Traditional Building Portfolio
Palladio Awards

Project: Myers Park Residence, Charlotte, NC
Architect: J. Lawton Thies Architects, Chicago, IL; Lawton Thies, NCARB, AIA, principal
General Contractor: Philip R. Thomas Construction, Charlotte, NC


New Design & Construction – less than 5,000 sq.ft.
Winner: J. Lawton Thies Architects

Georgian of Today

By Annabel Hsin

On a gently curving lane in the Myers Park neighborhood of Charlotte, NC, a new Georgian Revival home was designed by Chicago, IL-based J. Lawton Thies Architects for a couple looking to downsize and settle into this quiet, century-old suburb. Developed in 1905, Myers Park is one of the earlier designs of well-known landscape architect John Nolan.

Although the neighborhood isn't centered around a predominant architectural style, there is a distinct "Myers Park" style – homes are scaled with respect to the street, built with quality materials and designed simply but with elaborate details.

In 2006, the couple purchased the property with the goal of replacing the existing 1970s resort style, plywood-sided residence with a traditional new construction that would fit seamlessly within the tree-lined streetscape. "Aside from desiring a smaller-scaled home and the very mundane, like the number of bedrooms, the clients did have two requirements," says principal Lawton Thies. "First, they didn't want a formal dining room. They found that they almost never used the space and would set up tables in the living room for large gatherings. Second, they didn't want to see the garage doors from the street."

Familiar with the area's history, Thies selected Georgian Revival for the home's design since the clients didn't have an architectural style preference. "It's always been a style that I admired and I think it's particularly appropriate in the South," he says. "The style has a history in the area but in recent years a lot of houses have tended to move away from it – people feel that it's too simple. In reality, what I find beautiful about it is that when you concentrate on scale, proportion and nice materials, you can build a house that's more timeless."

Thies analyzed the percentages of lot covered by structures in the immediate area to determine the proper scale and height for his design. Owing to the deed's strict setback requirement, the home is sited about 40 ft. from the sidewalk. Roof heights and cornices were carefully modulated to match those of the neighboring houses. The garage is on axis behind the house with its doors facing the rear, concealed from the street.

The front elevation features a unique four-bay composition with brick arches framing an entryway positioned to the side and three 12-over-12 double-hung windows; the upper level features 8-over-8 double-hung windows accompanied by shutters. A Flemish bond was selected for the brickwork to add detail and texture without resorting to additional embellishments that would interfere with the clean design. Limestone veneers, millwork, random-width slate roof tiles, copper ridge and gutters, as well as wood windows and doors, complete the exterior.

From the west elevation, the house reads as a more traditional five-bay design. At the center, three pairs of French doors lead to the main interior living area, which can be interpreted as an expanded central hall. Wall panels at the outer bays are subtly recessed to give the impression of pilasters, while a pair of chimneys reinforce the symmetry. On the east elevation, French doors open onto a screened porch composed of four Tuscan columns and Classical elements with a pergola extending to the detached garage. The space between the house and garage forms a courtyard. "The front of the house is really turned to the side and the side elevations resemble a center-hall house," says Thies. "We're taking traditional elements and tweaking them to meet today's needs."

The interior plan revolves around a large, central gathering space that acts as a living and dining room. The foyer and stair hall are separated by the living room and are connected by axial doorways and line-of-sight rather than a physical hallway. Adjacent to the foyer, the sitting room is paneled with knotty spruce finished with hand-applied wax. The custom moldings are echoed on the mantelpiece, which is complemented with a soapstone surround and herringbone brick interior. Oak floors in the sitting room and throughout are finished with a traditional hand-scraped technique. The axial setup of the foyer and stair hall is repeated to connect the sitting room with the breakfast room and kitchen located at the rear. "The thought behind placing the living room centrally is that people can interact with the space every day even though it may not be a room that is used constantly," says Thies.

The kitchen features painted poplar custom cabinets with soapstone counters, paneled appliances and pewter hardware. The chamfered ceiling beams overlaid with v-groove decking, antique terra-cotta floor tiles and an arched opening to the breakfast room give the kitchen a sense of separation. Three sets of French windows overlooking the courtyard serve as the room's focal point. "We changed the window style because the owners liked to open them and make the kitchen feel more a part of the outdoors," says Thies. "The kitchen is centered with the garage, which we treated as a garden element. The focus of the kitchen view and courtyard is the limestone entryway to the garage. It's one of the nicer moments in the house."

Inside, the second-floor stair leads to a hallway that doubles as a sitting room, which opens to the master bedroom, creating an informal suite. Two bedrooms and baths surround the master suite in a similar layout as the first floor. Accommodating the clients' changing needs as they age was an important aspect of the design as well. An elevator was installed in the stair hall and interior doorways fitted with custom spruce doors were designed slightly wider than standard. Above the garage, an unfinished studio space can be converted into living quarters for a caretaker.

Key manufacturers and suppliers for the project included Evergreen Slate of Granville, NY; Williamsport, MD-based Redland Brick; Wausau, WI-based Kolbe & Kolbe Millwork (windows); Charlotte, NC-based The Shutter Shop; New Orleans, LA-based Bevolo (exterior lighting); Exton, PA-based Ball & Ball (hardware and interior lighting); Greenwich, CT-based The Federalist (interior lighting); Midland, NC-based Jeff Franz Millwork; and Tony Montognase of Charlotte, NC-based Fine Wood Finishes.

After 18 months of construction, the new 3,800-sq.ft. residence successfully met the homeowners' specific needs and has been welcomed to the neighborhood by the Myers Park Homeowners Association with recognition as the year's best-designed new construction project. "The goal was for the design to work with the overall feel of the street and to not necessarily be picked out as a new house," says Thies. "In fact, the nicest compliment the clients receive is when they're asked which part of the house was worked on. People assume that this has been here since the 1920s."  



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