Both originally from Portland, Oregon, a pair of North Carolina newcomers knew very little about Charlotte before the husband’s job in bond trading landed them in the Southeast’s financial capital. After college, the high school sweethearts had moved to New York City, set down roots, raised two sons and become quite comfortable with the trappings of modern life in their longtime Brooklyn loft. So, it was perhaps surprising when the foursome fell for a three-story Georgian in famously leafy Myers Park, one of Charlotte’s most desirable enclaves.
Built by Simonini Homes, the traditional brick residence features sound interior architecture (from bay windows to intricate woodwork) that the owners loved. While it may seem counterintuitive, “What attracted us to our new home was its traditional Georgian elegance,” the wife says, admitting, “It was such a departure from our modern Brooklyn apartment, but we could picture our family here.” Their new residence would never be an industrial loft, of course, but the owners were confident its good bones could be enhanced with livable, modern interiors.
For these, they sought out Lisa Sherry, a designer headquartered in both Charlotte and High Point. An avid traveler with an eclectic thread running through her work, Sherry has been known to gravitate toward unusual, at times idiosyncratic objects that tell rich stories against textural, tonal backdrops. So, she was well prepared to bridge the cultural and stylistic preferences of her clients’ previous Park Slope abode with the style and grace of the Southeast. “The greatest influence for me is imperfection,” Sherry says. “This particular house is formal in so many ways, but I like homes to feel lived in–and that suited the owners, who are so accomplished and relaxed.”
From the outset, Sherry was impressed by a “Feelings, uses and thoughts” document produced by the wife, a book editor, which served to sum up the family and their needs. “Getting that sheet of paper and learning who they are, what they love and where they’ve traveled allowed us to make the space as real and authentic as they are,” the designer explains. An advocate of collected spaces, Sherry felt it important to incorporate interesting artwork and treasured items from the clients’ travels. But before all that layering could begin, they would need a blank canvas.
If Sherry has a signature aesthetic, it’s the mix of modern and classic, with a masterful layering of textures that keeps her predominantly white palettes complex and warm. True to form, the first thing the designer did was give the home’s existing dark gray walls a wash of crisp white–setting off the family’s beloved belongings while bringing a feeling of brightness throughout.
The warm wood floors were a departure from the family’s former loft, whose floors had been a pale gray. “But we thought about it and decided to embrace everything about the house that seems solid and sturdy, including the warm wood,” the wife explains. In the end, those floors served as a foil for all the white as well as an anchoring element.
After updating the kitchen cabinetry and installing contemporary light fixtures throughout, Sherry directed the majority of her efforts toward the decorative, ensuring furniture selections hit the lifestyle high points the family desired–chief among them, togetherness. “We loved our loft in Brooklyn and how the kitchen, dining room and living room were all one big box, which led to conversations and connections,” the husband explains. “We are convinced that one of the reasons we have a strong family is because of that layout, and we wanted to ensure the space we were creating in Charlotte would preserve that dynamic.”
So, Sherry elected to outfit rooms unexpectedly, rather than following the dictates of traditional floor plans. “I love to go in and juxtapose; to place clean, modern furnishings in a traditional house or twist and do the opposite with a more modern one,” notes the designer. Her approach to the dining room is purposeful, casual and sleek; the master bedroom was kept largely unadorned and minimalist; and what could have been a prescriptively formal living room was remixed as a multipurpose study space, music lounge and hangout hub for this party of four. Pastimes such as playing board games, drawing cartoons, catching soccer matches and practicing musical instruments harmonize in this diversified domain, which features swiveling chairs for easy repartee. Receiving pride of place is an upright piano the husband likes to play each morning and, giving the space its sentimental grace notes are Chinese heirlooms he inherited from his father, plus the couple’s map collection of meaningful destinations including Oregon, New York, China and Paris. All of these bolster a feeling of laid-back luxury that’s elegant, inviting and, most importantly, familiar.
“It is true that Brooklyn and Charlotte are worlds apart culturally and in terms of lifestyle,” the wife says. “But we have managed to land somewhere in between the two, retaining some of what we loved about our former neighborhood–like being within walking distance to a major park and biking distance to restaurants and groceries–but we also embrace the differences; the birds, trees, open sky and lack of hustle-bustle are all so attractive to us.”
In the end, theirs is a house that offers the opposite of “ribboned-off, museum-like living.” Instead, Sherry says, it’s a stage for making their own modern history.