Couple Finds Dream Home in Cleveland-Holloway Craftsman

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This nearly 100-year-old Craftsman beckoned John Burns and Rodney Carvalho from the West Coast

John Burns and Rodney Carvalho's Cleveland-Holloway home.

By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson

It was love at first sight,” John Burns says, describing when he met Rodney Carvalho in San Francisco in 2001. But he could just as easily be talking about the couple’s first impressions of their home in Cleveland-Holloway.

Ralph Hardy, Anu Kumar, Ariyah and Chanel pay Rodney (center) and John (right) a visit. The front porch was a popular hangout for neighbors and friends during the height of the pandemic.

“This house is what brought us to Durham in 2018,” Rodney says. “I loved [it] so much and said, ‘If I could live in this house, I’d move there tomorrow.’”

The pair had lived in big cities like Boston and San Francisco for about 18 years, but had lifelong friends in the Triangle – many of whom John met while attending UNC for his graduate degree in anthropology.

The kitchen island is made of wood salvaged from the attic.

“I had made a lot of good friends here and through the years since, and people either stayed here after school or had moved back to the area to raise their families,” John says. “It’s always been a really desirable place to live, and I’ve held it in the back of my head.”

The primary suite features more rustic wooden touches and is thoughtfully divided by soft green drapery to accommodate Rodney’s meditation area hidden behind the curtains.

Rodney is connected to North Carolina as well; raised in a military family, his dad was based in Fayetteville for a number of years when Rodney was a child. “I never thought I’d be back here, but actually have a number of relatives and cousins in North Carolina,” Rodney says. “[It’s] been cool to reconnect with them.

“We visited Durham regularly for holidays over the years and were really impressed by the changes that were happening between each visit,” he adds.

After years as renters, the couple was ready to invest in a home they could call their own. “We were being outbid left and right in California,” John says. “We weren’t sure what to do, and after a certain point, we weren’t even excited about living there anymore.”

Rodney and friends enjoy the multipurpose room in his Cleveland-Holloway home.
Chanel Chambers, Ariyah Chambers April and Rodney sit in the multipurpose room that functions as his home office, a movie room and a guest space complete with a Murphy bed, which is behind Rodney.

Ready for a new chapter, the husbands sent Terra Nova Global Properties Realtor Ed Billings to scope out this house and street for them. “Ed told us it was super cute and that we would love it, and he was absolutely right,” Rodney says. “He said it had been taken off the market, but a few hours later, we learned the former owners were open to an offer.” The next day, Rodney and John learned their offer was accepted – they would be moving to Durham. “It was a little crazy, but we are so happy here,” Rodney says.

The dining area connects the living room and kitchen with sparkling, glossy details in the chandelier and table.
The wooden staircase adds a touch of warmth to the cool tones on the main floor.

“It has been everything we hoped for and then some,” John says. He and Rodney barely had to undertake any projects in the 1924 Craftsman, thanks to the care of previous owners. The pair added a few cosmetic and functional touches, like a mudroom bench at the back entrance, as well as a kitchen backsplash, lighting and fresh paint throughout, but otherwise found it move-in ready. “It’s a beautiful home,” John says, “we knew that coming in, but after living in big cities like we have, we’ve never had this much space before.”

The multipurpose room also boasts a spacious full bath with a double sink vanity for overnight guests.

The couple, for instance, shared their first 10 years together in a 550-square-foot home in San Francisco. “We’ve always either had neighbors on all sides of us, or little quirks to get used to,” Rodney says. “Having a single-family home is a new experience for us, but it’s one we’ve grown into.”

A Maxfield Parrish print brightens the front room, where Rodney enjoys playing the baby grand.

They’ve carved out room in the house for their work and hobbies, too, like a fabric divider in their bedroom to provide a quiet meditation area for Rodney. They even have space for a baby grand piano in the living area. “I’ve always wanted one, but we never had room,” Rodney says. “This space almost called out for it, to be honest,” John adds. “When we put the rooms together, we said, ‘What’s going to go there?’ And now we can’t imagine not having it.”

John, Rodney and friends enjoy drinks at their Cleveland-Holloway home.
The kitchen island serves as a natural gathering spot for a round of drinks with friends.

John and Rodney especially enjoy entertaining, cooking meals in the home’s large kitchen, where the upcycled wood island anchors the space and provides a natural gathering spot; or watching movies in the sizable entertainment room. They’ve also befriended neighbors, another new experience. “We’re friends with people nearby, and we have one another over for dinners or drinks,” Rodney says. “We knew our neighbors in Boston, but it wasn’t the same,” John adds.

The updated kitchen offers plenty of useful storage and floating shelves for quick, easy-to-grab items.

“The location is great and so is the neighborhood,” Rodney says. “I like the feel of it, the energy. A lot of people are moving here, so it feels really vibrant.” In the nearly five years they’ve been here, the pair has already observed a shift. “We used to recognize everyone, and now all of a sudden it’s growing so fast,” Rodney says. “It feels like we’re living through a reboot of the city,” John adds.

“It’s just so easy to be here,” John says of their new home city.

The home’s proximity to downtown’s ever-expanding food and culture scene was a large part of its appeal. “We can walk to shows at DPAC and games at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park,” Rodney says. “We like to see classical music performances, and Duke University has a lot of great opportunities for that.”

The home’s bright entryway leads into the open-plan living area.

Rodney, an engineering manager for food delivery company Goldbelly, travels to New York City regularly for work. While he enjoys the hustle and bustle, he says one of his favorite parts of those trips is coming home. “You can relax here,” he says. “It’s literally a breath of fresh air.”

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Morgan Weston

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