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Historic Home Revamp

By Blake Miller

Posted: Thursday, Aug. 22, 2013

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When Windy and Blake O’Connor and their two children, Lily Rook and Wilson, were on a walk one evening in SouthPark, they came across a home for sale that they’d not seen before. Intrigued by the charming façade of the one-time carriage house situated on the former Governor Morrison estate, the O’Connors decided they had to see the interior.

Once they did, it was love at first sight.

“We were totally smitten,” says Windy a local artist. “When we first walked into the house it was a done deal. We were in love. There have been very few times I’ve entered a home and felt the intimacy of the space right away.”

Though quite a bit of updating and renovating needed to be done to the home, the O’Connors were not deterred. After purchasing the English Tudor-style home—the only former carriage house on the estate—the O’Connors lived in the three-bedroom home for a year before enlisting the help of architect Ruard Veltman. “It’s an unbelievably charming structure that’s very unexpected for Charlotte because of its age and style,” says Veltman. “Usually people who see the home fall in love with it. But in the 1980s the homeowners had added an addition that wasn’t appropriate for the O’Connors. Windy and Blake essentially said if we’re going to touch anything on the house this is it.” Veltman’s challenge then became how to alter the home by modernizing it and reworking the layout without it disrupting the original, historic footprint.

Veltman and the O’Connors took inventory of what was most important. The answer: working with the home’s existing open layout but moving the kitchen, renovating the existing addition, and removing the existing pool and adding a new one that complemented the eventual vista created from the renovation. “The addition was severing a major access of the main room,” says Veltman. “The solution was to recreate an entry sequence that reflected the home’s charm. When you approach [the front door], it’s a little mysterious—you don’t quite know how to enter it. And we wanted to play off that.”

Veltman then turned the existing galley kitchen—which was much too small for the couple, who entertain often and have even held a 300-plus person party at the home post-renovation during the Mint’s Museum’s home tour last spring—into a laundry room. At the back of the home, Veltman added a more modern kitchen complete with marble and sandstone countertops and custom cabinetry. Because of Windy’s background of an artist, Veltman urged her to commission herself a piece, which resulted in a panel of the custom kitchen cabinetry prominently featuring Windy’s artwork. Additional artwork by Windy is featured throughout the home, as well as pieces by other artists including works by Scott Avett of famed band, The Avett Brothers.

Adjacent to the family room is an inglenook—a cut out space by the fireplace for reading and relaxing—which was introduced into the open layout during the renovation. One of the most dramatic changes, though, is the renovation of the pool, which now boasts a clean, sophisticated shape and more modern landscaping. This new outdoor area serves as the backdrop for the inglenook and floor-to-ceiling windows on either side.

In the end, Veltman succeeded in not compromising the home’s historic character and charm but also designed a layout that fit the O’Connors’ more modern lifestyle. “[The result] is beyond my expectations,” says Windy. “We still pinch ourselves when we wake up in the morning in this house. We love it exactly the way it is.”

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