When Lisa Carlay of the Davidson-based International Kitchen and Bath received a call from the Ramseur family about a remodeling job, she had no idea she was dealing with the manager of one of the country’s hottest folk/rock bands, The Avett Brothers. “They were so humble and never mentioned it,” says Carlay, who has tackled ambitious renovation projects for racecar owners, entrepreneurs, and many others. “I didn’t find out till later.” The project involved a former 1950s hunting lodge nestled in the trees south of Concord. Dolph Ramseur and his wife, Dana, had bought the house years ago and loved everything about it—except the kitchen. It had a linoleum floor, a popcorn ceiling and an L-shaped bar that impeded foot traffic. It felt dark, cramped, and dated. “The kitchen was sort of the red-headed stepchild of the house,” Dolph says. “It was the sore spot. It was the black sheep of the family.” The house is built along a Cabarrus County hillside, not far from where Dolph and the Avett brothers, Scott and Seth, grew up. Dolph had started a small record label in 2000, years before the band hit it big. He saw them play a couple of gigs in Charlotte and liked what he heard. During one of the shows he introduced himself, they all hit it off, and since 2003 he’s managed the band as it has released a string of critically-acclaimed, hit records.
The old with the new The Ramseurs’ 2,300-square-foot house has more character than space. Dolph and Dana like it that way. But they also wanted something that felt lighter, more open and contemporary, yet still retained their home’s rustic, quirky charm. With the help of International Kitchen and Bath and contractor Dennis Pless of DP Contracting and Consulting, Inc., they got just that. But it was by no means an easy project. Carlay says space constraints challenged renovators. The kitchen is 180 square feet; not a lot of room to accommodate everything the couple wanted: a 42-inch-wide refrigerator, a 36-inch-wide gas range and an island that could comfortably seat five. But with the help of computer-aided design tools, Carlay and the Ramseurs solved the puzzle with elegant flair. “Never assume your space is too small to achieve your goals,” says Carlay. “With the proper design anything is possible.” The seven-week renovation project was completed just before Christmas. Once an eyesore, the kitchen was transformed into a showpiece. “I think a lot of people were in disbelief it was the same room,” Dolph says. “We took the simple, organic, direct way. Not a lot of smoke and mirrors.” But the transformation is nonetheless dramatic. Walk into their newly renovated kitchen today, and the first thing you’ll notice is the stove hood—custom-designed, shaped like a bell and crafted from copper. From counter to ceiling, on the wall surrounding the stove hood, are ceramic backsplash tiles that bow out slightly in a pattern that resembles the contours of a woven basket. Descended from North Carolina’s Lumbee tribe, Dana, a Northwest Cabarrus High School librarian, loves the effect. It reminds her of the pine needle baskets woven by members of her tribe. Nearby is the kitchen’s new heart: an arch-shaped island topped with leathered granite, a flat finish that brings out the texture and natural beauty of the minerals. Deep double-basin sinks, made from hammered copper, add to the kitchen’s country charm. A wood-paneled refrigerator and dishwasher blend with the antique-white cabinetry. In place of the old linoleum, the contractor put down hardwood that mimics the flooring in the adjacent den: 1 1/2-inch-wide strips of ash, oak and maple that create what Dolph calls a “bowling alley” feel. Like the rest of the house, the newly renovated kitchen features a harmonious blend of old and new. Edison-style light bulbs, patterned after bulbs of the late 1800s, hover over the sink. From there, visitors can look through a window to catch a glimpse of the Victrola-shaped stereo speakers in Dolph’s office. Not long after the work was done, Dana hosted a “meet my kitchen” party. “My friends said that what they liked about it most is that it met with my personality,” says Dana. “This wouldn’t be for everybody. But it fit us.”