Million Dollar View

Brett and Ally Wells' Bloomsbury Estates penthouse
Brett and Ally Wells' Bloomsbury Estates penthouse

Think of the view of downtown from the Boylan Street bridge, then go seven stories up: You can’t help but be awed. 

Walking in to unit No. 706 at 710 Independence Place—the sprawling penthouse atop the Bloomsbury Estates—you see the towering windows in the giant cupola let in light from the east, illuminating downtown Raleigh’s skyline. Venturing up the spiral staircase behind the windows, you’re graced with a view of Dorothea Dix Park—at sunset, the most breathtaking time of day, the sky turns a hazy orange over the acres of grass. And during the holidays, you can see the twinkling lights of the condo’s Christmas tree all the way from Fayetteville Street. 

When Brett and Ally Wells sell their beautiful condo, it will be bittersweet. 

The couple purchased the unit in foreclosure in 2014, before the local and national housing markets rebounded, and the condo was a big blank space with, basically, a bunch of stuff ripped out (including the oven and a stereo system) that the previous owner had sold. Since then, the Wells family has built the home into exactly what they wanted, from the custom designed fireplace to the converted sunroom that’s now a nursery for their 8-month-old. 

“One day, I had this vision of opening up the fireplace with columns and art over it,” says Brett Wells, who created a design on graph paper and handed it to his interior designer. “I literally drew it from scratch.” 

The redone fireplace features glass on either side, lending a through-and-through effect, with a hand-blown glass sculpture created by Los Angeles artist Seth Parks in shades of blue hanging above it. The custom-made piece is inspired by Dale Chihuly, the visionary glass sculptor whose work was recently exhibited at the Biltmore Estate.

The sculpture will stay behind with the condo, partly because the couple feels it belongs with the fireplace and partly because it arrived from Los Angeles in eight boxes and, according to Wells, “about a million pieces” he had to assemble himself.

While the bar near the kitchen—also a Brett Wells design—was the couple’s first renovation project in the condo, most of the work wasn’t done until last January, when the pair moved out and rented an apartment downstairs for four months during the renovations.

“The guy who lived here before us threw all of these elaborate parties,” Wells says. “You almost feel like a steward of this condo. I felt like it was my job to return it to its full potential. It started with the mezzanine and snowballed from there.”

The mezzanine, located at the top of the spiral stairs, offers a 360-degree view of the city, an incredibly rare feature in a downtown condo. Other improvements include a large chandelier in the cupola, new floors, new paint, electric blinds, full surround sound speakers and a glass wine cellar that can store up to 168 bottles of wine.

“Living here is the embodiment of live, work, play downtown,” Wells says. “We like getting ready, having a glass of wine, walking to Poole’s or Barcelona and coming back to our space. It’s so nice to be in the middle of it all.”

Although they’ve finally transformed the condo into their ideal living space, the arrival of the couple’s baby—and a desire for a house on three-quarters of an acre—changed their priorities a bit. 

“We’ve gone as far as we could have with the space,” Wells says. “Our time here is coming to an end so someone else is going to have to continue the journey.”

the Wells family
The Wells family

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