Home & Garden

Charlotte’s original ‘front-porch’ neighborhood welcomes guests inside

ogaines@charlotteobserver.com

Not every neighborhood throws open its doors every year. We can think of more than a few gilded enclaves across Charlotte where residents are perfectly happy to remain comfortably ensconced behind their gates.

But it seems to come as second nature for Dilworth, one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, which has welcomed visitors for the annual home tour for 43 years.

“Dilworth (has) one of the largest collections of Craftsman and bungalow homes in town,” said Courtenay Buchan, chairperson of this year’s tour. “Residents are passionate about living here.”

“People enjoy sharing the fruits of their labor,” Buchan continued. “Some folks use the tour as a ‘line in the sand’ to complete home projects. It’s a good motivator.”

Kim and Jack Trouten spent 10 months renovating their 1920s Ewing Avenue brick bungalow, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Jack’s a homebuilder, and Kim, a Realtor, has a background in interior design.

Every corner of their home reflects a love of historic preservation and a sense of modern practicality. Others have taken note. Seven commercials have been filmed here, and “Better Homes & Gardens” has a pending story about the house.

The Troutens are DIYers who insist on doing it right. They honored their home’s history in the renovation but insisted on some modern conveniences – a Viking range and modern sinks, for example.

They don’t mind living with the original interior doorknobs, although the exquisite hardware doesn’t always work. “I warn my guests who use the powder room not to assume the door’s locked,” Kim said.

The house manages to feel authentically 1920s (the floors and every single interior door are original) and yet somehow completely contemporary. The open kitchen (with open shelving, which was the style in the ’20s) with a commanding Carrara marble island is a nod to the way people live today. The laundry closet is a concession.

In a designated historic property, the owners can’t expand the existing footprint. But the Troutens’ 3,200-square-foot home lives larger than it used to because they’re using the full-size attic as upstairs living space. (They also discovered the home had 10-foot ceilings. Prior renovations had actually lowered the ceiling height to 8 feet.)

The home had just two bedrooms when the Troutens bought it; now it has four. And one of the original bedrooms was transformed into a stunning art deco-style his-and-her closet.

The home is minimally decorated against a backdrop of soothing creams, light taupes and soft grays. But small touches of trips to salvage yards are judiciously placed everywhere. Corbels (“old-growth pine,” Jack said) are from a Virginia farmhouse. Those brackets are purely decorative here; they create a rustic welcome in the oversized entryway from the kitchen/dining area into the den. A built-in cabinet in Kim’s office (formerly the formal dining room) is from an old Plaza Midwood jeweler.

The staircase, formerly plywood and hidden behind a door leading to the attic, now takes center stage. A master craftsman built the new staircase out of 200-year-old wormy chestnut to look as if it had always been there. The carved newel post and banisters are from the Bowman House in Mount Jackson, Va., which was featured on the DIY network’s “Salvage Dawgs.”

But Kim likes mixing vintage, modern and inexpensive with luxe. For instance, some of the drawer pulls are from Anthropologie. And she found a Drexel dining room cabinet at a Metrolina Habitat ReStore. It’s been painted and given new life as a stunning linen cabinet in the master bath.

When you’re in the Trouten home, look up. The house has 17 chandeliers. Even the bathrooms have exceptional lighting. The master bedroom is crowned by an art deco “fandelier” – a fanciful fan/chandelier hybrid.

Complete with gardens

And spend some time outside. The gardens are as stunning as the interiors. Again, that’s because of Kim. She’s a master gardener. The Troutens think of their porches as extra living space. The back porch has a wine table Jack made from wood salvaged during the renovation. When I marveled at the craftsmanship, Jack said, “All it took was a circular saw.”

Notice the old iron gates (salvaged, of course) and the fountain. The bricks surrounding the fountain are original to the property, and Kim is happy that bright green moss has grown over them. Deep in the backyard is a brick fireplace original to the house. Jack plans to turn it into a wood-burning pizza oven.

That’s sure to be a popular feature at “Friday Night Front Porches,” an informal Ewing Avenue tradition. One neighbor hosts and prepares a specialty cocktail. Everyone brings an appetizer to share. Kids come, too, and run around the yard.

“I love front porch living,” Buchan said of Dilworth. “It has a supportive, close-knit, family feel. It’s something I didn’t think existed anymore.”

Want to go?

Homes are open 6-9 p.m. Sept. 18 and 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sept. 19.

820 Mount Vernon Ave. 4-bedroom Mediterranean-inspired, LEED-certified home with pool.

716 Templeton Ave. 4-bedroom renovated Craftsman.

1918 Ewing Ave. 4-bedroom brick bungalow with reclaimed pieces used in renovation.

831 E. Worthington Ave. 3-bedroom bungalow by Latta Arcade architect William Peeps.

425 E. Worthington Ave. 4-bedroom newly renovated bungalow.

500 E. Tremont Ave. 4-bedroom newly constructed bungalow with shiplap walls.

301 E. Tremont Ave. 3-bedroom, two-story, sunlight-filled “treehouse” condominium.

Get gardening advice

The N.C. State Extension Master Gardeners of Mecklenburg County will be at their garden in Freedom Park Sept. 19 to share information on plants that perform well in the Piedmont. Demonstrations on fall container gardens are also part of the program.

Tickets

Buy tickets at Paper Skyscraper, Persuasian, Park Road Books, T. Reid, Dilworth Drug and Ultra Running Co., or online at www.dilworthonline.org. Tickets are $20 until Sept. 18 and $25 after that.

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