HOME TOUR: OUR MODERN BLACK HOUSE NEW BUILD IN OAKHURST

by Michel Van Devender

We recently passed the year mark of being in our modern black house new build, and we’re just getting around to writing about the journey from the rear view mirror. And, I had a little help with getting motivated. When Scoop Charlotte reached out in July about doing a feature on our home, I said YES PLEASE, but knew we’d have a thing or two (actually many things) to do in preparation for the shoot with Heather Ison Photography. So we got to work pulling things together and recounting the process, from beginning to where we are now. The Scoop Charlotte feature that ran the beginning of September can be found here. Below is our full story…

THE BACKSTORY

To say the last 19 months has been a little unusual, may be a vast understatement. Living during a worldwide pandemic has been challenging in different ways for most people. It’s been a roller coaster ride with many highs and lows. Add with a new build, a home sale, and moving and living in multiple Airbnbs, well, this was an entirely different experience, we could’ve never anticipated or prepared for. 

It’s a journey that began in late 2018, when I started feeling that little nudge, the itch to build and move again. My husband, Ladd, and I have been together for over 18 years so he’s rarely phased by my ideas!  Although he did pose two questions – What? and Why? At the time, we were living in a black modern house, our 5th Street home, we built in 2015 in the Elizabeth neighborhood in Charlotte. The questions were fair, after all it was our dream house we created from the ground up. We loved our house and were comfortable where we were. But after living there for five years and making a career change, I felt the timing was right to create our next dream house, another black house. 

In the beginning of 2019, there was a lot of change and transition happening with me both personally and professionally. I stepped away from interior design after working in the business for over ten years. It was a big step that allowed me the freedom to explore other creative ventures and focus on my family. As much as I love interior design, I really just love all things creative from design to architecture to fashion to travel to art to cooking, and really everything in between. I had a deep desire to explore and grow those passions and parts of myself. I can’t always say I know what I’ll be doing, but I do know with 100 percent certainty creating is an essential part of who I am. This is what brings me joy and makes me feel alive and fully expressed.

The career change allowed me the time and space to consider something different for our family, a new home. People always ask us why in the world would you want to build another house? I guess we are just those people who actually love building and the construction process, from beginning to end, and the interior design part too. It’s also in my blood. My grandfather was a builder so I grew up on and around construction sites. I’m one of those weird people who actually likes the smell of sawdust and fresh paint and the sound of power tools. These smells and sounds of construction trigger the fondest memories from my childhood.

There’s also something magical and rewarding about being a part of the creative process of building. It begins with something intangible, an idea, a concept or dream, and transforms into something tangible, a home. Being a part of the process from beginning to end is a gift. This appreciation grew out of my own experience with renovating and building. It started when I was 24 years old with a cottage in Dilworth. Little did I know at the time, it would be the beginning of either renovating or building another seven personal homes, with the exception of one, all in Charlotte.

OUR NEXT BLACK HOUSE

Back to our next modern black house new build… Once my husband and I decided to move forward with another construction project, the most challenging next step was securing a building site. Especially since we knew we wanted to stay close to the city. As the saying goes, they’re not making land anymore. We started searching, making a list of potential areas. On our list were some new modern homes in Oakhurst being developed by the builder of our second 5th Street house (here is our first house), Peter Vasseur, and his two business partners Bobby Sisk and Andrew Woodruff Architecture. The neighborhood was three miles south of Elizabeth. There was a soon-to-be developed lot on the end of the street. We loved the 3/4 acre size and the wooded areas. 

When we stood on the lot, we didn’t feel like we were less than five miles from the center of Charlotte. The land could provide more room for our boys to roam and better opportunities to design outdoor living spaces, perhaps even incorporating a pool in our design. In addition to the size and the setting, we were sold on the quiet, quaint street and the down-to-earth, eclectic vibe of the neighborhood. We closed on the land in December of 2019. Little did we know, or anyone else for that matter, there was a worldwide pandemic on the horizon.

Once we decided on the location, our focus turned to the house design.  I already had a Pinterest board loaded with inspiration. After all, going down a Pinterest rabbit hole is my jam! In addition to compiling visual inspiration, we also started our list of “musts” and “wants”. We knew this new house, of course, would be black. We also knew we wanted big, open spaces with an abundance of natural light and a layout that fostered a connection to the outdoors and nature. This translates into lots of windows and doors and fewer walls in the living spaces. There was also an existing barn on the property we hoped to repurpose and integrate into the new construction. While there are limitations when working with a fixed structure on a property, it helps shape the vision. Sometimes in the best kind of way. The positioning and orientation allowed us to capture the best views of the wooded and bamboo areas while also recessing the house back into the landscape, creating a natural privacy buffer from the street. 

PANDEMIC CONSTRUCTION

In January of 2020, after weeks of rain and multiple delays, we broke ground. It was a hallelujah kind of day! I love looking back at this blog post and video, WE’RE EXPECTING AGAIN, we created in the beginning of the process. Building progressed for several months before the pandemic came into full view. In hindsight, I’m honestly not sure we would’ve moved forward with the project had we known what was ahead. Building under normal circumstances is like putting together a massive puzzle with lots of pieces and problem solving. The pandemic created a more difficult puzzle with missing and hard to find pieces.

When stay-at-home orders were put in place, and non-essential businesses were closed, most aspects of construction were impacted affecting the supply chain and the building process. On our contractor’s end, getting lumber for framing as well as windows and other materials was more difficult, while pricing was also steadily increasing. On the design end, making selections and securing materials and goods were major challenges. Our local go-to resources had closed showrooms so   selection decisions were made from samples ordered online. Unfortunately, I sometimes couldn’t purchase locally. The black and white ceramic tile in our boys bathroom was from Wayfair. It was in-stock and ready to ship. Several of our other tiles were ordered online too. Appliances were also a challenge to find. Many lighting and plumbing fixtures were backordered with long lead times. This is where flexibility and creativity are helpful, although I literally held my breath when I placed orders! Since sub-contractors were already scheduled, it was crucial materials were selected, ordered and received to meet schedules and deadlines. Along the way, there was a lot of finger, leg and arm crossing!

You can find a couple of our blog updates on construction here –

NEW HOUSE UPDATE: WE HAVE DRYWALL

PANDEMIC CONSTRUCTION

SELLING A HOUSE + HOUSING LIMBO

While juggling the design and build, we were also working on getting our 5th Street house ready to sell. Oh, and everyone is now home from school, college and work so we have a full house as well as the new added challenges and responsibilities that come with remote learning. We knew our Oakhurst house wouldn’t be completed until September, but we also didn’t know what the market would be like, selling during a pandemic. Mind you, this was at the beginning of COVID-19, when there was a lot of uncertainty about the economy and jobs. 

Our house hit the market the end of May 2020 and sold in the first week. We were both thankful and relieved, but also knew we were most likely looking at temporary housing. Fortunately, we were able to stay in our house through July, but this left a two month gap. We scrambled searching for rentals, finding limited options. We pieced together a couple of Airbnbs. Imagine the delight of our kids when we told them, not only are you moving to a new neighborhood and new house in September, but now we’ll be living in two different Airbnbs in two different neighborhoods before then!

THE MOVE + SETTLING IN

Remarkably though, we were able to build and move into our new house, nine months after breaking ground. We moved in the last week our second Airbnb rental expired. We definitely credit our builder and his team with keeping the train moving and on the tracks. I cannot say there wasn’t some stress, worry and restless nights, for everyone involved. Overall though, it all came together beautifully, and we made the best of the two-month in between Airnbnb adventure. It certainly was not without some unexpected drama; however, our kids actually did better with the adjustment than we anticipated. And, we also have some really interesting stories and memories.

So, finally after everything, we were back in black! Once we were in the house, we could breathe a sigh of relief. We were all together in our house where we could finally nest and settle. Everyone was still working and learning from home and there was the unpacking part, but we were thankfully no longer in between homes.

As the interiors are coming together, I’m excited to share a glimpse inside our family’s new black house. It’s our little soulful, art-filled home. It may be months before we completely finish the interior design, but I’m learning to lean more into the process, working to focus less on the incomplete. I’m sure there will be some switching and shifting of furniture and lighting now that we’ve lived in the house and can see how the spaces work for us. But quite honestly, there will always be tweaking and rearranging at our house! Ask my husband!

REFLECTION

At the end of the day, this new house is an expression of who and where we are today as a family. Reflecting on the past year and the construction process, we can see the transformation was happening with more than just the house. It was also occurring within us and around us. As you’re building a house, the house is also building and growing you in the process. And, sometimes it seems to be more about the showing up and embracing the creative process of life, no matter how unpredictable or wild and crazy it is. The hanging on and enjoying the ride. And the leaning into the journey, seeing the gifts and lessons, even in building during a pandemic!

As our house evolves, we will continue to add more images to the blog. And of course, you can check out more current shares on our IG feed. Thank you to Heather Ison Photography capturing these beautiful images of where we are today (or at least in July!). 

🖤💙,

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