A Decaying 1920s Home Is Saved With a Mullet Renovation

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By Lucy Wang
In downtown Raleigh, a thoughtful transformation rescues a historic home from decay while adding a surprisingly modern rear addition.

An American Foursquare, once in shambles, has gained a new lease on life as the fully restored and updated Nolintha Residence.

The clients, a brother-sister duo and pair of successful restaurateurs, tapped local architecture firm in situ studio to renovate the historic structure into a three-bedroom home with a layout conducive to large food-related events.

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Before, the existing home was in shambles and blocked from view by a massive tree.

Before, the existing home was in shambles and blocked from view by a massive tree.

While the brief was somewhat unusual, the biggest sticking point was the Raleigh Historic District Commission’s (RHDC) requirement for the front and sides of the home to remain largely unchanged—a tall order for restoration given the home’s decaying state.

"The brick mortar had turned to powder in many locations and most exterior trim was rotten," explain the architects of the 2,447-square-foot home's former condition. "Water, freely admitted into the brick veneer cavity through open mortar joints, was rotting the walls."

A look at the back of the former home with a poorly built upstairs addition that in situ studio demolished and rebuilt.

A look at the back of the former home with a poorly built upstairs addition that in situ studio demolished and rebuilt.

Moreover, the home’s former use as a rental unit with three separate tenant spaces had led to a "haphazard" layout with compromised load-bearing elements.

Preserved and repointed brick along with repaired exterior trim and a fresh coat of paint breathe new life into the historic home. The roof is asphalt shingle.

Preserved and repointed brick along with repaired exterior trim and a fresh coat of paint breathe new life into the historic home. The roof is asphalt shingle.

Consequently, the architects gut-renovated the house, tearing out much of the interior framing and installing new structural members from the top down. The plumbing, mechanical, and electricity systems were also replaced.

Since the RHDC only controlled the refurbishment of the home’s front and side facades, the architects took liberties with giving the interior a light-filled contemporary refresh. 

A massive art wall defines the entry space. The kitchen and an informal eating space are to the left of the art wall, while the dining and living areas (and connection to the backyard) are sited to the right.

A massive art wall defines the entry space. The kitchen and an informal eating space are to the left of the art wall, while the dining and living areas (and connection to the backyard) are sited to the right.

Walls were removed from the ground floor to create a more open-plan layout for the kitchen, dining room, and living area, which are clustered around a centrally located bathroom/storage unit. 

Though much of the interior was gutted, the west-wall fireplace was left intact due to the risk that removal could have had on the building's structural integrity.

Though much of the interior was gutted, the west-wall fireplace was left intact due to the risk that removal could have had on the building's structural integrity.

Upstairs, the architects designed three bedroom suites—one for a guest and one for each sibling.

"The bedrooms are completely separate from one another, filled with light, and oriented toward beautiful views of the surrounding context and downtown Raleigh," note the architects.

"The bedrooms are completely separate from one another, filled with light, and oriented toward beautiful views of the surrounding context and downtown Raleigh," note the architects.

In contrast to the traditional frontage, the back of the home is surprisingly modern in an architectural style that’s been cheekily dubbed the "mullet."

Durable fiber-cement HardiePlank clads the rear facade.

Durable fiber-cement HardiePlank clads the rear facade.

The updated rear of the home features a south-facing deck that's sheltered by the upstairs addition and connects to the main floor living spaces.

The updated rear of the home features a south-facing deck that's sheltered by the upstairs addition and connects to the main floor living spaces.

"The finished house, once on the verge of being unrecoverable, now has another fifty years of service ahead," conclude the architects.

White oak tongue-and-groove flooring was used throughout the interior spaces.

White oak tongue-and-groove flooring was used throughout the interior spaces.

The kitchen counters are Cosmos Quartz and complemented with custom Dopko Cabinetry and a Soapstone backsplash.

The kitchen counters are Cosmos Quartz and complemented with custom Dopko Cabinetry and a Soapstone backsplash.

An informal eating space sits beneath the stair and next to the kitchen.

An informal eating space sits beneath the stair and next to the kitchen.

The new staircase was installed next to old windows on the east wall, and ascends to a light-filled hall above.

The new staircase was installed next to old windows on the east wall, and ascends to a light-filled hall above.

A look at the former floor plan on the ground level.

A look at the former floor plan on the ground level.

Here is the Nolintha Residence ground floor floor plan.

Here is the Nolintha Residence ground floor floor plan.

The Nolintha Residence section drawing.

The Nolintha Residence section drawing.

Project Credits: 

Architect of Record: in situ studio / @in_situ_studio

Builder/General Contractor: Southeastern Properties and Development Company

Structural Engineer: Lysaght & Associates

Lighting Design: in situ studio

Cabinetry Design: Dopko Cabinetry

Related: 10 Mullet Homes That Are Traditional in the Front, Modern in the Back