Inside the Renovation of a 1950s Ranch-Style Home in Duke Forest

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Dr. Fatima Rangwala and Dr. Yousuf Zafar recently redesigned their Duke Forest ranch to create an intentional space built for their family

family
Yousuf, Hala and Fatima outside of their dreamy Duke Forest home.

By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson

Dr. Fatima Rangwala and Dr. Yousuf Zafar met in the mid-1990s while pursuing their undergraduate degrees at the University of Chicago. After completing their medical degrees at University of Cincinnati and The University of Toledo, respectively, the pair continued their training at Duke University. “We moved to Durham and said, ‘Alright, we’ll be in the South for three years, and then we’re out of here,’” Yousuf says. 

That was 16 years ago. Their daughter, Hala Zafar, was born around that three-year mark, and the family decided to put down roots for good, purchasing a midcentury ranch in Duke Forest. “We had previously lived in Trinity Park, and everything in that home had a lot of character,” Yousuf says. “But this home, by contrast, just feels so sturdy and intentional.” 

Duke Forest ranch
The family enjoys playing games, reading and hanging out in the family room, which boasts original built-in wooden storage cabinets. “There is no TV in here,” Fatima Rangwala says. “That was intentional.”

“We were drawn to this neighborhood for the midcentury modern aesthetic, as well as the large backyards,” Fatima adds. The home’s previous owners had undertaken a number of renovations, but Fatima and Yousuf had big dreams of how to make the spaces work even better for their family. 

Dr. Fatima Rangwala and Dr. Yousuf Zafar
The living room features stunning works of craftsmanship, like the coffee table by Elijah Leed and a vintage, midcentury brass sculpture by Marc Weinstein hanging on the wall.

“The first thing we did was the screened porch, back in 2015,” Yousuf says. “That’s actually what drew us to this house – we immediately envisioned a private nook in the backyard,” Fatima says. The screened porch addition, designed by Sara Lachenman of Four Over One Design, parallels the carport at the home’s opposite end, creating a tucked-away courtyard at the center, which is perfect for bird-watching and relaxing. “We love to sit, eat and just enjoy being outside,” Fatima says. 

screened porch
The addition of a screened porch was the first project the family took on when they moved in, and it remains a favorite place to eat and unwind.

“What really made the screen porch work beautifully was that we were able to mimic the patterns of the original architecture,” Sara says. “For example, every bedroom has a corner window, so we kept everything offset – even the gable – to give the porch the same open corner. Those details in the build by Cadence Construction, combined with amazing landscape design by Environs Landscaping, have really helped the home evolve into its best midcentury modern self.”

Duke Forest ranch

That initial project blossomed into many more – including two bathroom renovations, a new deck and landscaping, and a kitchen remodel, all completed in summer 2021. Fatima and Yousuf again turned to Cadence Construction for the work. “They are the ideal clients,” says Kristy Gibson, director of operations for Cadence. “We specialize in restoring and renovating these older homes for how families live today, and we are so glad to be part of their ongoing story.” 

“We actually have the original blueprints for the home, and it included a sewing room off the kitchen,” Fatima explains. “I can’t even sew a button on anything, but we did need storage, so [owner] Todd [Hershberger] and the team at Cadence helped us convert it into pantry space.” 

patio
The updated landscaping provides the entertaining oasis Yousuf and Fatima dreamed of when they bought the home; now they can enjoy it with friends and neighbors like Anna and her husband, Dr. David Halpern.

The kitchen renovation also included new cabinetry, open shelving and quartzite counters. Ben Sheehy of BAMPRO designed the custom range hood, and the backsplash is handmade Moroccan tile. “It took a long time to set, because they aren’t all the exact same shape,” Fatima says. “Cadence and all of its contractors are artists.” The newly opened breakfast nook awaits a custom table by furniture designer Elijah Leed, which will be accented by a large-scale Darius Quarles painting. “We really try to keep it as Durham as possible around here,” Yousuf says. 

family room
The family room includes a table for games – like Monopoly, as Hala, Izzy Halpern, 12, and Theo Halpern, 9, demonstrate – puzzles and studying. The photos above the original fireplace were taken by Yousuf.

Interior designer Kate Dwornik in Chapel Hill helped weave together the family’s eclectic collection of local and global art with the home’s clean 1950s architecture. “A lot of the artwork we have is from our travels all over the world, and it’s both a nice reminder of the places we’ve been and [also] helps us to appreciate home and this place that we love,” says Yousuf, whose own photography is also featured in the family room. 

Though pandemic supply chain disruptions caused a few hiccups with materials, Cadence also completed the work for the two bathroom remodels last summer – both Hala’s (she selected all the finishes herself) and the guest bathroom received fresh tile, fixtures and hardware. “Houses from this period were very thoughtful and efficient in their use of space,” Fatima says. The home’s guest suite feels intentionally private and functional. “My father has some disabilities, and Todd was able to make the guest bathroom ADA-compliant for when my parents visit from India. It means a lot that they are comfortable when they’re here.” 

bookshelf
The windows to the left of the bookshelf are floor-to-ceiling because they used to be exterior windows of the home.

Hala, now 13, attends Duke School and loves living in Durham. “Durham is all I know, but it’s pretty fun,” she says. Yousuf adds: “With so many people moving here, we like to joke that Hala is one of the few original Durhamites these days.” She spends most of her time in the house in the living and family rooms. “Both are great for homework, games or just hanging out.” Hala also enjoys baking in the kitchen alongside her dad and practicing pop and classical music in the piano room, which features built-in bookcases and wood paneling original to the home. 

As for future projects, a spare bedroom is evolving into a home office and workout space, and Cadence will be back this spring to renovate Fatima and Yousuf’s bathroom. “We have been so fortunate with this house,” Yousuf says. “It couldn’t be better for us.” 

living room
The living room was designed by Kate Dwornik, and features a large pot in the corner by Pittsboro artist Mark Hewitt.

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Morgan Weston

Durham Magazine freelancer Morgan Weston is a North Carolina native who loves exploring the Triangle's diverse food, arts and craft beer offerings.

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