Steel Roots Home Decor designer helped make this downtown Chapel Hill condo shine with personal touches and exquisite detail
By Hannah Lee | Photography by Mick Schulte
Designer Christy O’Hara was met with a blank slate at her client’s two-bedroom, two-bathroom condo on the eighth floor at 140 West Franklin. No furniture. No toiletries. There wasn’t even food in the pantry.
The client, who recently took an executive position at a nearby life sciences company, purchased the condo in July 2019. It wasn’t meant to be his primary residence – he lives on a gentleman’s farm with chickens, ducks and horses in Pennsylvania – but the condo was going to be a weekday retreat and a chance to enjoy the perks of living in a more urban setting.
“After a long day of work, I want to come home and not have to get back in the car,” he says. “140 West was perfect because I’d be there mostly by myself and I can walk to everything – different restaurants, shops – [to] do anything I needed.”
He selected this ideal location but brought nothing else. He and his wife, who would be visiting periodically from Pennsylvania, chose Christy of Steel Roots Home Decor to handle the job of filling the space. “I probably would not have done anything to the condo [if not for my wife],” he says. “I probably would have just come home from work, done more work and fallen asleep wherever.” The couple met Christy just once, and she learned everything about their design preferences, like preferred color palette and favorite textiles and textures.
Christy finished the project in November 2019, turning those predilections into a stunning reality complete with personal touches like framed family photographs. The owner walked into his 1,200-square-foot home away from home after three months to find a downtown getaway that mixed neutral colors and custom designs. At first glance, he saw a photo of his family smiling back at him, displayed on a new Samsung TV. The couple especially loved the five little golden ducks, symbolizing their family of five, on the right nightstand. Even in more hidden spots, Christy included special surprises.
“There’s a piece of metal that she had [attached] to the back of the counter,” he says. “It’s really spectacular. If you look at the bottom of it, it has mine and my wife’s initials, which you wouldn’t really notice if I hadn’t told you. When I look at that, I think of my wife.”
The entire kitchen backsplash, in fact, features more metalwork handmade by IronHouse Forge in Raleigh, just one of many local products and makers Christy prefers to incorporate into her designs. Past the kitchen and down the hallway to the right, Christy sourced a three-dimensional metal butterfly piece crafted by Hillsborough-based artist Tommy Mitchell. And to her tech-savvy client’s delight, the floor-to-ceiling window coverings from Benchmark Shutter & Shades in Apex open at the click of a button from his phone. The light fixtures from Currey & Company operate the same way.
Christy says she peered through her own husband’s bathroom cabinets when adding her final touches, supplying the types of products she thought her clients would enjoy. “I wanted it to be where there was no detail that wasn’t thought of,” Christy says, “so that when he moved in, he had every little thing he could possibly need in addition to having a beautiful, functional space.” CHM