A thoughtful renovation means a new chapter in a 100-year-old story
By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Dr. Alessandra Ritter wasn’t planning on a project when she bought her Carrboro home in 2016. After more than 10 years living in Lake Hogan Farms, she had come to adore her friends and neighborhood, but her kids, João Ritter and Juliana Ritter, would be graduating from UNC soon, and Alessandra was ready to downsize.
One day while driving down South Greensboro Street, a yellow cottage with a “for sale” sign caught Alessandra’s eye. “I hadn’t even been inside, but I fell in love. I pulled over and called the listing agent right away,” she says. She later learned the home was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. “I thought it was strange that there was a sink in the front room,” Alessandra laughs. “Then I learned it had been a doctor’s office, and it all made sense.”
Dr. Brack Lloyd established his practice in Carrboro in 1913 and hired contractor Charlie Martindale to build the home in 1920. Typical of the Craftsman-style bungalow popular at the time, the large, one-story format was designed to serve as both his residence and his office and was located at the southernmost point of Greensboro Street. But what set the home apart was its technology: It was the first home in Carrboro to include a central heating system. It remained in the Lloyd family until the 1960s.
After inspections revealed that the home was showing its century of life, Alessandra decided to move forward with an overhaul. “The idea was to maintain the original characteristics of the house, but also to bring a more contemporary flow pattern to the rooms,” explains designer Ana Borges, a longtime friend of Alessandra and founder of StudioBR. For example, Alessandra refinished the enamel on the sink and repurposed it for the powder room.
The work began in 2017 and took more than a year to complete. “We knocked down walls, creating more integrated spaces and added bathrooms for each of the bedrooms,” Ana says. Other components of the remodel included building out a master bedroom in the former attic space, adding on a family room, extending the kitchen and adding a deck and grilling area. “And we were able to keep the original floors,” Alessandra says.
She chose Kevin Harr’s team at Big Woods Remodeling to tackle the renovation. “Kevin went to every effort to not only keep all the original parts we could, but to ensure the additions matched perfectly,” Alessandra explains. She knew Kevin had a background working on similar bungalows and that he would bring authenticity to all of the home’s fixtures. “He built custom casings for the new windows to match the old ones and even stained the grout for the bricks outside to ensure that it appeared appropriate for the age of the house,” Alessandra says. “You can’t actually tell where the original house ends and the addition begins. He thought of every detail.” Tar Heel Painters made the finishing touches.
Working with people she trusted made the process even more rewarding. “It was a great experience to participate in the remodel, first because it is a historical house with so much character and also because I have known Alessandra and [have] been her friend for many years,” Ana says. They worked together to make decisions on everything from restoring the old fireplaces to choosing the right colors for the exterior trim. “We had a lot of fun.”
Though she has only been living in the home for three years, Alessandra and her family have already made a lifetime of memories, beginning with João’s graduation party in 2016. “We hadn’t made any changes or even moved in yet, but we invited all of his friends and their families – about 250 people,” Alessandra says. “It was a historical party in a historical house,” adds her friend, Ermine Cupid-Hastings.
The following year, the party was repeated for Juliana’s graduation. “This time around, we were partway through the renovation, so it was a construction party,” Alessandra says. “There was plastic on the walls, and we had to use generators. We used wheelbarrows as coolers for drinks, and the kids were up all night having the time of their lives.”
Now Juliana, a teacher who resides in New York City, is planning her wedding – where else? – in her mom’s backyard. “Carrboro is home, both for me and for my kids,” Alessandra says. João moved to San Francisco to work in tech but came home during the pandemic. “The fact that my children live in these amazing cities, but always want to come home, means everything,” Alessandra says.
The family moved to the United States from Brazil in 1997; João and Juliana were 3 and 2, respectively, and Alessandra didn’t speak a word of English. She went on to teach in UNC’s endodontics program before opening her own practice. “We felt welcomed right away, both among our neighbors and in the dental community,” she says. “I had every opportunity: to make friends who have become family, to have a fulfilling life, to be a successful business owner, and I embraced them all.”
Ritter Endodontics is now in its 13th year, and Alessandra says she could not be happier with where she and her family chose to build their lives.
“I’m so grateful that my kids grew up here and went to school here. It has everything you need to thrive and is a testament to what life can bring you if you immerse yourself and enjoy the people and places around you. That is what makes this area beautiful to me,” Alessandra explains. “And even though remodeling this home has been my project, I feel like it’s not about me or even my family. It’s about the story of this very unique house, in this unique town, and that the story gets to continue.”