80 degrees and clear skies. Last Saturday afternoon was lovely. Personally, I could think of no better way to spend the day than going on a local home tour. Home Roam is an annual event that supports the community programs of the Junior League of Durham and Orange Counties. This year, the eighth, was sponsored by the North Carolina Modernist Houses Association. What exactly makes a home “modern?” These homes were primarily built between 1945-1975, are generally simplistic and linear in design, and, in many instances, utilized lots of glass. Cool fact: according to the brochure I received on the tour, North Carolina ranks third in the nation for the largest concentration of modern homes….who knew?! At any rate, five hours to tour six modern/mid-century homes located in Duke Forest – nice. And, oh, what’s that you say? Food and adult beverages will be served at each home for tour guests to enjoy? Definitely count me in. I convinced my husband and youngest daughter to join me for the fun, packed up my camera, and got to it.
We were able to tour 4 of the 6 homes and, in a word, they were all amazing. Representing over a half century of modern architecture, the oldest house was built in 1963 and the newest in 2013. The older homes have all been well-maintained and feature details that you just don’t find anymore, such as the hand-finished wormy chestnut walls in the Dr. William F. Berry House, or the stone floors in the Allan & Linda Kornberg House (below).
Although most of the homes have had extensive interior renovations, the integrity and character of the exteriors has been preserved. And the builders of the 2013 Jeff & Charity Strang House successfully combined aspects of traditional modernist style with sustainable features important in current green building trends, such as geothermal heating and cooling.
Next on the tour was the James Terry and Margaret Rose Sanford House. It was built on 10 acres in 1970 for former NC Governor and Duke University President, Terry Sanford. The front of the home has an Asian flair, which I am sure was quite unique and extravagant for that time period.
Although the home has mostly been updated after being sold in 2003 – the entire roof is now copper — you can still find wonderful old details throughout, like the wine racks made from 19th century church pews. The gardens are beautiful too; a short walk will lead to an entertainment deck which overlooks the forest.
Now I get to talk about my favorite home on the tour: The 1964 Martin and Musia Lakin House, designed by North Carolina architect Arthur Cogswell, who was responsible for many of the modern homes found in Chapel Hill and Durham. The home is sleek, with sloped ceilings and an abundance of wood and glass that gives the home a sort of cabin-like feel and helps to bring the outdoors inside. The hallways are a bit on the narrow side, which seemed to be common in most of the homes we toured; I overheard many tour-goers speculating that “people back then” must have been a lot smaller than they are now.
After the passing of her husband, Musia Lakin remained in the home until 2010, when she moved to an assisted nursing facility. Unable to take more than a few of her treasured possessions, she decided to sell the home as-is with nearly everything in it, and the current owners, Scott Kindrick and Randi Lyders, haven’t altered it much. Consequently, walking into the home is truly like stepping back in time, from the furnishings and appliances to the books and bedding.
One of the docents shared that Musia Lakin was a psychologist who saw patients in their home. What is now a small den was once her office, and patients would enter and leave the room through the sliding glass door just off the driveway.
It was fantastic meeting Scott and Randi, who remained at the home during the tour. Scott was happy to share his knowledge about the home and artwork now in their care. For instance, there is no central AC; the rows of windows near the ceiling serve to cool the home (side note: Cogswell had a deep interest in solar energy). Also, much of the art in the home was created by local artists. Scott and Randi plan to renovate the home in the future, bringing it back to its former glory. I truly hope to see it afterwards!
All in all, this was such a great way to spend a lazy Saturday afternoon, viewing these breathtaking pieces of NC architectural history. If you ever have the chance to go on a home tour, especially if it involves modern homes, I would encourage you all to indulge.