Christina Mosley and Brian Mosley gave this unconventional ranch modern updates with the help of Grant Group Architecture
By James Dupree | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Christina Mosley and her husband, Brian Mosley, first discovered their home on Rugby Road during a bout of homesickness in 2004. The couple were briefly living abroad in a hotel room in Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore), India, while Christina was working for IBM. Christina was browsing real estate options in the United States when she noticed a property not far from their then-current home address, a traditional ranch house off Devon Road. Much of the house wasn’t shown in the listing, further piquing her interest. The pair returned to Durham in 2005 and went to see the 2-acre property in person.
“We walked in, and it was the most unusual house we had ever been in,” Christina says. The home was built in 1957 by its original owners, Muriel Roll and William G. Roll; it eventually became something of a local hangout for the community, with the Roll family hosting numerous pool parties. Christina says current guests and even repair workers have commented about visiting the home before the Mosleys occupied it. “It feels like half of old Durham has been in this house,” she says.
One of the more unique features was the corridor connected to the main entryway, which required visitors to walk down a 94-foot hallway past several bedrooms before reaching the kitchen and living room. “[Muriel] had an amazing art collection displayed in the hall, and she wanted everyone to enjoy it,” Christina says. “Every local artist of a certain age has been in this house because she collected so much art.” Toward the far end of that corridor was a narrow galley kitchen with no oven, a flat-top cooker, and a washer and dryer. “We asked Muriel, ‘What do you do when you cook?’” Brian recalls. “And she said, ‘Oh, darling, I cater.’”
But Christina and Brian’s mindset shifted once they entered the living room and saw the floor-to-ceiling windows looking out over the hilly wooded landscape. “We saw the view and were like, ‘Oh, my,’” Christina says. Still, with such an unusual layout, the spouses had trouble visualizing the home’s potential.“The entire time, Brian was like, ‘No. We are not buying this house. It’s weird.’” she says.
“But at that time, finding 2 acres in this neighborhood was crazy, and [it’s] even crazier now.” The two knew they needed a second opinion prior to putting in an offer.
The couple contacted Georgia Bizios and Brian Grant of Bizios Architect (now Grant Group Architecture, a readers’ favorite architect in Durham Magazine’s 2023 Best of Durham poll).
“Engaging an architect even before purchasing the house was a wise decision,” Georgia says. “Christina and Brian were excellent communicators, clearly outlining their needs, dreams and budget.”
The pair ended up purchasing the house and, after taking a few months to get a feel for the place, were ready to start their first phase of renovations in February 2006. They designed a plan, with the help of David Roberts Construction and Grant Group, to alter the existing 2,737 square feet of space, stripping the entire first floor down to the studs. Knocking down the walls separating the kitchen and living room turned the area into one massive open-concept space. That once exceedingly long hallway was shortened and reconstructed purposefully, with an aging-in-place mentality and leaving enough room for wheelchair accessibility throughout the house.
The other end of the hallway was incorporated into the owners’ bedroom, continuing the open-concept style. The home’s entrance on the far west end was relocated to what was once the northside door leading to the in-ground pool.
With the first set of renovations came Brian and Christina’s biggest challenge. “We lived in the house throughout the construction process,” Christina says. “Downstairs had a full bath, bedroom, living room and kitchenette. At the time, we thought it was a good idea to live down there rather than spend more money renting somewhere else.”
“It was rough,” Brian says. “We cooked meals out on a Coleman stove in the driveway. There was lots of noise and no air conditioning during the summer. We had to prop open the door to get airflow and would see snakes and other animals go by.” But those inconveniences led to the completion of their most major phase of renovations at the end of the year, and they celebrated by preparing a late Thanksgiving dinner in their new kitchen, now with an oven, microwave, full stovetop and more than enough room for two cooks.
Today, the hallway and much of the living spaces honor Muriel’s original intention, continuing to display artwork from locals like Nancy Tuttle May and Lisa Creed as well as other artists’ work the couple has collected while attending the Durham Art Walk, The Makrs Society’s Summer Fest and Art of Cool Festival. The interior design is minimalist, with beds, desks, couches and the kitchen’s main sink all positioned to face the numerous large windows throughout the house, drawing the eye toward the densely vegetated backyard and wooded hillside.
Since their first remodel, Brian and Christina took Georgia’s advice to heart and spaced out their major home projects. “Georgia came by just last Friday,” Brian says. “To have started our relationship in 2005 and still have it in place almost 18 years later is outstanding.”
Together with the continued support of Grant Group, Christina and Brian embarked on three other major renovations. In 2009, they turned the previously filled-in in-ground pool on the north side of the house into an extension of the driveway, complete with an entry courtyard, a two-car carport and a breezeway that flows seamlessly into the home’s modern aesthetic. Eight years later, the downstairs living space was remodeled and converted into a home gym with plenty of space, which is where Brian set up his home office at the beginning of the pandemic.
The most recent phase of renovations included a 359-square-foot extension to their screened-in porch on the southeast side of the house. “This is our favorite spot,” Christina says. “We could spend most of the year out here.” Grant Group designed the space, and Arrowhead Designs completed construction in 2022. “Christina and Brian had a clear idea of how they wanted the porch and outdoor spaces to function and really trusted us to explore the options for connecting to the gardens and interior spaces,” says Brian Grant. “As with the previous phases, the design came together as a fun, team effort.”
The elevated deck stays cool under the dense vegetation and gives the ultimate treehouse feel. Complete with a generously sized outdoor kitchen and a mounted large-screen TV, it’s an ideal spot for the pair to cook a meal on the grill and watch a Duke basketball or football game. Another plus is the porch’s easy access between the backyard garden and the house for their almost 13-year-old corgis, sisters Anna and Molly. Brian and Christina say they are satisfied with the current look and feel of their home – for now. But if inspiration strikes, they say they’ll be sure to give Grant Group a call. “Their advice gave us the confidence to buy the house, take our time with it, build it out and see what works,” Brian says.