Home & Garden

HomeArama features ‘rustic luxe’ appeal

The Ullman Group created, Levade, a 5,211-square-foot home in Mint Hill that combines modern conveniences with the warmth and friendliness of a true country estate.
The Ullman Group created, Levade, a 5,211-square-foot home in Mint Hill that combines modern conveniences with the warmth and friendliness of a true country estate. ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

The four estate-sized homes featured in this year’s HomeArama, which opens Saturday, are built around the same equestrian theme, but builders and designers have interpreted the lifestyle in appealingly different ways.

The showcase, hosted by the Home Builders Association of Charlotte, is in the equestrian community of Cheval in Mint Hill. Three of the homes are sold, and the fourth hit the market this week.

The homes were priced from $1.1 million to $1.6 million, said Cheval’s Diane Austin, after showcase discounts. They run from 5,000 to well over 6,000 square feet.

The size and price reflect the continued recovery of the Charlotte housing market. In 2011, HomeArama touted “right-sized” homes at about half the size and price.

One house leaves the impression that you might go riding on your favorite sunny beach. Another that you’d ride through the wooded European countryside.

Kitchens are bright and open, but the homes ramble, as generations-old estate homes would. There’s a real sense of exploration as you peek behind the next door. Will it be a scullery, a home office or hideaway bedroom?

Exteriors are anchored by stone, and interiors by gray in all its permutations, from a barely-there hint to dark and rich. The grays seem to change color with shifting light.

The homes blend elegance and glamour with rustic touches. Ornate moldings a foot wide, for instance, with sliding doors of recycled barn wood. Chandeliers of silvered glass, with painted shiplap paneling.

One builder called it “refined rustic,” while the interior designer of another home used “rustic luxe.” Both are spot on – with the emphasis on the luxe.

Lots are large, but the homes are grouped in an easy-to-walk setting near the free parking. Because the homes have sold – and might even feature the buyers’ furnishings – you’ll be asked to remove your shoes and leave food and drink outside.

Heres a look at the homes in the order they appear in the showcase:

The Ullman Group

3521 Piaffe Ave.; “Levade,” 5 bedrooms, 5 baths and 1 half bath, 5,211 square feet.

The exterior of this French country style home features square stone and tan stucco, with dark brown trim. The arched front entry is tucked between symmetrical gables with steeply pitched roofs.

Four garage bays, two on one side and two on the other, flank a courtyard.

Inside, details of distressed and unfinished wood are eye-catching among such glamorous surroundings as deeply curved crown moldings. There’s a sliding pantry door of reclaimed barn siding, and a barrel ceiling of unfinished wood in the dining room. There’s rustic wood around bathroom mirrors, upstairs and down, and wood-look porcelain tile planks on the floor of the master bath.

A fireplace in the master bedroom sits in a focal wall covered in planks of random shapes and thickness.

Thank the home’s buyers, along with designer Tammy Coulter, for those features.

“A lot of those touches were asked for by the homeowners,” said builder Luke Ullman. The buyers love the mountains, he said, and wanted splashes of High Country allure in Mint Hill.

The kitchen island with quartzite top is an imposing 5-by-10-feet, and sets the tone for others in the show. Islands are the “wow” features in all the kitchens, and combine the look of fine furniture with family-friendly function.

New Old Custom Homes

3608 Piaffe Ave.; “The Welsh House,” 5 bedrooms, 5 baths and 1 half bath, 4,879 square feet.

Builder Troy Ludemann describes this as an English country estate – but, inside, the stars are French oak floors and a Parisian bathtub.

The exterior is tan brick with dusty green trim, wide shutters with diagonal planks, and copper roof details.

The walls in the entry and stairway are covered in square panels painted medium gray, and the stairs wrap around a chandelier of silvered glass balls.

Painted boards with the look of shiplap highlight the coffered ceiling in the great room, the towering tray in the master bedroom – along with both walls and ceiling in a masculine study.

Floors of blond French oak spread through the first level. Planks are 8 inches wide in most of the space, with narrower planks in a herringbone pattern as highlights. Visible knots and wood grain add character.

The master closet is actually three spaces: A dressing area for her (with crystal drawer pulls), a dressing area for him (with leather strap pulls) and a connecting space for hanging clothes.

The closet is a hall of mirrors. The master bath is anchored by that square Parisian soaking tub.

The kitchen island is 8-by-8-feet. It’s topped with leathered Italian marble – the surface is slightly nubby – while heavy carved furniture-like scrolls support the corners.

A classic cast-iron AGA stove, the color of a wheat field, is as eye-catching as that island.

The Ullman Group

3621 Piaffe Ave.; “Camargue,” 5 bedrooms, 5 baths and 2 half baths, 6,614 square feet.

This is the largest house, and feels it. It’s bright and open and airy, thanks to tall windows and even taller ceilings.

The exterior combines gray stone with white trim and siding. The design is simple and symmetrical, befitting a Southern estate, with a gray slate-look roof.

The dining room features rich brown grasscloth above the paneled wainscoting. You’ll see the same grasscloth in the insets of the coffered ceiling in the great room. Look again and you’ll realize that the geometrical pattern of the wainscoting is repeated on the ceiling.

The pattern was inspired by the carved detail on the custom newell posts of the stairwell, said designer Kendra Tardiff White. “We tried to take this pattern, and repeated it throughout the house,” she said.

Floors are dark oak, walls are light gray. Kitchen cabinets are gray, and a towering zinc range hood stretches to the ceiling. The marble backsplash is laid in, yes, a geometric pattern.

Lighting fixtures are large, in keeping with the sweep of the house, but components aren’t thick and heavy. Fixtures are polished chrome or stainless steel, and sparkle like jewelry. The kitchen island sits on nickel feet, polished to the same high luster.

Disappearing sliding doors open wide to the porch and patio, and automated screens enclose the porch at the touch of a button.

There’s a special pet room with a half door tucked under the back stairs. All five bedrooms have attached baths.

Arcadia Homes

6506 Half Halt Ave.; “The Montpellier,” 4 bedrooms, 4 baths and 2 half baths, 5,126 square feet.

The exterior of this house features tapered pillars and sloping walls of stone, with heavy beams in the peaks of gables. Visually, it’s anchored solidly on its wooded lot, and a wing wall of stone gives it even more presence.

Inside, designer Traci Zeller used a light palette – what she calls white and just off white – to brighten the spaces. “It’s so clean and crisp and simple, but still has a lot of details,” she said.

Dining room walls are covered in grasscloth, but decidedly not typical grasscloth. The grass is arranged in a strong geometrical pattern. “Wallpaper is back,” Zeller said, “but I like to say it is not your mama’s wallpaper.”

The kitchen has two islands. They’re smaller than islands in other homes, but you can reach all the way across them, which doubles the work space.

Zeller used gray cabinets on the walls, and white on the islands. She also used a technique that makes the bank of wall cabinets even more impressive. Doors to the walk-through office and scullery are painted the same as the gray cabinets and, when closed, look like part of the cabinetry.

In the first-floor laundry room, there’s a dog washing station, a sort of doggie shower. Zeller chose whimsical doggie wallpaper for the walls, and robin’s egg blue for the cabinets. She used the same blue on the cabinets in the upstairs laundry room.

The landing at the top of the front stairs is designed as a kids’ study, with matching (and very grown up) built-in desks. Zeller said she likes to use such open spaces for homework and computer time, because Mom or Dad can show up unannounced at any moment.

HomeArama Tour

What: HomeArama, featuring four furnished and decorated estate homes.

When: Saturday through Aug. 2. Hours are 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday. (Gates close at 6 p.m.) Closed Mondays.

Where: Cheval in Mint Hill. Take Lawyers Road toward Mint Hill from I-485, turn left on Bain Farm Road, right on Joli Cheval.

Admission: Tickets are $15 at the gate, $12 online. Children 12 and under free. Parking free.

Information: For tickets, and more on special events such as Chef's Day and Designer Day, visit charlottehomearama.com. You will be asked to remove shoes in the homes.

Where to find Norwood’s column

Starting this week, you’ll find Allen Norwood’s column in the Observer’s “home | design” tab section that’s inserted in Saturday’s paper. You’ll also find it at Charlotteobserver.com/living/home-garden.

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