A Thoroughly Modern Love Story

Finding the unexpected in High Point’s Emerywood

By Cynthia Adams     Photographs by Amy Freeman

Stephanie James Goldman, wearing fawn-colored slacks and knee-high suede boots, opens the door into the Vermont flagstone-floored foyer and welcomes visitors with a deep smile. She hasn’t lived in this remodeled midcentury home for very long, but for the first time in her life she feels very happily at home. She says this, her eyes moistening, as she launches a tour of the home of her dreams.

Further, as a newlywed of exactly one year, she blushes that her life now feels complete.

But none of this contentment of heart and home came without hiccups. Stephanie admits that given she and her husband, Michael Goldman, are both involved in the furniture industry (she is a designer running her own dedicated studio within Furnitureland South; he owns Goldman & Company, a business that supplies glass, stone, metal and wood components to furniture manufacturers), both husband and wife have strong ideas about aesthetic matters. The refurbishment and furnishing of this particular house, her first contemporary residence after living in traditional ones, grew into “one of the bigger challenges of my life.”

Getting to the finish line involved a marriage of tastes for the newlyweds. Outfitting the house — now a study in elegant restraint, with luxe finishes, subtle and organic materials and soaring spaces — was nearly as challenging as finding the Hillcrest Drive home to begin with. “We rode around and around and looked and looked for a house of this type,” says Stephanie. ‘My husband grew up with modern style, and he lived it and loved it.”

The Goldmans knew what they wanted. They simply couldn’t find it. When the couple finally did spot it, the house was occupied and not on the market. What they saw were the externals — the house’s good midcentury bones, the great setting, the wonderful neighborhood. They were largely unaware of some of the challenges the house posed — such as a long-term leak that was going to pose a significant uh-oh.

They just saw their true home waiting for them. The Goldmans approached the owners and worked out a deal.

The house has inspired devotion in its previous owners for nearly seventy years.

The residence, known as the R. Frank Dalton House, was built circa 1949. The builder, Frank Dalton, was a key figure in the Snow Lumber Company. This High Point company was vital to the city’s quickly developing lumber and furniture industries both of which took off in the late 1880s and emerged as powerhouses together. Snow Lumber would make its fortune supplying lumber to an industry that was swiftly expanding — and growing High Point right along with it exponentially.

With his success in the lumber trade, Dalton could build a showplace and use the finest materials. He chose to build a standout of a home in High Point’s poshest neighborhood, which was now the well-established Emerywood rather than downtown, a location that captains of industry had once preferred. As for Emerywood, most of the existing architecture was strictly traditional. Yet Dalton and his wife, Margaret Haywood, (who had a fascination for California style), were interested in building something quite different — something completely modern.  When finished, The High Point Enterprise explained in 1951, that it was “a modern home, done with grace. . .”  Its grace was derived from the fact that it was meant to be subdued and organic — to blend with its natural setting rather than stand out.

The Dalton’s one-story modern residence is of a style that was popular in the 1930s to the 1940s. As an architectural style, Modernist was a departure, a pronouncement: The times, they are a’changing. Although it was subtle and low-slung, the house drew attention as it was such a deliberate contrast to Emerywood’s dominant, traditionalist style. 

“I included the house in the Architecture of High Point book, where I call it ‘likely the earliest example of Modernist architecture in High Point,” writes Benjamin Briggs, director of Preservation Greensboro. According to preservation records, the Dalton’s Modernist house, when it was constructed, featured three Crab Orchard stone chimneys. It was built with board-and-batten redwood siding, and Crab Orchard stone veneer was applied on certain lower portions. 

It was, both in exterior and interior, recognizably progressive. The interior featured unusual and avant-garde touches — an indoor “grilling area,” for example, and bar in one den that was intended to impart the feeling of camping out. Many of the interior floors were covered in Vermont flagstone, with under-floor heating installed. The Daltons created extended storage areas for hanging and rotating artwork. While much of the house featured flat roofs, portions had been designed with a sloping roof that allowed for clerestory windows and interior ceilings that seemed to soar.   

The Dalton residence was further enlarged in a subsequent renovation in 1959 with the enclosure an open patio adjacent to the kitchen. This renovation achieved a U-shape interior. A former breezeway and greenhouse (added in 1978) were also incorporated into the house. The enclosed breezeway connected both the garage and greenhouse. Additional living space now approached 5,000 square feet; to say the house was spacious was an understatement. In time, it also occupied two lots, thanks to a twist of fate. Fortunately, a relative had sold the Daltons the lot next door, doubling the size of theirs — unusual for an in-town residence. The additional lot enhanced the Daltons’ desired plan, to create a deeply wooded setting and harmonious landscape for their showcase, albeit discreet, home. 

While Stephanie is a true fan of the Modernist house, she admits this is a departure for her. Michael Goldman was the impetus for finding a midcentury dwelling, Stephanie explains. He heavily favored the sparseness of the period and wanted it for the couple’s first home together. Midcentury was also part of his own past; he had lived in modern houses elsewhere as his parents moved to various states wherever his rabbi father was assigned to a synagogue. “He grew up with modern,” Stephanie explains, “living in places like Philadelphia, Colorado.”

Stephanie liked the idea of midcentury, saying it would be challenging and fun for her to design, offering a clean canvas. “Designers lean towards straight lines,” she says. And she had no trouble with selling her traditional home, rebooting her life, and going for the Modern.

She also admired the spans of glass that Modern offered — and the effective blurring of outdoors with the interior. “I work inside all the time,” Stephanie says. “I love that we are integrating the outdoors.” The Dalton house offered a parklike setting and heavy plantings provided ample privacy despite the walls of windows.

The Goldmans are only the third owners of the Dalton house. “And the people who built it (the Daltons) were enamored of California architecture,” says Stephanie. In fact, the Daltons had such an interest in and emphasis on the California touch in all things, that they imported redwoods from the West Coast for planting in their new home’s landscape. Eventually, the Goldman’s architect, Peter Freeman, would even uncover the original landscaping plans for the property, something of special significance for an avid gardener like Stephanie.

According to the conversation between Stephanie and the Daltons’ son, Frank, his parents were fond of the work of Harwell Hamilton Harris, an architect transplanted from the Golden State who was known for his work in Southern California. “He practiced a more international style with a California bent à la Richard Neutra,” says Freeman. Neutra, an Austrian-American architect, spent much of his career also working in Southern Calfornia.

In remodeling their new home, the Goldmans were determined to use High Point resources and talent.

“We stayed with (using) local people,” says Stephanie. Fortunately for them, Freeman, of Freeman Kennett Architects in High Point, happens to be not only a local talent, but especially well-versed in the style of the Goldman’s new midcentury jewel as well. He owns a home of the same vintage and type only a short distance away in Emerywood, one that had once belonged to his parents that he and his wife, Amy, had bought and restored. Freeman also has been long active in High Point’s Historic Preservation Commission.

He researched the Daltons’ house and found the original plans, eliminating all guesswork — Freeman had the proof needed to know exactly what had been done in the prior renovations.

“I have a couple of actual blueprints of the original 1949 drawings for the house. The architect is Charles A. Kendall of
High Point as noted in the title block. I also have a print from the later addition designed by Mays & Parks Associates architects of High Point,” says Freeman. Here was the Dalton house, revealed.

“It is easy to see that the original architect, Kendall, as well
as the subsequent architects, William Mays Jr. and Robert Parks, understood the modern concept of blurring the lines between interior and exterior through the use of expanses of glass, clerestories and daylighting,” says Freeman. He was interested in how the prior architects synthesized the exterior and interior designs as a whole.

“The organization of the house on the site was arranged in an ‘L,’ focused on a grand terrace on the north. The later addition, made possible by the acquisition of another lot to the east, provided an opportunity to define the grand terrace as an ‘outdoor room’ creating a more intimate scale and allowing more privacy for outdoor living.”

Open to the outdoors, verdant and yet private, Freeman explains, were all factors attracting the Goldmans to the style of residence and contributing to the lifestyle the property represented. The synthesis of indoor/outdoor living in the house’s and grounds’ original design that the Goldmans found so inviting was more common on the West Coast but had found its way East.

In 1959, the redesign of the Dalton house had allowed for a new entry and living space, “but conceptually, further blurred the sense of indoors and outdoors by creating additional gateways between. The concept also called in question the formal notion of the front entry, and casual living, in contrast to the traditional revival styles prominent in the Emerywood neighborhood,” says Freeman. He set out to open the house further as the couple preferred, respecting and enhancing the original design.

Freeman’s firm removed interior partition walls and refashioned previously covered clerestory windows to provide daylight. Light flooded spaces where needed, just as hoped.

The kitchen remodel was integral to lending a historic, yet dated home a sense of new functionality and livability and all-important flow. “The feature I like most about the house is the flow, the U shape,” says Stephanie, “the symmetrical sense.”

Yes, the layout is fluid, and the house also whispers something that is rarer to find: subtlety. Freeman opened the kitchen up and made it a polished, luxuriously refined, space. It is sleekly upscale, with understated black cabinetry and gleaming white surfaces. A local High Point firm, Muckridge Custom Kitchens & Baths, was engaged.

“Our rearrangement of the kitchen for instance, included organic treatment of the cabinetry including waterfall countertops to blur lines but arranged on a formal axis flanking the terrace to enhance the existing plan,” Freeman says. The kitchen hood became something of a sculptural element, he says, marking the axis of the kitchen itself, but also providing a focal point where the couple can entertain family and guests, and where Michael can pursue his love of cooking. “Obscured views into the kitchen mean that food preparation is not highly visible from the front entry areas, but bleed into the adjacent living spaces.”

Freeman designed a bar within the kitchen and teamed with Michael to build a unique feature it comprised. “The new bar area is very visible from the original entry. It was treated like furniture, very finished and includes a backlit, contemporary wine rack designed by Freeman Kennett and built by Michael’s company.”

Both the interior and exterior planes of the house benefited from large new windows for which Stephanie insisted on sharp, crisp lines. The result, notes Freeman, is better visibility as well as aesthetic punch.

In the private areas, luxurious surfaces and material refinements (such as sculpturally beautiful spa baths) give the house an air of calm and understated beauty. Freeman explains that the design for the enlargement of the master bedroom “incorporated a more private sleeping alcove and additional seating space to take advantage of the light from an expanse of windows from opposite sides of the room.” And just as he hoped, Freeman says the replacement of covered-over clerestory windows in the master bathroom “provides a flood of light to the well-detailed bright and airy space.” The materials employed are a range of calming neutrals in tones of oyster and beige.

The master bathroom also features the work of a local cabinetmaker: a low-slung walnut cabinet that appears to float. “This,” Stephanie says with pride, “was my idea.”

Stephanie acknowledges, “I listened to Peter a lot, but I also had my own vision of everything [looking] as clean as possible.” She is a successful designer, of course, and so is her husband, who fabricates furnishings. And so, too, is the architect, who designs on a daily basis, just as his father and grandfather did before him. Yet the trio managed to honor each other’s strengths. And the outcome, this updated stunner of a vintage home, is a manifestation of their best.

Workmen arrive to deliver furniture, and Stephanie says she is still hanging artwork. Making decisions for the furnishing of her own home — this massive job that was so personal for the couple — has been among the most difficult ever, she confesses. She deliberated everything and edited everything again and again. With access to virtually everything, she had to curate carefully.  “I didn’t want it to look like a furniture store!”

It is almost done — apart from some tweaking to the greenhouse interior. And she is still involved with the grounds themselves. The original plans for the grounds’ plantings inspire her to wander around the property and think about what is needed. Stephanie loves to grab her clippers and head outdoors to work whenever she has time off. She has been so aggressive in cutting and weeding that “Michael has taken my clippers away,” she laughs — her appetite for clipping is a running joke between them. 

There is a special quality that the Goldmans have found here; a sense of peace. Michael travels extensively with his work. Stephanie is constantly working with clients around the globe. In the space of a week, their travels have taken them in different directions, him to Asia and her to Florida. So coming home takes on a deeper significance for the couple.

“I love where I live,” says Stephanie. Given the serenity brought indoors, thanks to enormous windows importing a million dollar view, what’s not to love?  OH

Cynthia Adams writes for O.Henry and Seasons.

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