Bold and thoughtful designs, near-fanatical attention to detail, and a sense of romance are just a few of the traits shared by the residential architects of Charlotte. Whether the starting point is a backyard renovation, a full-house remodel, or an entire new-build, the destination does not change; the bottom line for Charlotte’s top residential architects is high-quality delivery to the client, the people who will call the firms’ houses a home. The following firms have been assessed based on their history and local experience, their reputation for the design of quality new homes, and on the previous accolades that have been bestowed on them.
10) W. Stanley Russell
Featured Architects: W. Stanley Russell
Address: 1506-A Central Avenue, Charlotte, NC 28205
Before starting his own firm, South Carolina native W. Stanley Russell had worked as a residential contractor to finance his architecture studies at Clemson University. This work gave him a deeper understanding of how the construction process relates to design. After moving to Texas, he apprenticed with MacKie & Kamrath Architects, who inspired him with the designs of Frank Lloyd Wright. In 1982, he opened the Charlotte office which, he says, is “small by design.” It allows Russell to show the personal attention he believes is necessary for the high-end architectural projects he undertakes. Russell has taught and served as an advisor with the schools of architecture at Clemson University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He says he isn’t distracted by the variety of architectural and planning projects he’s undertaken, as it has made him a better architect.
Russell designed a residence on Old Dairy Lane in Charlotte that’s been dubbed “The Southpark Refuge.” The residence was situated on a wooded site flanked by large oak trees. Russell’s plan created a sloping, brick base to anchor the home’s foundation and a wall band above that base to create a large, overhanging roof. The interior was spruced up with 10-foot-tall ceilings, mahogany trim, and limestone floors. For a traditional red brick Charlotte estate, Williams started with a grand foyer in the rear and then a cabana and loggia on the main level. A master suite was added upstairs. All areas opened up to a stunning view of the renovated pool and terrace. The finishing touches were a new carport with a copper- and barrel-vaulted roof and ceiling. A Myers Park estate needed a more open living area, master suite, and children’s bedrooms. Williams added the master suite over a sunroom to allow a view of the wooded yard. He replaced a wall between the living and dining rooms with a linear, glass-enclosed gallery and redesigned the great room to open onto a new brick terrace.
9) Meyer Greeson Paullin Benson
Featured Architects:Sam Greeson, Mark Paullin, and Matthew Benson
Address: 320 South Tryon Street, Suite 222, Charlotte, NC 28202
This award-winning Charlotte practice was founded in 1979. Co-founding partner Sam Greeson was raised in nearby Randleman. He graduated from North Carolina State University School of Design with a bachelor’s in architecture. Greeson quickly became known for incorporating the best home designs he observed from his travels in England and Europe into the homes he designed for clients in Charlotte and Blowing Rock. Partner Mark Paullin, AIA, graduated from North Carolina State University School of Design and received his master’s in architecture from Washington University in St. Louis. He brought to the firm a background in historic preservation and re-habitation. Partner Matthew Benson, AIA, LEED AP, signed on in 1998. His degree in studio art is from Denison University and his master’s in architecture is from Georgia Tech. The firm’s residential projects have been featured in more than a dozen articles in Charlotte Home & Garden, Dream Homes Carolinas, and Luxury Home Quarterly.
In Charlotte’s old but elegant neighborhood, Myers Park, the firm designed a Tuscan-style estate with plaster interior walls, an Italian tile roof, stained wood trim, and stained wood ceilings. Finishing touches were stone floors and traditional stucco over brick walls. For an English client, the firm created a Spanish revival luxury home with a tile roof, traditional stucco on masonry, limestone columns, plaster walls, lime oak and African slate floors, an English kitchen with pine cabinetry, and classic English-styled library. When clients in nearby Davidson needed a custom home to showcase their collection of Native American art, the firm designed a contemporary white stucco residence. A skylight was centered to allow different views of the art. The vistas on the property were designed to enhance the gardens.
8) Don Duffy Architecture
Featured Architects: Don Duffy
Address: 301 Providence Road, Charlotte, NC 28207
For 30 years, this Charlotte firm has designed private homes and renovations that have been featured in Better Homes and Gardens, Coastal Living, Period Homes, and North Carolina Classic Design Elements, just to name a few. Duffy’s 30-plus years of experience began after he earned his bachelor’s in architecture from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. He is a member of The Institute of Classical Architecture and American Institute of Architects. Duffy founded the firm in Charlotte in 1995. Before then, he served for 11 years as a senior architect at Meyer-Greeson Architecture. Since then, he has completed luxury home projects in South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. Among the firm’s honors are numerous awards from the Historic Charlotte Neighborhood and NARI. The full-service firm specializes in residential architecture.
The open floor plan of a country house estate in Charlotte features a vaulted ceiling with a balcony overlooking a casual dining area. In the formal living room, a magnificent gold chandelier hangs from a high, vaulted ceiling. The balcony theme continues atop marble, Greek-style columns. The “active family” estate in Charlotte features a wine cellar in the basement, dramatic custom-designed wood doors inside, meticulous masonry face with dark wood double doors, and a cozy but posh fireplace design inside. A “modern city” home has exposed beams in the ceiling, a modern staircase with a stainless steel railing system, a sleek modern kitchen with wood floors and beveled glass-covered cabinets, and an elaborately designed pool-terrace area in the backyard with a green garden and covered gathering area. Both have top-quality finishes throughout.
7) Fryday & Doyne
Featured Architects: John Fryday and Michael Doyne
Address: 118 East Kingston Avenue, Suite 20, Charlotte NC 28203
“Architecture transforms ideas into reality with an emphasis on comfort and function,” according to John Fryday, AIA, and Michael Doyne, the principals of this award-winning Charlotte firm. After earning his bachelor’s in architecture from the University of North Carolina, Charlotte, along with a bachelor’s in environmental design from North Carolina State University, Fryday honed his craft at Wolf Associates Architects, the internationally renowned firm founded by Charlotte native Harry Wolf. Fryday then served as Director of Interior Design at JN Pease Associates, another large Charlotte firm. His projects have been featured in Architect, Interiors, and Revista Technica, a trade journal in Italy. Doyne also studied at UNC, then went on to serve as Senior Associate with JN Pease, where he handled high-profile assignments, such as Duke Energy’s Electric Center. The firm’s long list of awards includes a 2004 award from Charlotte NARI for residential interior design, Excellence in Remodeling Awards from the Remodelers Council and Home Builders Association of Charlotte, and a LEED Gold Award for a renovation in Mecklenburg County.
A Myrtle Avenue renovation was especially challenging, as the owners wanted to keep a low budget. F&D’s focus was to enhance the residence with pizzazz but maintain the scale of neighboring homes. By demolishing a rear section, F&D was able to add living space by designing a full-width, covered rear porch that stretches into the backyard. Inside, an open floor plan created a dramatic and sleek modern look for a kitchen, family room, dining room, small office and stairs. This renovation fetched the 2016 Chrysalis National Award for a whole house remodel. F&D brought the California contemporary style to the interior of a home in Charlotte, whose owner wanted to maintain a traditional look for the exterior. The modern, open floor plan inside gets an airy look from white painted surfaces and dark wood floors. A minimalist staircase design connects the lower level to a media room with a panoramic view of treetops.
6) McClure Nicholson Montgomery
Featured Architects: Charles McClure, Miller Nicholson, and Jim Montgomery
Address: 2108 South Boulevard, Suite 110, Charlotte, NC 28203
Principals Charles McClure, Miller Nicholson, and Jim Montgomery drew upon their 80 years’ collective architectural experience to start this small but acclaimed firm, which has been based in Charlotte since its 1993 opening. All three partners maintain low profiles, preferring to keep the focus on their upper-class clientele. But excellent work rarely goes unnoticed, as in the case of Miller Nicholson’s expert transformation of a North Carolina spec home, featured in James M. Crisp’s book On the Porch. For that renovation, Nicholson replaced a graceless L-shaped structure at the home’s rear with a deck, breakfast room, and connecting porch featuring twin French doors next to a wood-burning brick fireplace, and step-down access to a brick-paved patio. Finishing touches consisted of a copper-clad roof and two enormous skylights.
Among MNM’s residential projects in Charlotte and neighboring towns is the Barbee residence, an estate on private wooded acres featuring an elaborate great room with cathedral-like, vaulted wood ceilings and limestone brick fireplace and a country-style gourmet kitchen. A Ferncliffe road custom home was embellished with an open floor plan boasting an arched entrance between the kitchen and great room, plank-style hardwood floors, and custom white wood kitchen cabinets with white and marble counter tops. For a home on Rockbrook Drive, MNM designed a sleek modern kitchen with exposed white beams, stainless appliances, and pendant lighting. Dark wood, open beams hang slightly from a vaulted white wood ceiling in the great room, where ceiling to floor glass expanses offer a spectacular view of a manicured backyard garden and covered porch.
5) Houghland Architecture, Inc.
Architects: Gray Houghland
Address: 1850 East 3rd Street, Suite 120, Charlotte 28204
Gray Houghland, RA, LEED AP, NCARB, often says that architecture is in his blood: his father and uncle are both thriving architects in Virginia. After graduating from the University of Virginia’s School of Architecture, Houghland won advanced standing at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design where he obtained his master’s. He started out in Washington, D.C., working for one of that city’s largest firms, and then for Skidmore, Owings & Merrill. By 1997, he had moved to Charlotte and founded his own practice. Clients like Jim Burbank, CEO of Saussy Burbank, Inc., have said that Houghland’s designs solve problems while imparting beauty. Houghland is certified with NCARB and LEED AP. He is a member of the Congress of Residential Architecture, the U.S. Green Building Council, and the AIA.
A master suite renovation in a Charlotte home, completed in 2015, features a contemporary design that offers a minimalist touch. The color palette in the connecting rooms blends neutral taupe, black accents, and dark wood. A custom-built walk-in closet features floor-to-ceiling storage. A large white- and gray-marble master bathroom creates a classic and elegant look. Another custom home’s kitchen gets exposed beams in the ceiling and pendant lighting. Ceiling-to-floor glass expanses flood a casual dining area and great room with daylight. A large stainless steel island centers the kitchen and creates a sleek, ultra-modern look. Houghland added especially warming touches to the kitchen of another custom home in Charlotte: antique white hard-wood floors, glass front cabinets, recessed lighting, and a large eat-in section attached to a peninsula.
4) Liquid Design
Featured Architects: Mike Lee Standley and Michael Williams
Address: 1430 South Mint Street, Studio #105, Charlotte, NC 28203
Among this firm’s more celebrated projects was the design of NBA legend Michael Jordan’s Charlotte, North Carolina residence. But the most you will find out about this project on Liquid Design’s website is a discrete mention that Jordan is a client.
The firm’s principal Mike Lee Standley, AIA, believes that architecture should blend art and science without flaw. He and Principal Michael Williams head a small firm that has built a big client base ever since its founding in 2000. Williams was named one of 2007’s “40 Under 40” by Building Design and Construction magazine. Williams obtained his bachelor’s in architecture and urban planning from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He was an adjunct design professor at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte’s School of Architecture. Standley studied architecture at Virginia Tech. He interned at Skidmore, Owens, and Merrill.
Over the firm’s 17 years, it has been honored with the AIA People’s Choice Award in 2014, the AIA North Carolina Design Award in 2013, and the AIA Charlotte Honor Design Award in 2009. The firm’s projects have been mentioned in articles by Greater Charlotte Biz Magazine, Uptown Magazine, and the Associated Press. Clients include NASCAR and State Farm Insurance Company.
The owners of a one-story ranch in a Charlotte suburb needed their 4800-square-foot home renovated. Liquid Design added another story to the home and crafted a modern facade out of brick, cedar, and stucco. A sea ranch-style Charlotte residence built in 1974 was given a modern overhaul with geometric shapes, large glass expanses, and 3D art. One of the group’s most innovative designs is a “tree house” on a large wooded lot in Charlotte where almost every room has a panoramic view. Renovations on a brick ranch on a 1.5-acre lot in Charlotte were dramatic: the residence was transformed into a 5,000-square-foot structure with a modern facade, an open living plan, and “public areas” with lots of natural light, overlooking and connecting a front courtyard to the backyard pool.
3) Pursley Dixon
Featured Architects: Ken Pursley and Craig Dixon
Address: 311 Atherton St, Charlotte, NC 28203
The roots of Charlotte native Ken Pursley’s firm — founded in 2005 — date back to his high school days, when he won a drafting competition. Pursley went on to study architecture at Auburn University. While there, he met partner Craig Dixon. Before starting his own firm, Pursley studied residential design with celebrated Alabama-based architect Bobby McAlpine, whose creations often appear in Architectural Digest. It was during his tutelage with McAlpine that Pursley came to understand why beauty matters so much in home design. The firm today has 11 members and has completed award-winning work in 10 states. Their custom homes are often the subject of write-ups in House Beautiful, Southern Living, Southern Accents, Luxe Interiors, and Elegant Homes. In 2014, Pursley Dixon was honored with the Veranda/ADAC Award and in 2015 received the Southern Living Home of the Year Award.
When Beth Hanson and her husband moved to Charlotte, they tapped Pursley and Dixon to build a house out of stone. The project was featured in Traditional Home magazine. A subdued color scheme added an intimate touch to a living room with large formals and a high ceiling. Curved stairways, floor-to-ceiling limestones, glossy kitchen cabinets with steel appliances and marble backsplash, upholstered walls, and a pool house created a welcoming yet majestic aura not often seen in stone houses. The firm also outdid itself on renovations for a Charlotte home featured in Southern Living. After leveling the backyard and installing a brick retaining wall, Pursley Dixon designed a timbered structure with nestled-in windows and a steep roof. An outdoor kitchen with fireplace/grill made out of limestone was the finishing touch to a luxurious pavilion.
2) Ruard Veltman
Featured Architects: Ruard Veltman
Address: 104 Baldwin Avenue, Charlotte, NC, 28204
Famed residential architect Ruard Veltman was born in Germany and raised in the United States. He learned his signature style — blending modernism with traditional — from his highly acclaimed mentor, Bobby McAlpine, whom he met while attending the School of Architecture at Auburn University. After graduating, Veltman worked for McAlpine’s Alabama-based firm before setting up shop in Charlotte. He founded his firm in 2005 and based it in Bald Head Island.
Veltman has said that his mission is to fulfill the design intent of every client he encounters: “The understanding of the people for whom a design is intended describes its ultimate destination.” The firm provides architectural, interior furnishing, and custom furniture services. Veltman’s projects are regularly published in House Beautiful, Southern Living, Coastal Living, Elegant Homes, Elle Decor, and QC Exclusive.
Veltman’s magnificent renovation of a classic American home was acclaimed for its stunning architecture: fluted, wooden walls; built-in upholstered seating; an updated game room; a floor-to-ceiling window bay in the dining room; a bluestone-paved foyer; a coffered ceiling in an all-white kitchen and scroll-cut backsplash framing the kitchen range; a brick archway entrance to a set-off seating area; and an exterior complemented by slate roofing, copper gutters, and white-painted brick. A Tudor style home in Charlotte was the subject of three media stories which applauded Veltman’s “iconoclastic designs.” The 8,130-square-foot residence has a range in the kitchen built into a masonry hearth. A spiral staircase connects three floors. There is a fireplace in the master bedroom, along with a window seat built under a Tudor arch. According to Elegant Homes, Veltman’s updated Tudor captured all the charm of the original English design.
1) Bobby McAlpine
Featured Architects: Bobby McAlpine, Greg Tankersley, John Sease and Chris Tippett
Address: 501 Cloverdale Road, Suite 201, Montgomery, AL 36106
“An icon among architects,” is how most architects describe Alabama legend Bobby McAlpine. Tudor estates, Italian villas, traditional Charleston facades, and exquisite lake houses are just a few of the residential masterpieces on which McAlpine has built his blue-ribbon reputation. McAlpine’s website has a list of articles in national magazines celebrating his work, so long that there are too many to count. Architectural Digest has described the firm’s residential work as “idiosyncratic, beautiful crafted houses with poetic layouts and soulful decor.” With partners Greg Tankersley, John Sease and Chris Tippett, McAlpine runs a firm based in Montgomery, AL, but with offices in Tennessee and New York. The 2017 release of McAlpine’s latest book, Poetry of Place, has been written up in Veranda Magazine, Southern Home Magazine, and countless others.
A European townhome in elegant Myers Park was inspired by Parisian architecture. There is a bay window upstairs and a facade crafted out of stucco to resemble limestone. An elegant staircase takes you through European heart pine doors and into a grand salon. This is the home where the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center celebrated its “Best of Charlotte” event in August 2017. Even relatively modest McAlpine homes in Charlotte sell for over $1M, such as a 5-bedroom, 4,297-square-foot Myers Park residence on 954 Granville Road, home to a neighborhood of multimillion-dollar dwellings. The listing mentions McAlpine as a selling point, noting that his design combined the home’s ageless beauty with modern amenities, such as a brick-floored family room and side porch. Also in Myers Park, on tree-lined Queens Road West, is another McAlpine project — a French-style, four-car-garage, a stucco creation with flawless architectural details throughout.