How One Couple Turned Their Traditional Brick Ranch Into a Striking Modern...

How One Couple Turned Their Traditional Brick Ranch Into a Striking Modern Home

When Stacy and Jeff Glass first moved to their Duke Forest home, they meant for it to be a pit stop before they could build dream home on 20 acres they owned in Chapel Hill. But plans change.

A dramatic overhang made of black steel and black locust wood, combined with a glass entryway and hardscapes, gives the home a defined entrance and a sleek, modern look.

When Stacy and Jeff Glass moved into their red brick ranch in Duke Forest in 2003, they meant it to be temporary until they could build their dream home on the 20 acres they owned in Chapel Hill. But as it turns out, all roads lead back to Durham.

Jeff is an electrical and computer engineering professor at Duke University. Stacy is the vice president for the MaterialWise initiative at the Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute and the founder of sustainable building materials company CaraGreen. Both have master’s degrees from Duke’s business school. Their home recently underwent an 18-month renovation to completely revamp its look. They added a deck to better integrate the home’s two parts – the main house and the former in-law suite, which serves as a TV room and Jeff ’s office.

A kitchen cutout opens up the space for entertaining. Exposed brick and sleek light fixtures add contemporary flair. “[Stacy] probably spent a thousand hours picking out light fixtures,” Jeff says. “It was totally worth it.”
A dramatic modern carport – black steel accented by black locust wood – gives the traditional mid-century home a contemporary flair. Alongside hardscapes created by Agape Lawn Company, Stone & Lawn Care and Tributary Land Design + Build, the new architecture by Will Rhodenhiser of Center Studio Architecture creates a curb appeal that didn’t exist when the couple purchased the property 15 years ago.“The first three times the real estate agent took us to this house I was like, ‘No, it’s the ugliest house I’ve ever seen,’” Stacy says. “You’d walk down this muddy path to the front door. … It had a really funny door; I think it was offset to the right. There wasn’t even a proper entrance. People were like, ‘How do I get into this house?’ And it was just totally overgrown.”

Interior designer Carrie Moore, who helped decorate the home, and Stacy share a glass of wine on the deck, which provides ample space for entertaining. Sourced from the same materials as the carport, the minimalist design puts the focus on the beauty of its natural surroundings.

Shortly after moving in, Jeff and Stacy renovated the master bathroom. Next, they tackled the backyard. “It was just a mud pit,” Jeff says. “You couldn’t really walk out there. There was no way to get around.” In addition to building a patio, Jeff created a rock garden that’s visible from Stacy’s downstairs office. “It’s really peaceful,” she says. “I’ve got great views everywhere.”

Soon, the couple found the 1940s-era kitchen intolerable for entertaining, and they started looking for a new home. But after checking out the market, they decided to stay put and renovate instead. They opened up the kitchen, and exposed a brick support beam that separates it from the hallway and living room. The counters, cabinets and other design elements were replaced – all with sustainability in mind. The countertop is made of recycled plastic. A glass backsplash was fashioned from recycled tiles. The reclaimed walnut cabinets are sourced from the Appalachian mountains. Black metal finishes tie in with the carport and deck.

The remodeled kitchen remains within its original footprint and features recycled and reclaimed materials.

The most recent renovations were completed last summer. In addition to the carport out front, a deck was added to the back. It features the same black locust wood – native to the Appalachians – and black steel used in the carport. The door to the deck features a handle that was custom made, like all the metalwork in this latest project, by Leo Gaev Metalworks of Carrboro. The project used a total of 7.6 tons of steel, according to the architect.

The deck is visible from the front of the house through the all- glass entryway, which connects the main house with the TV room and Jeff ’s office. The Glasses transformed it from a screened-in porch into a modern foyer, clearly defining the home’s entrance and bringing the two pieces of the house together. Now, the couple can easily transition from dinnertime to movie night without braving the elements; and their dog, Hope, has a new favorite place to relax and supervise the front yard.

The master bath was the first room in the home to be renovated.

The natural surroundings – the home is encompassed by trees on three sides, with a few in the front yard, too – are also a central focus indoors thanks to large living room windows, which are original to the house. The deck provides a view of trees and other foliage. Even Stacy, who has a severe sun sensitivity, can enjoy the sunlight streaming in thanks to the overhangs on the windows.

“These overhangs are such a lifesaver for me,” she says. “I can sit by the window, but I’m not getting direct sunlight. One thing that I did not appreciate when we moved into this house that has since become such an important part of my life is this idea, biophilia: that nature is healing and calming.”

While the couple enjoys the secluded feel of the home, they also love how close it is to Jeff ’s work and their favorite Durham spots. “It has been fantastic to come and go [from the office] any time I want without worrying how long it’s going to take,” Jeff says. “If I have to run home for something, it’s really easy.”

Stacy and Jeff can often be found at Cocoa Cinnamon, Parker and Otis, Baby Scratch or Saladelia Cafe. “We’re workaholics,” Stacy jokes. “So we’re like, ‘What’s a good place to spend a couple hours on your computer?’”

When they do leave the tech at home, they enjoy taking Hope to the farmer’s market or Duke Forest trails. Neither imagined they would call Durham home for the long haul, but the Bull City renaissance they’ve witnessed over the past decade and a half has changed their minds.

“We knew we wanted to retire in a college town, but Durham was not on our list,” Stacy says. “Now, with what’s happened downtown, we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re going to retire in Durham.’ … We’re both blown away by it. Durham grew up around us.”

As for that 20 acres in Chapel Hill? They just sold it.

“This is home forever,” Stacy says.

Photography by Briana Brough