A Downtown Retreat

A Downtown Retreat

Steve and Jan Capps' condo at McCorkle Place is their take on a vacation home.



Steve and Jan Capps both have decades of corporate America behind them. “I wouldn’t say we’ve retired,” Steve says of the couple today. “I would say we’ve changed direction.” When searching for a space to come home to after days spent on philanthropic and entrepreneurial pursuits, Chapel Hill was a no-brainer.

“We were only looking in Chapel Hill. It’s got so much energy,” Jan says. “It’s got concerts. It’s got kids. It’s got vibrancy. There’s always something to do. And it’s beautiful!” Plus, the alumni fit in here. “Our business lives were more like, you go to an office or you go on a business trip,” Jan says. “Now, we can work from home and work remotely. In a way, our lives might seem more like a young person’s life, sort of cobbled together from lots of different opportunities.”

The couple’s condominium at McCorkle Place, from the outside, is in the middle of all the action on East Franklin Street. But inside, an incredible art collection and sophisticated decor make for a quiet sanctuary.

Where The Art Is

In the interest of full disclosure, “we receive our mail at Wrightsville Beach,” Jan says. That’s where she was raised, and where the couple relocated after spending their working lives in Greensboro. But many connections from their college years and careers remained in the Triangle, as well as their two grown children and their grandchildren. Two Thanksgivings ago, Steve and Jan calculated how many trips they had made to this region: more than 50. That was the tipping point. They began searching for a second home around here.

When the couple first toured their unit in the condominiums at McCorkle Place – a discreet brick building tucked between University Presbyterian Church and East Franklin Street’s sorority houses – they were struck by its homey, neighborhood feel. But then “Jan walked in the door, saw that wall, and said, ‘You know that painting would fit here,’” Steve remembers. “And that was it.”

“That painting” is a massive diptych, “Lowcountry,” that spans the entire length of their dining wall. Charlotte artist Andy Braitman painted it, and the couple acquired it years ago. It had never quite fit in their Wrightsville Beach home, but they had been making do. Now, the painting stars on an accent wall along an open room divided into both dining and living areas – it doesn’t just fit, it anchors the space.

“Lowcountry,” a massive diptych by Charlotte artist Andy Braitman, stands out in the dining room, but the piece to the far right, by Chapel Hill artist Rose Warner, is special as well.

‘Home Away From Home’

Steve and Jan purchased their condo last summer – while they knew where “Lowcountry” would go, they sought the advice of a decorator for their rest of their art. As it tends to go in Chapel Hill, in Greg Tuchek and Betsy Hayes of Franklin Street Design (within Peacock Alley at University Mall), the couple found more than interior design. “Their ideas were great,” Steve says. “One of the benefits of doing business with Greg and Betsy is that we made two friends. They were a lot of fun.” It’s a sentiment echoed by the design team. “Jan and Steve are a dynamic and delightful couple,” Betsy says.

Betsy and Greg conceptualized the condo as an “ideal setting for an ideal [art] collection,” she says. And, Greg adds, “we created a home away from home.”

“A special treat,” says Betsy, “was an opportunity to explore their fondness for purple.” Indeed, window treatments of lavender Designer’s Guild fabric set the tone, with custom coordinating upholstered chairs in the sitting room and living room pillows to match. It’s just a shade they like. “Every home we’ve had has leaned toward having lavender,” Jan says simply.

Since one uniform color runs throughout, it becomes a neutral backdrop for the art collection. “Most of the art in here predates this place,” Steve says, so the couple’s goal was to showcase what they already had. Among their pieces are a few by local painter and weaver Rose Warner, “Pages 4 and 5” from “Goodnight Carolina” by Elaine O’Neil and a modern piece – “Nine Phases” by Lew Graham – that the couple scored from a FRANK fundraising auction. Most of their art hangs at eye level; it’s a straightforward presentation that helps create an overall ambiance of effortless luxury. Betsy describes the finished product as “remarkable, because it is both eclectic and cohesive and, finally, comfortable.”

Steve and Jan love purple tones. “Every home we’ve had has leaned toward having lavender,” Jan says.

Settling In

Comfort was and is the ultimate goal. “We certainly wanted this to feel homey,” Jan says. “We feel pretty lucky to be able to call two places home. We recognize how lucky we are,” Steve says. “And this is a good living space.”

It suits their Chapel Hill lifestyle, which they have approached in a unique way. “We love summer in Chapel Hill,” Jan says. “Compared to the beach, where our other home is – that’s where everybody is. It’s nice for us to be here in the summer, during the peaceful time, and then to be at the beach more in the winter, when tourists are gone.” They love to host friends for Carolina games – Steve’s the football fan, Jan is the men’s basketball fan, and women’s basketball has become a newfound joint favorite – concerts at Memorial Hall and jaunts to DPAC and The Carolina Theatre. Plus, “the walking here is terrific. We do a lot of that,” Jan says. “If you’re bored in Chapel Hill, it’s your fault.”

And now they’ve got the perfect launch pad. “It’s really not hard to get folks to come visit when you live in Chapel Hill,” Steve says. “We’re just the window dressing.” CHM

Photography by Briana Brough

Jessie is a former Chapel Hill Magazine editor-turned freelance culture writer based in Chapel Hill. She tends to structure her days around a morning cup of coffee and evening glass of wine.