Contemporary and Comfortable Oasis in Duke Forest

Contemporary and Comfortable Oasis in Duke Forest

The Morgan family left their old digs in Ohio to put down roots in this bright, spacious Durham home


Sally and Mike Morgan decided to make a clean break from most of their old furniture when they moved from Ohio just two years ago and start anew with a contemporary touch in their bright, 3,000-square-foot, 4-bedroom, 3-bath Duke Forest home. With the help of local shops and services, the family created a comfortable oasis: Pretty, yet durable enough to withstand life with their golden Labs, Hercules and Molly, and sons, Ryan, 15, and Michael, 20.


When you open the front door into the living room, “it’s just all windows and light,” Sally says, which creates the family Labradors’ favorite element: the sunny spots they seek out for naps. “We’re not fancy people,” Sally says. “This is where we live.” When designing this space, “we needed something comfortable and sturdy – we have two boys and two dogs – but still pretty at the same time.”

What Sally hoped to achieve, with the help of interior designer Maria Siegel of Goldenrod Place Interiors, was “livable.” Older furniture, like Mike’s beloved recliner, was scrapped for new, contemporary pieces. But, “this chair with that stool, works just as well [for him],” Sally says.


Maria helped Sally bring her newfound style to life. “We have similar tastes,” Sally says of Maria, “and she was awesome in helping me take a few things that were my grandmother’s, things that make it a little bit eclectic, and mix them with the new.” For example, the new dining room set, which Sally notes is among her favorite pieces, and new curtains are highlighted by her grandmother’s glassware.


“It looked like a wasted space,” Sally says of the outdoor area between the garage and dining room. “When we looked at the house, there was nothing out there … I had a hard time visualizing what it could be.” But a friend from out of town helped her imagine the space. For one nook that’s in shadow almost all of the day, they picked out shade-loving plants. The result is a European-esque patio, filled with ferns, ivy, a hosta and a hydrangea, which receives “just enough sun to bloom,” Sally says.


One would think the patio would be the perfect spot for morning coffee, but Sally prefers the back deck instead, looking out to their just-shy-of-an-acre lot. “We have the bird feeders and so much wildlife out here,” she explains. “We’ve seen foxes, owls and deer.” Surrounded by a blushing Rosa Sherman plant, it is the perfect place to start the day on a cheerful note.

“We love it out here,” she says of the outdoor space. Not only does she have her special spot on the deck, but Mike has his area, too: The backyard’s putting green, which was crafted from a company out of Charlotte.

“The putting green is a peaceful place to decompress after a long day,” Mike says.

Sally uses it, too, but admits, “This is my husband’s. This is what he really wanted.”


And the boys? Their hangout is around the firepit built by Blake Murray of Murray’s Landscape Maintenance & Horticultural Services. “It’s far enough away from the house that when it gets dark outside, it feels like you’re out in the woods,” Ryan says.

The family also enjoys the path just past the pit, which leads to the Levin Jewish Community Center. “We walk over there to work out,” Sally says. “The location is amazing.”


One of Maria and Sally’s splurges was an accent wall in the master bedroom decorated with handmade wallpaper from England. “It took forever to get it, but it was worth it,” Sally says. To further accentuate the wallpaper’s artistry, the rest of the room’s decor was kept simple: white bedding and a gray color palette. “Outside is what we really want to look at,” Sally says.


The home the Morgans left in Ohio “lent itself to traditional things,” Sally says. Furniture she had collected and inherited over the years fit right in. But, even though it was, “all very nice stuff, it never really was my stuff,” she says. “Coming here, I was able to finally have my style,” which she calls “eclectic”: a mix of contemporary with personal touches, the new with the old. Take, for example, this painting in the living room created by Sally’s mom in Missouri, paired with this console table found at Once & Again. “Those little details that are more personal for us, make [the home] that much more special,” Sally says.


Sally and Mike moved to Durham when Mike’s job at Burlington’s LabCorp brought them to the area. Son Michael, who attends Washington University in St. Louis, had just wrapped up high school in Ohio, and Mike and Sally knew they wanted to send their younger son, Ryan (far right), to Durham Academy. Their house hunt quickly narrowed on Duke Forest. “Mike bought the house without me,” Sally says. “He knew it was our house.” In this market, they learned, you need to act swiftly to purchase successfully. So, Mike took a chance, and, “he did a great job,” Sally adds.

Photography by Briana Brough