Midcentury modern was one of architect Lindsay Hance McCullough’s first “design languages,” and she’s had a soft spot for it ever since. So she was intrigued when clients Kippy and Blake Thompson asked her to have a look at a house they’d purchased on a leafy Charlotte street. With a second floor that cantilevered over masonry walls, it stood out from its traditional neighbors. “Though built in 1973, it had a real midcentury feel,” McCullough recalls.
But there was something more to it: It closely resembled a nearby home by noted North Carolina architect A.G. Odell. “The basic design was very similar,” says McCullough. Though she couldn’t prove this house was by Odell, she suggested to her clients that they take it back to what the original architect might have envisioned—albeit using today’s technology. “It’s a great house,” she told Kippy, adding, “Let’s pare it down so that it can go forward as its true modern self.”
The couple, who had raised their daughter and son in a sizable Georgian-style home, were ready not just to downsize, but to embrace a more informal lifestyle. Kippy threw herself into researching midcentury homes. “Now I’m obsessed,” she says with a laugh.
McCullough, meanwhile, began systematically exploring how to update and refine every inch of the residence to give her clients a more casual floorplan that would work perfectly for entertaining, while also adding a main suite, family room, dining room and covered porch on the ground floor. The Queen City isn’t known for its modern architecture, so the architect reached out to general contractor Jeff Stanwick, who had experience with midcentury homes. After looping in his firm’s co-principal, builder Stan Dunham, the duo “rose to the challenge of fabricating architectural details that aren’t often seen here,” McCullough notes. “From the exterior slat rainscreen walls to the sculptural stair, Jeff and Stan exhibited a willingness that was critical to rebuilding this house.”
Under McCullough’s guidance, Stanwick and Dunham swapped out the hipped roof for staggered, flat planes more in keeping with the era, and teamed the original section’s 8-foot-tall rooms with soaring spaces in the addition. Clerestory windows and floor-to-ceiling glass sliders let in light and open up the rooms to embrace views of the verdant grounds, which landscape designer Laurie Durden terraced for structure while bringing in new plantings and mature trees, including Japanese pagoda, for privacy. That sense of orderliness is even more pronounced at the front of the house, where pea gravel plays up the clean lines of the architecture.
During planning, the team expanded to include interior designer Holly Hollingsworth Phillips, who had worked with Kippy previously. Soon, the material palette inside began to take shape: rift-sawn white oak for the cabinetry, character-grade white oak for the floors and Calacatta marble for the backsplashes.
Two spaces got special scrutiny: the nondescript staircase and kitchen. After McCullough came up with a modern, open stair built on a single stringer, she and Phillips put their heads together to produce a show-stopping kitchen that keeps clutter to a minimum, thanks to a hidden scullery where Kippy can stow small appliances and dirty pots and pans. “Kippy loves to cook, and from the get-go she wanted the kitchen to be super clean and spare,” McCullough says. Adds Phillips, “Now she has open shelving and plenty of counter space so that she can clean up in a flash. It was a real change from having a zillion different sets of china. But it’s their new house, and they wanted to live a little cleaner.”
Phillips, who calls herself “a true maximalist,” reined in her penchant for color- and pattern-filled interiors to create restrained backdrops that mix modern and traditional pieces, though well-chosen pops of bright hues and graphic prints add interest. “I love wild and crazy colors, and had Kippy been on her own, it might have been more gray or beige,” she explains. As it turns out, her client so embraced the idea of taking risks in the new house that she personally selected the large-scale wallpaper print for the main bedroom, to which Phillips added Tom Dixon copper pendants as complements.
All told, the couple loves having a home that suits the next chapter of their lives. “We use every bit of it,” Kippy says. “There’s room for when our college kids bring friends over, there’s outdoor dining and a covered deck with a TV and fireplace. It’s way more fun to entertain here than any house I’ve lived in.” And for that, she gives much credit to McCullough and Phillips. “I’d never have gone in this direction if we had started from the ground up,” she adds. “I can have fun with this house forever. It’s a unique gem in this neighborhood.”