Among Chapel Hill’s archetypal stately historic homes, Jeremy Salemson’s on Country Club Road stands out. Rich caramel-colored stained wood shutters and doors accent the cream brick exterior, and gas lanterns offset a lawn studded with stones and natural paths. The effect is soothing and sophisticated with a laid-back flair. “I love it. I love it,” says Jeremy, earnestly but not effusively. “I love being here. I can’t say it enough.”
To create the next-to-campus sanctuary, he employed smart design to celebrate the bones of a house built in 1948.
‘My Own Footprint’
This isn’t Jeremy’s first home – he’s built a few from the ground up and has seen dozens more while running the residential mortgage banking company, Corporate Investors Mortgage Group, he co-founded almost 20 years ago. But when he bought this house in May 2013, he knew he’d keep most of it intact and add on. “Renovations are much more difficult,” says Jeremy, “for the obvious reason that you just don’t know what you’re getting into.”
Sometimes with an old house, hiccups are mitigated by pleasant discoveries. While an old magnolia tree root had wreaked havoc on a part of the foundation, which meant a more expensive and elongated renovation process, the updated upstairs attic also yielded beautiful brick beneath drywall.
Also luckily, the home’s previous owners had made significant updates. “It was a good foundation,” Jeremy says.
Much of his work, then, was to build upon the already solid ground. “I wanted to expand the house a little bit, just to give the kitchen more room. And I wanted to make it my own footprint.”
That footprint is well-used. “We utilized really almost every square inch of this house,” Jeremy says. An awkward space along the upstairs stairwell became a TV-and-Wii nook, complete with oversize lounge chair and ottoman; the refinished upstairs attic became a bachelor’s suite.
There’s a dose of freewheeling creativity, too, in the 3,450-sq.-ft. home. What was traditionally used as a formal dining room is now “probably my favorite room of all,” Jeremy says. “I call it the art room.” Instead of a dining room table, there’s a huge island strewn with LEGOs and paper and colored pencils. Chalkboard paint bedecks one wall. It’s HQ for Jeremy’s daughter, Kate, 12, and son, James, 11. “It’s a place where they have dedicated space to be creative. For the most part, technology is removed. They can truly focus instead of looking at a device. I love to see the kids in there creating stuff, whatever that may be.”
Through the art room’s doorway is the kitchen: stone floors herringboned with a stained wood inlay, wall-size windows that crank open, a reclaimed-wood-and-local-iron table handmade by Bull City Designs in Durham, two massive, gleaming hoods suspended from the high ceiling. This is the new part of the footprint, the place where solid old elements meet polished new ones for a simultaneously rustic and stately elegance.
There’s also the detached garage building, built to mirror the original home but entirely a new construction. Upstairs, Jeremy constructed a comfortable home office with a wood-burning fireplace as its focal point. “If you’re going to have to work somewhere every day, you might as well go to a space that feels comfortable,” he says.
[The art room] is a place where they have dedicated space to be creative. For the most part, technology is removed. They can truly focus instead of looking at a device.
I love to see the kids in there creating stuff, whatever that may be.
A space that feels homey describes the entire property. “What’s nice about it is you’re so close to everything. We have the energy of the university, and the kids and I will ride our bikes into Carrboro to have dinner. And yet right here, at home, it feels like we’re a world away.”
Photography by Briana Brough