Of the seven homes on the annual Dilworth Home Tour coming up Sept. 19-20, the one that probably best typifies the ongoing transformation of the neighborhood is the property at 2325 Springdale Ave.
Atlanta transplants Heather McLarney and Christopher Kosa purchased the property in August 2012 from longtime Dilworth residents, razed the small bungalow on the long, narrow quarter-acre lot, and custom-built a three-story, Craftsman-style house in its place with 4,546 square feet of heated space.
Such transactions are occurring rapidly in Dilworth south of East Boulevard – on McDonald Avenue, Magnolia Avenue, Ideal Way west of Park Road and most streets in the vicinity. Until about 10 years ago, the area consisted almost exclusively of small, mostly two-bedroom, single-story houses built around Calvin Griffith (later Jim Crockett) Baseball Park in the 1940s and early ’50s, is almost unrecognizable today.
While the recent recession may have affected housing starts elsewhere, developers involved in this part of Dilworth were asking, “What recession?”
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When McLarney and Kosa moved to Charlotte three years ago to pursue new jobs, they started shopping for a neighborhood that fit their personalities. They soon found Dilworth and settled in a rental on McDonald Avenue while they got their bearings.
“We just loved the sense of community here,” says Heather. “We felt at home right away. Our neighbors were so friendly and we’re close to uptown and all those amenities. It was a great choice for us.”
The couple, who have been together 15 years, loved the trees, neighborhood activities such as block parties and the Yiasou Greek Festival, and even the presence of wildlife that they hadn’t had in Atlanta. They became accustomed to seeing owls, deer, raccoons and even a coyote ambling down McDonald.
They also fell in love with the Craftsman architectural style that characterizes much of the older parts of Dilworth. Once they started looking for a house to buy, they were determined to stay in the neighborhood. Frustrated by the selection on the market, however, they decided the best course was to follow the snowballing trend: Purchase an existing house, demolish it and build one that fit their specifications.
“We wanted our house to fit into the neighborhood, though,” says Heather. “That was very important to us. We wanted it to look like it had been here for a while and not scream ‘new construction!’ ”
That also meant borrowing some of the interior design elements – a soothing gray palette, and spacious rooms with strong, clean lines – of existing homes she had seen on their house search.
The couple found a good partner for their project in contractor Phil Hughes of P.R. Hughes, a custom home builder and renovation company based in SouthPark. Construction on the home, near Springdale’s intersection with Ideal Way, began in December 2012; move-in took place in September 2013.
The main structure, designed with future buyers in mind, has three dedicated bedrooms, five and a half baths, a large open-plan kitchen and living room, plus flexible space on the open third level and a dedicated office off the main entry. A central laundry room upstairs is accessible through the master closet. There’s also a mudroom that doubles as the domain for the couple’s three rescue dogs.
Above the detached two-car garage is more potential living space. At present it’s a large exercise room with its own bathroom.
Of particular appeal to these native Northerners – Heather grew up in Ohio, Chris in Michigan – is the ability to enjoy outdoor living here so much of the year. Therefore, overlooking the backyard are double-decker screened porches. Each 300-square-foot porch has a mantel-mounted TV set and its own gas fireplace surrounded by the same faux white stone that’s on the columns on the 110-square-foot porch on the front of the house.
“The contractor encouraged us to build a larger front porch,” Heather says, “but it faces west and I felt we’d get a lot more use out of porches that didn’t have the boiling afternoon sun. I also liked being able to look out at some green space at the back.” The results are two comfortable, private outdoor east-facing rooms which she says they’ve used during all of the 12 months since moving in.
Complementing the various tones of gray with white accents throughout the house is the marble Heather chose to replace the beige-and-chocolate color scheme she used in her Atlanta home. Gray and white marble can be found in the kitchen, butler’s pantry, coffee bar off the master suite and fireplace surrounds. Except for a metallic treatment on the coffered dining room ceiling, all the walls bear a gray, flat finish.
Like the natural walnut floors throughout the house, still awaiting area rugs, the walls are still mostly bare. Heather admits she got to the point where she couldn’t make another decision about the house. “They don’t tell you how many details go into building a house!” she says. “It was every little thing, from the size of the windows to the toilet-paper holders, and I finally... had to say ‘Stop building; get out!’ ”
Furnishing and decorating the house continues to be a work in progress, since the couple decided to start from scratch with all-new purchases. The bold chrome chandelier in the living room is one of the only items from their Atlanta house to make it to Dilworth.
Getting ready for the home tour was the excuse they needed, Heather says, to finalize some long-postponed decisions and add some personal accents. “Now it’s time for the bling!”