In an effort to identify our city’s most beautiful homes, I took a stroll through Myers Park with Garret Nelson, one of Charlotte’s top residential designers. I know what I think is pretty, but I wanted to know why.
In addition to owning his own design firm — Garrett P. Nelson Studio — Garrett is an Adjunct Professor at Queens University for Interior Architecture + Design and Design Review Chairman for the Historic Landmarks Commission — he knows homes.
Our Walk: We started at the Duke Mansion, looped down Hermitage to Queens Road and back around.
Background on the neighborhood: The footprint for Myers Park — including the tree-lined streets — was designed by architect John Nolen and his assistant Earle Sumner Draper in 1911 as one of the city’s first suburbs. It’s always been a pocket of wealth, and as people started realizing the value of their land, Charlotte’s old money elite started selling properties in Myers Park and building in Eastover, another pocket of wealth.
Here are my favorite houses from our tour.
The Howard Madison Wade House (historic landmark)
1930 Colonial Revival by Charles Barton Keen of Philadelphia
Defining characteristics: Two sets of symmetrical chimneys; gabled (A-shape) book ends on either side of the center gable; four two-story narrow columns, two on each side of the entry; symmetrical windows.
Garrett’s take: Earle Sumner Draper, who helped design the Myers Park streetscape, did the landscaping design for this home. And what you see from the back is pretty similar to the original — you have formal landscaping, a serpentine driveway that circles a fountain and boxwoods lining the home.
The Henry McAden Home
1916 Italian Renaissance by Louis Asbury of Charlotte
Defining characteristics: Symmetrical facade; tan stucco veneer; neo-classical columns; shallow-pitched hip roof; green tile roof.
Garrett’s take: The parapets (the piece jutting out between the columns and the rooftop) of the two single-story bookends and the center portico create one strong visual line spanning the front of the home. Again, you see a ton of symmetry — from the windows on each side of the entry to the copper downspouts — which is typical of turn-of-the-century design.
The Lambeth-Gossett Home
1916 Bungalow-inspired home
Defining characteristics: Cedar siding with a stone water table (the bottom part); an asymmetrical stone chimney; huge porch; varied window sizes; rambling landscaping and facade; slate roof with exposed rafters.
Garrett’s take: I was shocked to find out bungalows can be this big. I always pictured Dilworth-style homes, and thought the term had more to do with scale — I was wrong. Garrett told me the materials used, type of roof, and movement away from the tradition of symmetry, etc. are what makes a home a bungalow.
2016 eclectic by Pursley Dixon Architecture
Defining characteristics: Garrett explained to me that Pursley/Dixon, as well as himself, tend to lean into eclectic design, which borrows from all types of styles to create something unique but still timeless. Garrett said he classifies this project as eclectic, but it also borrows some features you see used with a lot of homes in the Cotswold area.
“The prominent chimney design engages the pedestrian as you approach the site, a feature very common in Cotswold influenced designs,” he said, “along with the steep pitched cedar roof design, arched doorways and whitewashed brick veneer.” The flickering gas lanterns are also a nod to local architecture.
About Nolen Place: From the street, Nolen Place looks like a single-family home, but there are actually nine townhome units in this first phase — a second phase is being built beside the current site. The first phase is full, but they range from 2,900 to 3,900 square feet and sold around $1.5 million each.
What Garrett says: Garret showed me this as example of multi-family housing done really well — it’s a group of townhomes along one of the most beautiful streets in Charlotte (Queens Road) that still manages to grab your attention in a good way. He told me as multi-family housing grows in Charlotte, not very many are this “exquisitely crafted.”
“I will convey my emotions about the architecture solely as an admirer with a great appreciation,” Garrett said. “… I would consider this project to be, a work of art.”
The Stephens Home (historic landmark)
1915 Colonial Revival bungalow style by LL Hunter
Defining characteristics: Prominent slate roof; random windows; very unadorned portico with plain round columns; asymmetrical; varied design.
Garrett’s take: “I love this home with its whimsical street presence,” he said. There’s nothing symmetrical about this home, and it’s so interesting that it was built around the same time as more traditional colonial styles (like the first house in this list).
The Smith Home
1996 eclectic vernacular with shingle style & English influences by Bobby McAlpine
Defining characteristics: Cedar roof and siding work; dark green louvered doors, panels and shutter; Tuscan columns; triple-hung windows; hipped roof.
What Garrett says: “It is difficult to convey the intent and thought process of individual architects, but my personal design intent is to create homes that enable one to stop and “pause” for a moment, and this home absolutely does that for me,” Garrett said. “I love this home as well, especially the way it has a rambling English country home feel. Its presence along the street edge is so delicately designed and scaled.”
The Nesbit Home
1921 Tudor Style Revival by Martin Boyer of Charlotte
Defining characteristics: Stucco veneer; slate roof; mismatched roof lines; whimsical asymmetrical entry; rough sawn timber brackets.
What Garrett says: “This Martin Boyer Tudor Revival jewel is one of my favorite homes in Charlotte,” he said, “not only for its architecture, but I love its scale as well as its presence within the streetscape of Hermitage Court’s tree lined street and heavily landscaped center median.” Garrett also noted the way the garden works with the street as well as the home, which is an interesting way to think about architecture. He said “it’s various colors and textures creates a warm foreground to the understated elevation of the home.”