Little Gem: A Five Points Bungalow Gets a Makeover

Shannon Cassell and James Cregger renovated a cottage on Pine Drive to double its square footage — and create a cheerful home for a modern-day family
by Ayn-Monique Klahre | photography Tyler Cunningham

To many, the little white bungalow in Five Points would have been unremarkable: too small for today’s tastes, run-down from years of housing college kids. But to Shannon Cassell, it was an opportunity.

Cassell has a knack for renovating houses. A lawyer by training, she renovated two homes of her own in Chicago before moving to Raleigh in 2018. “There, the real estate is very much oriented toward renovating versus building,” she says, “and I’ve always had a passion for interior design.” Over the years, Cassell’s friends would turn to her to consult on additions and renovations, and she got a reputation as someone who could help “flip” a house. “It was so fun to help, and also a great learning experience for me — they weren’t paying me, but I was taking really great notes.”

Naturally, when she and her family landed in Raleigh, they renovated their Drewry Hills home. A neighbor took note of her passion, so when a 900-square-foot bungalow on Pine Drive was advertised “For Sale by Owner,” she sent Cassell a photo of the sign. Cassell saw potential — and put in a bid.

It turns out the home had been rented to students at North Carolina State University for decades. The homeowner had another offer from a builder, but she liked the idea that Cassell would be fixing it up instead of tearing it down.

“It had such obvious potential with not much tweaking of the existing structure,” Cassell says. The two-bed, one-bath white bungalow had room for an add-on while still keeping the yard, and had good bones with its smart layout and original brick fireplaces. “It had the potential to be a three-bedroom, three-bath house that would work for a modern-day family, and the location was great,” says Cassell. It also stimulated the creative part of her personality: “My friends would ask how I have the brain space to flip houses on the side, and the reality is: I did it with all of my brain space that wasn’t going toward being a lawyer.”

The two worked together to expand the footprint by about 1,000 square feet. They opened up the kitchen into a new family room, added another bedroom and bathroom on the first floor, and created a rec room and third bathroom in a new walk-out basement. “These days, people expect to have closets big enough to put their clothes in and a bathroom they can turn around in,” says Cregger. They updated the façade, added a side entrance off the kitchen, and built a deck off the back; they also put in all-new electrical, plumbing, and HVAC. And throughout, Cassell worked in smarter storage, including built-ins and expanded closet space. “The house is relatively small, just 1,800 square feet with the addition, so I didn’t want there to be storage furniture everywhere,” she says. “Now it has two living areas and a ginormous basement, so it lives really large.”

As the project came to a close, Cassell outfitted the rooms with a mix of her own furniture — “the couches came over on my friend’s truck!” — and pieces from Steins Furniture & Lacquer Studio. “They were extraordinarily generous with us and supportive of me and the little house that could,” says Cassell. The flip was a success; they had six offers the afternoon it listed last summer. “I was feeling total elation,” Cassell says of that validation. “I’d put so much blood, sweat, and tears into the home, and I was so proud of it when we were done.”

The project also convinced Cassell that it was time to convert her hobby into a full-time gig. So in March, she quit her job as a lawyer and in May launched her new interior design company, Shannon Cassell Interiors. There’s still a learning curve — bookkeeping and client management — but the core of it, using her brain to figure out renovation solutions, is old hat.

And behind all that is gratitude for a new career that fuels her and brings her joy. “I’m so proud that we saved this house,” Cassell says, “and happy to know it’s going to be loved.” 

The front of the home got a facelift without making too many major changes: Cassell removed the screened-in porch and railing and extended the front roof for a more seamless overhang, including moving the support beams for a better view. They finished the windows in more modern trimwork, and added a board-and-batten siding to the exterior. 
In the kitchen, Shannon Cassell removed the washer-dryer and turned the space into storage for the bathroom and two slender pantries for the kitchen. They kept the window in the same spot, but connected the two-story addition off the back of the kitchen to open it onto a new family room area. Cassell modernized the layout with a large kitchen island and dry bar in between the kitchen and living areas, and replaced the cabinets and countertops. For the backsplash, Cassell added tongue-and-groove paneling, rather than tile. “Shannon came up with the idea and it was different, it really makes the kitchen pop,” says builder James Cregger
Cassell and Cregger added a side entrance to the home to create a drop zone and mudroom on the way into the kitchen. “These days, you don’t want to carry stuff through the front door and drop it in the middle of the living room — we like drop zones and friend entrances,” says Cregger. Along one wall, Cassell built in two narrow pantries for seamless storage. The chandelier was from Cassell’s home; it was refinished by Steins for a new look. “They can transform anything, they can bring your creativity to life!” says Cassell.
The biggest change to the home was a two-story addition to the back of the house that nearly doubled its square footage. On the first floor, that meant space for a family room, bedroom, and bathroom. The family room opens up onto the kitchen for an open-plan layout that makes the home feel more spacious. Cassell outfitted the space with pieces from her own home and loaners from Steins.
The largest bedroom is part of the addition. “This laid out great, with space for a walk-in closet and ensuite bathroom,” says Cregger. Cassell decorated the room top to bottom, just for fun, from the hanging upholstered headboard to twin dressers from Steins. “I knew this would be the showstopper moment,” she says. Cregger hung a barn-style door (below right) over the walk-in closet. “This way, the closet’s as large as it could possibly be,” says Cassell. 
The blue living room is the first thing you see when you walk into the home. Cassell added the crown molding and built-in shelving with cane paneling to give it some character, and retained the original fireplace. “This room was kind of trashed — remember, college students lived here — but we refinished the floors and brought it up to date,” says Cassell. “There was a lot of rotted wood and patch-and-repair!” says Cregger. They painted much of the trim, as well as the crown molding, the same color as the walls to make the space feel cozy.