This creative couple made a traditional farmhouse their own with modern renovations and unique, vintage decor
By Morgan Cartier Weston | Photography by John Michael Simpson
Textile artist Nathan Somers and his partner, Lucas, a hair stylist, moved to Durham in 2012 from Portland, Oregon, and together established Spruce Hair salon in 2014. They found a 1940 ranch in the Duke Homestead neighborhood and enjoyed its midcentury modern vibe and convenient location. But last year, Nathan and Lucas fell in love with the handcrafted touches in a traditional American Foursquare home in Mebane, and moved to Orange County with their Welsh terrier, Sylvie, in September 2020.
As its name suggests, each of the home’s two stories features four rooms all roughly the same size, with the kitchen, dining room, living room and den comprising the main floor, and a total of four bedrooms upstairs. Built in 1910, the home is nestled on a serene acre of land with a sweeping front porch and plenty of trees. “We love to garden, farm and relax on [the property],” Lucas says. A screened porch and fire pit provide cozy spots to spend evenings in the backyard, which is also home to pecan, pear and plum trees; the couple grew okra, tomatoes and pumpkins this year, too. “We really like our neighborhood, and the cute historic downtown Mebane area,” Lucas adds. Back inside, Nathan, who is also an educational consultant with Lerner Jewish Community Day School, can often be found in the kitchen, usually cooking Korean, Japanese, Indian and Thai food. The pair can’t wait to fully utilize the home’s spaces for hosting.
Of course, moving into a 111-year-old home comes with its trade-offs. “When we were buying this house, I was like, ‘Our new place is gonna have huge dreamy closets,’” Lucas says. “They are definitely smaller than the old house, but there’s more room here.” He and Nathan ended up building shelves in many of the home’s closets to make the old-school storage work for modern life, and they also utilize clothing racks in the guest room to maximize space.
Other storage solutions include the many vintage cabinets that can be found throughout the home. One sits in Nathan’s office to store his textiles (he specializes in katazome, a traditional Japanese fabric-dyeing process), and another unique piece is in the downstairs hallway. “[A decade ago], we were getting ready to move across the country, and I went to this Japanese furniture importer that I really loved going to, and they were having a sale,” Nathan says. “I saw this and said, ‘This is beautiful. I’m just gonna do it.’” Knowing they were downsizing for their move, Nathan hid the cabinet in the car for a couple of days before showing it to Lucas. “He kind of flipped, but then admitted that it was great,” Nathan says.
Though the kitchen and bathrooms had already been brought into the 21st century with features like bright light fixtures and oversized subway tile – “It’s classic, but modern,” Lucas says – other challenges lurked behind the scenes. The home’s insulation and windows had to be replaced, and the original interior paint colors proved difficult to match. “Originally, the home didn’t have heating or air conditioning – only the fireplaces, so a lot of changes have been made over time,” Lucas says. The home was built for a foreman of the White Furniture Company, which was established in Mebane in 1881 and operated until 1993; it remained in the original owner’s family until Nathan and Lucas bought it. “Some of the projects they were finishing, we sort of picked up once we moved in,” Lucas adds.
Since then, the couple has made the home their own by adding personal touches, including family artwork and personal collections of pottery and antiques. Nathan grew up in western North Carolina and has a collection of baskets from traditional Cherokee weavers. A painting of his great-great-grandparents’ homestead and store in the mountains, which was painted by his great-great-aunt Martha when she was in her 80s, also hangs in a place of prominence in their bedroom.
“We didn’t bring a whole lot of big stuff with us from our last place, because actually the scale of most of our furniture was off,” Nathan explains. Their midcentury-inspired pieces worked out well when it came to selling their previous home, since the furniture was used to stage it, but it left their new home feeling a bit empty at first. “It thankfully sold in three days, but in the meantime, we only had our TV and a couple of lawn chairs,” Nathan says. Mebane’s antique shops are now among their favorite places to look for furnishings as he and Lucas continue to bring new life into their old home.
“Honestly, we don’t have any regrets or anything like that,” Lucas says. “I think we just wish we could have done it sooner. This is definitely our dream house.”