs for the homeowners, all of which had a primary goal of opening up the layout of the 4,200-square-foot home, taking advantage of the exterior views, and modernizing the finishes and architectural details so that the home was more reflective of a contemporary design. While the downstairs had been renovated to create one living space, the family room and living room still felt completely separate, which was not conducive to entertaining. The fireplace had been covered with drywall and, unsure of what was underneath, Russell encouraged the homeowners to let him find out. What was there turned out to be a bit of an architectural gem: exposed, in-tact masonry. “It had a certain character and scale to it,” Russell says of the fireplace and chimney. Russell cleaned up the brick, left it exposed, and created a few niches in it for artwork and other accessories. “It’s still a room divider. But it’s very warm and ties into all the wood we used. That fireplace became a real asset to the space because it greets you when you come in.”
The next major hurdle for Russell was not only reconfiguring the existing kitchen but moving the entire space. “The kitchen was in the back of the house, got very little light, and had zero views,” Russell says, who suggested moving the kitchen up to the front of the house where it would not only get more natural light but would also take advantage of the home’s stunning views. “You can now stand in the kitchen and look out to the front and the rear yard,” Russell says. “It completely changed the dynamic of the space.” The kitchen now seamlessly flows into the dining room rather than being closed off from the rest of the home.
The kitchen itself was completely redesigned as well, with more custom, clear maple cabinetry designed by Russell and accented with modern drawer pulls and a large, granite center island. A nod to Frank Lloyd Wright, Russell added an exposed steel beam between the kitchen and the dining room and painted it in the famous architect’s signature Cherokee Red hue. Though Russell considered trying to salvage the home’s original hardwood flooring, so much of the renovation had damaged it, which led the homeowners to add a stunning South American wood floor. “It’s in the oak family and works well with the wood we added to the architectural details,” Russell explains.
The interiors weren’t the only things Russell redesigned for the homeowners. The exterior needed updating, as well. That included reimagining the approach to the home with a new sidewalk and driveway. Russell also redesigned the facade of the home, transforming the one-time traditional, Georgian property into a modern structure reminiscent of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture and design. A new porch and entryway with exposed steel complemented the tongue-and-groove stained cypress siding and dark grey brick, which had been repainted to update the home. “We also added some overhangs over the windows for shading and to really enhance the indoor/outdoor relationship with the home,” Russell explains.
Though the renovation took over a year to complete, the homewoners are in love with the result. “The home has such great energy to it,” one of the homeowners says. “Every time I walk through the home I think to myself how beautiful it is. I’m absolutely thrilled with how it all turned out. I just wish we hadn’t waited eighteen years to finally do it.”