Alice Cramer’s clients purchased their three-story Myers Park townhome knowing they’d have to remodel it. The home had been unoccupied since 1985, when the original owner built it. The floor plan lacked functionality, and the finishes were outdated, so the homeowners hired the Atlanta-based designer to oversee the remodel.
“When I first came up to see it, I thought they’d made an enormous mistake,” says Cramer, who lived in Charlotte for a few years in the late ’80s and early ’90s. “The home is only 24 feet wide, so it’s very vertical, with surprises on every floor. It was a conundrum to make it feel modern.”
But Cramer had done a similar overhaul of the homeowner’s sister’s townhouse in Atlanta, so they knew she could handle this project. Cramer enlisted the help of Atlanta-based architect Caroline Rolader to remove most of the interior walls and start over with the layout.
The renovation included new front and rear entrances; a custom kitchen; an updated primary suite; a double-sided fireplace between the living room and patio; and rectangular limestone throughout the first floor and on the front and rear terraces. Cramer used a neutral color palette and wood accents and furniture for a clean, modernist look.
Modernism, Cramer explains, often gets confused with contemporary design, but the two are actually very different. Modern design originated at the turn of the 19th century, when industrialization led to the mass production of homes, furniture, and affordable, machine-made products. Both midcentury modern, which was popular in the ’40s through the ’60s, and postmodern design evolved from modern design.
Contemporary design doesn’t align with a specific era because it’s constantly evolving. It’s the style of today, which means it will look different in 50 years.
Cramer says the modernist look has grown popular with empty-nesters like these clients, who have purged the kid clutter and no longer have to worry about sharp edges or sticky fingerprints. “They want a modern, fresh look, and they want to use some but not all of their old pieces,” she says. “There are several midcentury pieces in this house that we purchased and mixed with different furniture styles.”
In the living room, a Sharon Shapiro painting hangs on a slatted wood wall that surrounds the double-sided Isokern fireplace. Cramer added a thin brass rim between the slatted wood and the slate gray stone to set off the hearth. The midcentury sofa came from Verellen, and the NIBA rug and limestone-and-metal coffee table are both custom. The French doors open to a patio with basket weave floor lanterns and a mix of outdoor furniture from Gloster and DEDON.
Cramer had a dining table custom-made after the homeowner sold her previous set. The midcentury chandelier is Julian Chichester, and the vintage sideboard is from Westside Modern in Atlanta. The rug came from the homeowners’ previous home.
The powder room, which Cramer says is large in comparison to the rest of the rooms, called for something dramatic. After they decided on a floating vanity, they chose a Kelly Wearstler patterned wallpaper that Cramer calls “kind of explosive.” The burnished brass mirror and sconces bring another splash of modernism.
Because the kitchen has no walls that separate it from the dining room or living room, Cramer knew this “pass-through” space had to make a statement. Round glass pendant lights hang on either side of the vent hood, which is flush with the ceiling. They installed gray stone flooring, white cabinetry with brushed nickel hardware, marble countertops, and Thermador appliances. The Palecek bar stools have an espresso finish and custom upholstered cushions, and the columns on either side of the island have reeded detail for visual interest.
The homeowners used the bed and chaise lounge from their previous home in the primary bedroom and added just a few accents and new bedside tables. In the primary bathroom, Cramer installed custom cabinetry and ran the tile up the wall behind the mirrors for a “nice, layered feel.”
Because the yearlong renovation overlapped with COVID, Cramer stored a lot of the custom pieces in Atlanta and moved everything to Charlotte at the same time on installation day. The result is a look she calls “softly modern.”
“You’re incorporating modern elements and styles but softening that with texture and color,” she says. “It’s a mix, so you don’t get tired of it, and it doesn’t get dated. Whenever you mix styles, it becomes timeless.”
TAYLOR BOWLER is the lifestyle editor.
Modernist design with clean lines and minimal decor
Modern interior design originated in the late 19th century and gained a following throughout the first half of the 20th. Both midcentury modern (popular in the ’40s through ’60s) and postmodern design evolved from modern design.
Dining Room Acrylic Panels
Dining Room Chandelier
Living Room Sofa
Living Room Rug
Living Room Painting
Powder Room Sconces
Powder Room Wallpaper