the motifs of the colonial revival
Traditional American conventions and motifs have never looked better than in this beautifully interpreted home by the renowned architect, in North Carolina.
Houses and rooms ordered symmetry, andof thea sweet revival simplicity:have an Wing chairs sit by the hearth. Antiques are relics of a shared past. Colonial Revival conventions of the 20th century interpret the good old days as we wish they had been. This house in North Carolina shows how comforting the style can be. It was built in 1949 by evangelist Dr. Jimmie Johnson, a personal friend of the Reverend Billy Graham. Initially a straightforward, gableend “garrison Colonial” with a jetty on the fa•ade, it’s a solid postwar example. The designer was Boston architect Royal Barry Wills (1895-1962), the renowned proponent of adapting traditional New England house designs, especially Capes (but also garrisons, saltboxes, and church buildings).
“My approach, both here and in my clients’ homes, is to create warmth using American Colonial motifs with functional furniture,” says the owner of this house.
Wills’s nostalgic houses nevertheless were modern, built from the start to include electric kitchens, ductwork, closets, and mid-century bathrooms. This one has been lovingly updated and decorated in fine tradition. “My approach, both here and in my clients’ homes, is to create warmth using American Colonial motifs with functional furniture,” says Lucille Vuncannon, the homeowner and decorator. “For furnishings, I mix New England antiques, painted Southern furniture, and the Baroque. I also have a passion for fabrics,” Lucille adds—“toile, embroidery, documentary prints, flamestitch, tapestry, damask, checks and plaids, and fringe.” The result is layered rooms, old-fashioned but not fussy, offering familiarity and comfort.
The house was in good condition when the Vuncannon family bought it in 1987. They were determined to keep it authentic, and in fact even upgraded a few details in period style. Lucille is an interior designer, and Wade Vuncannon is a building contractor specializing in period-appropriate renovations; it was their son Randy, a residential designer, who drew plans for the additions. The house needed the usual system updates: central HVAC, plumbing, and wiring. Dormers expanded living space on the third floor, and the house was reroofed in cedar shakes.
The biggest project was removing the roof on the back of the house, raising it to a two-storey gambrel that accommodates a master bath with closets and laundry above, and adding eight feet to the family room (where a salvaged 1830 mantel was installed at the new fireplace). The couple had salvaged materials before, in a previous project using heart-pine flooring, wain-
scoting, doors, and a staircase from two dismantled ca. 1820–30 houses, as well as stone from the chimney of an old summer kitchen. Original heart-pine floors remain in this house, released now from the carpeting and linoleum that had covered them. The flooring was matched in additions.
Two of the finer elements are actually upgrades. The front door, once very plain, has been replaced with a custom crossbattened door featuring arched lights (windows). In another deft redesign, a bookcase with adjustable shelves was replaced by a round-top niche cabinet in the living room, complete with bold mouldings and a wood “keystone.”
The redesigned kitchen is classic with raised-panel woodwork and an iron cooktop set into an apparent worktable in a hearthlike alcove. The breakfast room and butler’s pantry were added during renovation. The finely finished pantry is the ultimate Colonial Revival type, with white enamel-painted display and storage cabinets featuring Shaker knobs. Emblematic motifs in the breakfast room include arch-top cabinets, an iron chandelier, painted country Windsors, and a checkerboard floorcloth. Colorful printed valances with ball fringe hang over the taped Venetian blinds.
The sun parlor or sunporch was a favorite in many early
20th-century homes, especially for Colonial and Dutch Colonial types. The sunroom in this house was added at the same time as the butler’s pantry. Lucille designed the quintessential revival window treatments featuring a scalloped, structured pelmet (valance) and side panels in a floral print. The painted corner cabinet here is an antique Pennsylvania piece. With its salvaged 1830 Federal fireplace mantel displaying a collection of pewter, the expanded family room is more nostalgically “Colonial.” Federal woodwork was designed to match the mantel. Windsors and banister-back chairs surround a center table. Symmetrical arrangements give a welcome sense of order throughout the interior, where rooms boast a tall-case clock, Queen Anne mirrors, a piecrust table, venerable cupboards and display cabinets, and reupholstered wing chairs. “I’m also an antiques dealer,” Lucille says, “so we were able to furnish almost completely with antiques. The beds, however, are reproductions of the period. We believe in comfort, first!”
OPPOSITE A Queen Anne mirror hangs over the Hepplewhite-style sideboard. Note the symmetrical arrangement of ceramics. Windsor chairs are reproduction. LEFT The original staircase has a Federal-era design. These owners replaced the plain front door with this more authentic version.
ABOVE The second-floor overhang makes it a Garrison Colonial. The current owners added the dormers to extend third-floor space.
BELOW Additions follow original roof pitch and proportions.
In the living room, Georgian-style wainscot and paneling on the fireplace wall are original; woodwork was painted in a historical color over the previous stain.
OPPOSITE In the kitchen, the cooktop is set into a hearth-like alcove. The white-enameled butler’s pantry is in the addition. These rooms were redesigned by the owners. LEFT The sunny breakfast room, part of the addition, features a floorcloth beneath painted country chairs and a scrub-top hutch table. BELOW With its brick floor, the keeping room was part of an original back porch. Yellow-ware and French tole is displayed on the blue-painted European cupboard with racks.