In December of last year Bob and Peggy Culbertson, each 83, moved from their 4,000-plus square-foot Myers Park home into an 1,800-square-foot apartment at Sharon Towers, the SouthPark continuing care retirement community.
Like many aging couples, they thought about and planned for downsizing long before they acted upon it.
“In 2002 when we made our last move, Peggy said, ‘Bob, we need to think about our next move,’ ” said Bob Culbertson, founder and former CEO of the Morehead Group, a financial services firm.
“As we got into our early 80s it became apparent we needed to do something. We became more aware of our frailties. We did not have a bedroom on the main floor, the house was three stories and we were tired of navigating the stairs.” The couple settled on a unit in Sharon Towers.
Living space halved
As the Culbertsons more than halved their amount of living space, showcasing their extensive contemporary art collection took top priority in design considerations for their new space. Peggy worked with Aida Saul of Aida Interiors to ensure fixture and furnishing upgrades created an impression of larger space and to design a layout displaying their art in appealing ways.
Over the course of their 60-year marriage the Culbertsons, both passionate art lovers, have acquired a number of museum-quality paintings, ceramics, metal sculptures, prints, and glass artwork. Visitors to their home are delighted by works from noted artists such as Wolf Kahn, Romare Bearden, Herb Jackson, Dale Chihuly, Milton Avery, and Harvey Littleton.
The couple’s interest in art extends to support of local cultural institutions such as the Mint Museum, where each has served on the board of trustees. Bob also served on the board at the Penland School of Crafts, an arts and crafts educational center, in Spruce Pine.
It was at Penland where Bob’s interested in ceramics bloomed after first taking classes there 24 years ago. Many area residents are familiar with his own ceramic work, which he’s sold at the Charlotte Regional Farmers Market and area church fundraisers.
A plan for the art
“We can’t live without art,” said Peggy, a retired counseling psychologist. “While we downsized in the move with furniture especially, we wanted to keep and display all our art. Aida came over to the house before the move and inventoried all the artwork and how we had things displayed. We were able to create a space plan, plotting out where everything would go, lighting requirements and how to best take advantage of the new space. We had a plan.”
One significant upgrade greets visitors immediately upon entry into the apartment. A handsome built-in bookcase stylishly serves as home to many of Bob’s ceramic pots and vases alongside more than a dozen other favored ceramic works.
At the edge of the new shelving is space perfect for an oversized ceramic bowl made by a friend of the couple. The irregularly shaped bowl perches atop a 3-foot-high pedestal under a spotlight installed to highlight it.
“Peggy wanted a minimalist aesthetic and a gallery look,” said interior designer Saul. “We installed blond ash hardwood floors and left the walls white, as the light colors make the space appear larger. To feature the art, we added special art lighting, low-temperature halogen bulbs with UV filters.”
Saul noted that keeping furniture away from the walls allowed for placement of artwork at various levels and gallery-like pairings such as placing a glass piece on a pedestal under a painting. “This keeps the eye from stopping at the furniture and allows people to get closer to the art.”
Bob indicated the improvements they made to their unit exceeding the allowance provided by Sharon Towers, but it was important to situate the apartment precisely the way they wanted it.
“We weren’t giving up on the art,” said Bob. “It was coming with us, and we couldn’t be happier with how it’s turned out.”