Past , Present and Future
By Rob Foster
Charlopean is a term I use on occasion to describe the popular European architectural style that is so dominant in the Charlotte market. Whether it’s English cottage, French country or any of the many other styles around, everyone wants the same thing; a timeless look that has great curb appeal. I grew up in Charlotte and have seen many architectural styles come and go. Or get hot then not. I would like to discuss the past, present, and future of the styles I’ve witnessed.
The Charlotte area has always been a very traditional, builder driven market. The city was built on classic styles such as Georgian, Williamsburg, and the craftsman bungalow; just to name a few. These were very nice homes in scale and had a true presence. Fairly boxy in shape which meant they were easier to build. When you drive through Dilworth, notice the attention to detail on many of the older and even newer craftsman bungalows. Tapered wood columns sitting on a stone base, and eave brackets running up the large overhang rakes, these details are very indicative of the craftsman architectural style. Big porches and nicely proportioned square and rectangle windows tend to show off the home to the street. In the Meyers park area, it’s hard to believe that those big trees were small at one time. This was back when many of these styles such as Williamsburg and Georgian were known as big, brick boxes. If you look at the eave details, you may see dentil molding or blocks within a built-up boxing detail. Typically lower pitched roofs and you may even see a series of “boxes” built down the corner of the house. These boxes are called quoins. As with the craftsman and many other early Charlotte styles, simplicity, both interior and exterior, were very important. Good flow being critical. It was simple and easy to build, which meant it was affordable, assuming location didn’t kill you. After all, Meyers Park was once out in the country.
As we now travel to the present day, some of these styles that populated the past are still going strong. Some styles, like the craftsman bungalow are timeless and will continue to be built because of beautiful details and everyone loves a big front porch. It’s one of the most efficient styles because the floor plans tend to use the space wisely; utilizing the “what would have been attic space” as heated space and adding dormers for light. Also, the porches make the homes look bigger than they really are, satisfying the champagne taste on a beer budget. I still see new tear-down construction in the infill areas coming back as new and improved classic styles. Also the brick boxed are still being built because of the simplicity and very good use of the space. There is also the traditional 5/4 and a door look. In a traditional builder-driven market, you will always have this. As the 80’s and 90’s came and went, I saw our market asking for a new look. A look where you couldn’t tell what day of what month of what year the house was built.
This was the birth of the Charlopean movement. The simple thing to do initially was to give the traditional Ballantyne or Peninsula home a face lift with new “lipstick.” Increase the pitches and add some European details. As the year 2000 rolled around, the clients buying the homes wanted a more authentic look. The French country style started utilizing wood plank shutters with shutter dogs. (The dog is the metal bracket that holds the shutter against the house.) This was the true detail as it was done in the old country. You may also find a brick frieze detail up against the boxing. This was done a long time ago because it was easier for the wood and smooth brick to meet as opposed to a rougher stone façade and wood boxing. Typically indicative of steeper roof pitches, finials and arched windows in some areas. Next, the English cottage style home recognized by cedar and stone combination exterior and often cedar post w/ brackets, possibly a small copper roof somewhere. The addition of these new “timeless” looks just added to an already beautiful city.
Looking forward, there will be definite things that will happen to the architecture of our region. The growing popularity of “smart house” technology accepted by few will soon be a standard in the custom home market. Evident by many builders who have already adopted this change. It’s not necessarily a change in building, but rather giving the people what they are asking for, comfort and convenience. (I will be discussing these changes in upcoming articles.) There will also be a surge of more ornate and not so common styles, some of these being Tuscan, Mediterranean, and Tudor. The needs and flow of the floor plans will also change with the times. As an exercise, if you are in a home built before 1990, ask yourself what would you do differently? What rooms would you have or not have included? What conveniences would you like to have that is not present? Chances are that in today’s homes, most of those issues have been addressed and are common features in a custom home today. This exercise will also be true in the next 20 years. A home should reflect and adapt to how a family lives. As Charlotte grows in both size and population, so will the areas around us. The mountains continue to grow strong with many new exclusive neighborhoods; some of these homes are primary and some secondary. The high country craftsman (aka the Colorado look) is becoming more popular and will eventually make a presence closer to Charlotte; assuming the architectural guidelines will allow it. The planet is going green and architecture will follow. From appliances to solar homes, the definition of green is very broad. Homeowners believe it is the right thing to do from a responsibility standpoint and we will see small pockets of green neighborhoods begin to flourish. The use of glass in certain areas and the home orientation on the lot will grow in importance.
A summary of my views regarding the architectural styles in the Charlotte area can be summed up with the phrase “freedom of style”. The difference here as opposed to other areas is that we can accommodate so many styles in such a tight proximity. As a designer the task of constantly staying on top of what’s coming can be daunting. All I can say is that we are in for some very, very exciting new looks.
3440 Toringdon Way Suite 205 Charlotte, NC. 28277
704-927-5854 cell 704-634-0654