by Vanessa Infanzon
photographs by Dustin Peck
The minimalist design of a midcentury home captivates local architects Gray Stout and Heather St. Aubin-Stout.
Last year, Nick Stout challenged his parents with a question: “Do you want to live in a piece of art or in a regular house?” His query came during Gray Stout and Heather St. Aubin-Stout’s search for a new home.
The question made it easy for the two architects, married almost 32 years, to decide to purchase the 1958 midcentury modern home in Cotswold. They knew there was something special about the Merwick Avenue property, and in August 2018, Gray and Heather became the third owners of the 2,700-square-foot home.
“This house had everything we were looking for,” Heather says. “[It had] the connection to the outdoors and the light quality. It’s been well-maintained and loved over the years.”
Gray and Heather’s home is part of the Charlotte Museum of History’s 8th Mad About Modern Tour. The tour is one way the museum advocates for the preservation of Charlotte’s historic neighborhoods and its architectural character.
“I hope people get inspired to think about creative reuse of historic buildings,” says Adria Focht, president and CEO of the museum.
After World War II, architects began designing homes with clean lines, open floor plans and walls of windows that provide lots of natural light. The Cotswold home was a project of Al Cameron, a prominent local architect during the middle of the 20th century. “As we’re heading towards retirement, the simplification and minimalism appealed to us,” Heather says. The double-door entry with sidelights is indicative of the time period, as is the exposed post-and-beam construction. Gray calls it purity of structure: You see what’s holding up the house.
The home’s 12-foot vaulted ceilings and exposed brick and distinct ridgeline skylight in the galley kitchen attracted Gray and Heather, who moved to Charlotte in 2015 after 23 years in Salisbury to be closer to family. Window walls in the den and living room bring in light and provide a view to a lush landscape.
“The blurring of the interior and exterior is a big thing with midcentury modern,” Gray explains. “When you’re in the house you feel like you’re outdoors — there’s a flow from in to out.”
Brightly colored paintings by Heather’s sister, local artist Amy St. Aubin, adorn the walls. Other works by Mark Bridgwood, Cara Reische, Carol Dunkley and Ann Marie Wagner Bourque are placed throughout the living spaces. A recent acquisition, an abstract painting by North Carolina artist Andrew Atkin, hangs in the couple’s dining room.
Several original midcentury modern furnishings were purchased from the home’s second owners. A white tulip dining set offers an inviting place to enjoy a meal alongside the light-filled kitchen. The table and chairs, as well as a marble coffee table in the den, were designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen. An Eileen Gray glass and metal side table complements the sleek lines and uncomplicated atmosphere of the house.
“We want to be the caretakers of the home,” which needed little restoration, according to Gray. “Going forward, we want to see it preserved the way it is. We’re not going to do anything to it to mess up the architecture.”
The couple worked with New Look Services to install a 12-by-28-foot saltwater pool. Precision Landscape added saw palmettos, deodar cedar trees and a backyard vegetable garden
At the suggestion of their new neighbors, Gray and Heather contacted the home’s original owner, Margi Goldstein, to learn more about the history of the home. She and her late husband, Julius, lived in the house for 56 years. Goldstein lovingly remembers family celebrations held there — decorating the carport with yellow ribbon for their daughter’s bat mitzvah party and turning the backyard into a miniature golf course to celebrate her husband’s 40th birthday.
“I think it has a really good vibe,” Heather says. “People come in and say, ‘You can tell a lot of happy things have happened here in this house.’ It’s a happy home.” SP
Want to visit? The Charlotte Museum of History’s Mad About Modern home tour is Saturday, Sept. 28 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The tour includes entrance to seven homes. Advance tickets are $25 for museum members and $30 for nonmembers. If available, day-of tickets are $35. Purchase tickets online at madaboutmodern.com, and use the code SOUTHPARK for $5 off the purchase of 2 tickets. The code is valid through Sept 27.