Home & Garden

A midcentury modern love affair

The kitchen and living room in Ken and Holly Schoolmeester’s midcentury modern home combined for a bright, open living space.
The kitchen and living room in Ken and Holly Schoolmeester’s midcentury modern home combined for a bright, open living space. jkomer@charlotteobserver.com

Ken and Holly Schoolmeester, whose completely refurbished home is on this year’s Mad About Modern tour May 9, hope visitors sense that theirs is a “happy house.”

On the other hand, they apologize in advance for the exterior: It’s still a work in progress from the weedy jungle they encountered on their first viewing of the property in 2013.

When the Schoolmeesters married in 2011, they wanted to buy a home on which they could put their stamp together. The SouthPark area appealed to them, but they couldn’t decide on a style they both liked.

Then they went on Historic Charlotte’s 2013 Mad About Modern tour, a biennial event featuring properties in the midcentury modern architectural style. One home in particular, which had been spotlighted in The Charlotte Observer, struck them. The Schoolmeesters immediately fell in love with its sleek lines, interior design details and furnishings.

Tour organizers describe midcentury modern is a uniquely American style which was in its prime during the post-World War II building boom. Clean lines, ample natural light and blending of outdoor and indoor spaces are a few of the characteristics of homes of the 1950s and ’60s and are coming back in vogue.

The couple set out to find their own midcentury home, and their six-month search eventually brought them to a run-down, abandoned house at the corner of Sharon View and Carmel Road. When Holly saw the overgrown yard, she says “it looked scary.” But Ken said, “That’s a great house!”

Built in 1960, the single-story, the 3,400-square-foot house sits on 1.3 acres. Its footprint was in the U-shape that characterizes the midcentury emphasis on bringing the outdoors in. A sunken living room led to a slate patio and a long-neglected pool. They couldn’t believe their luck when they were able to purchase the property.

Opening up the kitchen

The Schoolmeesters hired Dennis Pumneo of Pumneo Builders, of Matthews, to execute the extensive renovation effort, which began in January 2014.

With one significant exception – opening up the galley kitchen and den area into one big open space, which required the installation of hidden support beams in the ceiling – Pumneo describes most of the changes in the structure as “cosmetic.”

To let in as much natural light as possible, the window apertures were already floor-to-ceiling and needed only new frames. One of the four bedrooms was repurposed as a walk-in closet with built-in shelves, and enclosed as part of the master suite. A larger master bath was created by claiming the original closet and adding both a bathtub and walk-in shower.

What was the dining room became Holly’s home office from which she operates a skin care sales business. Ken claimed one of the bedrooms as a gym.

Since the Schoolmeesters love to cook and entertain, the heart of the house is now the spacious kitchen with two big islands topped with a Silestone quartz composite. Adjacent are a dining area with a massive square marble table, seating around a wall-mounted TV, and slightly more formal seating in the living room, all of which are open to one another.

A focus in the living room is the ventless ethynol fireplace, now surrounded by quartz stone and walnut covering the original brick.

The couple moved in on Labor Day 2014. Then the “fun stuff” shifted into high gear.

The cat lends a paw

They both wanted to re-create the ’50s and ’60s vibe. And they found excellent partners in Darra Privett and her husband, Scott Whitaker, owners of Mid Century Salvage near SouthEnd, who sold them many of the furnishings and accessories now in the house.

Privett expands on the characteristics of the era: “Furniture was of exceptional craftsmanship and followed strong, minimalist lines. Nothing was formal or overtly ornate ... In that ‘Jetson,’ atomic age, designers brought furniture off the floor by using slender, tapered legs on their chairs and tables, giving them an airy feeling,” she says. The Schoolmeesters embraced that aesthetic.

There are bold pops of orange, turquoise and lime throughout, beginning with the orange front door. In Holly’s office is a blow-up of a photograph of orange tulips taken by her husband in Holland, from which his ancestors immigrated.

Even the Schoolmeesters’ big tabby, Marmalade, had a paw in a key color selection: The new oak floors were stained to match his fur. (No word on the opinion of the couple’s other cat, the silver and white Sterling.)

Additional textures and areas of interest come from orchids. Ken Schoolmeester, a veterinarian, grows the flowers as a hobby and periodically cycles them back to friends at Carolina Orchids, who replace the plants with fresh blooms.

The couple recently visited Palm Springs, Calif., to get further inspiration. For example, they already envision ping-pong on the patio and croquet on the lawn next to the soon-to-be-restored pool, and plan to emulate the practice of Frank Sinatra, Palm Springs’ most famous resident. They’ll be raising a flag on days when parties take place.

Mad About Modern Tour

Historic Charlotte’s Mad About Modern self-guided tour, to be held Saturday, May 9, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., features five homes, two condominiums and two churches in SouthPark and Myers Park. Advance tickets, $25, are available only at www.historiccharlotte.org/events. Online buyers can download maps and addresses of the properties on the tour.

On May 9 tickets may be purchased for $30 at tour sites, and starting at 9:30 a.m. at booths at Sharon United Methodist Church and Carmel Presbyterian Church. Tickets are not needed to tour either church sanctuary. Visit historiccharlotte.org for more information.

Homes on the tour

Holly and Ken Schoolmeester, 4642 Sharon View Road

Cindy and Peter Levinson, 2827 Rothwood Drive

Lucinda and Curt Cook, 714 Larkhall Lane

Gwynne and Lee Movius, 4801 Howland Lane

Gary Knight/Keith Biolek-Austin, 1300 Queens Road

Bradley Ward/Jonathan Studioso 2434 Ainsdale Road

Churches: Sharon United Methodist Church, 4411 Sharon Road

Carmel Presbyterian Church, 2048 Carmel Road