Story of a house: Classic charm with a twist

by P. Gaye Tapp

photographs by Tony Pearce

There is a decided American sturdiness to this 1930s Tudor nestled in an old Raleigh neighborhood. Like the family who owns it, the house exudes a classic charm while embracing the practical realities of modern family life.

It hasn’t always been such a marriage of form and function; in fact, the house has taken a number of turns over the years. When the couple purchased the property over a decade ago, a full-blown restoration was desperately needed. My initial call to the house as interior designer was simply to add final touches to the living room and plan curtains in the dining room.

I’ve returned many times over the years to counsel, commiserate and confide. I’ve helped the house transform: Rooms have changed purpose; new ones have been added; design has evolved. The relationship a designer has with her client goes well beyond the paint and wallpaper swatch stages. It is all part of the story of a house.

Embracing entertaining 

When the owners began entertaining, for instance, they found their small dining room wanting. Soon, a grand scheme emerged. A plan to flip the living room and dining room met their needs and an intimate sitting room and a formidable dining room took shape. This switch satisfied their love for entertaining – the lady of the house is a chef with some of the best secret recipes in the South and needed a venue worthy of her skills.

But the grand dining room was just the beginning: This house would prove to have permanent growing pains.

The next job for me was to assist with an substantial addition – including an informal living and dining area, and a master suite upstairs – to address the pressing needs of the growing family. The owner is part of a long-established family of builders, so plans for such an addition to this well-loved and lived-in house moved full speed ahead.

Another call in 2010 from the couple caught me a little off-guard. It seemed an update to the relatively new addition was in order. I was surprised, thrilled and then asked, “Why?”

It was time to refine things. Time had passed, and the clients wanted to add some special rugs. Overhead lighting needed to be addressed in the new living and dining areas. A new project began, the list increased, and we touched every room in the house.

A house that is home can’t be static. It is at its best when changing to suit the desires and needs of a family. This house and family are on the move. More changes are in store, the children are fast becoming teenagers and a lounge or two of sorts are in the works. I’ve no doubt there will be more twists to come in this story of a house.