Old House, New Rules

Photographs by Keith Isaacs

The first thing that strikes you upon entering the Carroll-Helms House on Wake Forest Road is a gorgeous, wooden open-riser staircase. Located directly in the middle of the re-envisioned 1920s masonry structure, the staircase “opens up the home like a zipper, vertically connecting the upstairs and downstairs spaces and bringing light into the house,” says architect Robby Johnston, co-owner of the Raleigh Architecture Company and Raleigh Construction Company, who oversaw the home’s design and construction. Johnston says he intentionally incorporated the staircase into the very middle of the square home in the design, in order to add volume and let in natural light via sky lights; building the staircase was one of the first interior projects his team tackled and the rest of the house was constructed around it. Johnston notes that the natural surroundings of the home played a crucial role in its new design, including where the sun shines in relation to the structure, where the breezes are felt and where the shade from surrounding trees falls. Another crucial part of the project was preserving as much of the original structure as possible, per the homeowners’ request. Johnston and designer and project manager Taylor Medlin saved the existing first floor walls and foundation, but removed 12 feet off of the back of the house to provide space for landscaping and a garage. They also incorporated a capacious double-story porch on the back of the home, with bold black brick and warm wooden panels that mirror the front. The home’s blend of elegance and modernity is especially pronounced given its location, situated between two more classical-style homes. Johnston strived to strike a balance between the traditional one-story home on the left and a three-story home on the right by incorporating a flat, thermoplastic membrane roof on the two-story Carroll-Helms house. The home’s design creates a comfortable stepping effect between its neighbors while capturing the attention of passersby from the road.