Architect Shawn Leatherwood does not describe himself as an Arts & Crafts specialist. When asked about his company’s direction, the North Carolina designer says that they specialize in high-end custom homes. Yet he is especially proud of a four-year-old house that embodies beloved Arts & Crafts principles and hallmarks. The contemporary dwelling rambles down a steep hillside near Asheville.
The 4,000-square-foot house does not pretend to re-create the past. Main rooms flow in the manner of a 21st- century, open floor plan. Dramatic ceiling height and bold fenestration define main rooms; the luxurious amenities and size of the master bath were unheard-of when bungalows were new. Wall colors, too, follow today’s taste for subtle, greyed tones in a paler palette than was favored 100 years ago.
Still, the house is defined by skilled craftsmanship, the use of local materials, and carefully edited collections. Exterior cladding reflects the area’s natural history with cedar (both clapboards and shakes) and native stone. The interior boasts quarter-sawn white oak, black granite, leaded glass, mica, old Navajo rugs, original Arts & Crafts-period furniture, and reclaimed old-growth walnut flooring. Inside and out, the house is personal, organic, and defined by its location.
“The homeowners knew exactly what they wanted,” says Rick Barnard of Rutherford Millwork in nearby Forest City, N.C. He created the interior woodwork, including kitchen cabinets, doors, wainscots, staircases, crown molding, and ceiling coffers. “Shawn (Leatherwood) and I merely executed the owners’ thoughts and ideas.”
“We insisted on no huge interior spaces,” says one owner. “We interviewed ten architects, but chose Shawn because he understood our desire for a house that’s just big enough.”
The couple came to western North Carolina to be close to children and grandchildren. Leatherwood thus faced the challenge of creating a house that would be cozy for two, but also amenable to long visits from twelve or more family members. The round table in the hexagonal dining room, for example, is fine for two—but it expands to seat 12. The music room is just big enough for the grand piano—but there’s room for a small audience in the deep window seat.
Early on, the owners recruited interior designer Robert Forga to help furnish the interior. He augmented their antique collections with reproduction lamps and furniture. For cushions, sofas, and bedspreads, he found soft fabrics with gentle geometric and paisley patterns. “We considered draping the windows,” he continues, but “the view won out.”
To complement the collection of original Limbert and Stickley furniture, Linda Le Tard of Atlanta’s Patterson Furniture assembled new and re-issued L. & J.G. Stickley pieces, including kitchen counter stools and Morris chairs for the living room.
To furnish particular spaces, the homeowners turned to Swartzendruber Hardwood Creations of Goshen, Indiana. The custom furniture company created a nine-foot-long Greene and Greene-inspired hall table, a dining-room corner cabinet, and several occasional tables.
Robert Forga speaks warmly about the finished house. “Although the owners have collected beautiful objects, this is not a house of ‘things’,” he says, explaining the harmony in the mix of objects and rooms. “And the design is scaled to how the interior functions. There is no wasted space, and not a single ridiculously oversized room.”
Architect: M. Shawn Leatherwood & Associates: (828) 456-7529