historic mid-century modernist home in mountainbrook


A rare opportunity to own a true mid-century modern classic. In addition to being beyond cool, this home has Historic designation which results in a significant property tax reduction. An unequivocally modernist design, the house has not been marred by so called “updates”. Well-maintained and brought up to date in ways that matter; a recent membrane roof, new appliances and HVAC.

Built in 1963 and designed by P. Conner Lee as his personal residence. Lee used all his training and ideals to design this house for his wife and three children. He sited the house at the top of hill to make the most of the lovely, secluded location and dramatic views. In keeping with modernist tradition, it fits the landscape but also stands apart from it.

From the front, the house appears to be a one-story, with a low, vertical shape that hugs the landscape. A counterpoint curve of a slate path leads to a multilevel  platform and a double-door entrance. It’s there you receive the first hint of the unusual features to come: a pair of  sliding glass doors flank the entrance.  A view of the woods is seen through a row of sliding glass doors that traverse the entire back of the house. But why all the sliding doors, especially the ones in the front? Because back in the 60’s there was a thing called fresh air. Opening the doors in the front and rear lets in an actual breeze, so that you won’t have to always rely on the A/C.

A screened porch on the upper level is the perfect spot to hang out in a hammock or eat sushi at your Sculptura table and chairs. And even if you’re a complete agoraphobic who never cracks a window or goes outside, you can’t escape nature here–natural materials are used in abundance. Exposed wooden beams (not plastic) go across the ceiling on both levels, revealing the building’s structure. Skylights are in almost every room, with the sunlight filtered through 60’s-cool plastic baffles (not wooden).  And thankfully, there’s no piece of molding anywhere, nothing to junk up the clean, modernist design. No craftsman do-over here, no crown molding add-ons.

Lee’s design is thoughtful and tempered with a big dose of serene purity. Spaces are open and flowing, but due to great space-planning you can still get away from your teenagers. On the end of the main level are two spacious bedrooms with a bathroom in between. The bedrooms have pocket doors that slide out of view, no open door to steal space. Custom built drawers in the bedrooms have no pulls. And two of the bedrooms still have the original 1960’s carpeting, one orange and one aqua.  The original walnut kitchen cabinets present a clean, continuous front–no curly-cues or shaker updates here! Cabinets are lifted off the floor to give a feeling of lightness. The kitchen counter, with a sink and eating area on top has built-in cabinets on both sides. Travel down and around the spiral stairs and there’s a great entertaining space of a family room (or the perfect place to stash your kids in or escape from your spouse).  And even MORE sliding glass doors, fresh air lovers, overlooking a weiner-roast heaven slate patio. And should you desire a extra dose of serenity, go through the modernist gate and down the sweet brick path to the small stream at the back of the property.

More about P. Connor Lee

Praise Connor Lee was born in Grimesland NC. Upon graduation from Atlantic Christian Academy (now Barton College) in 1951, Lee joined the United States Air Force and served until 1955.  According to Lee’s wife Harriet, he planned to be a farmer but when that proved too costly, Lee entered the engineering program at NCSU.  Soon, he discovered architecture and transferred to the School of Design.  There, the young air force veteran caught the fire of Modernism, absorbing the ideas of Kamphoefner and instructor George Matsumoto. While at State, Lee was awarded first place in the 1959 Edison Electric Light for Living Home Design Competition.

Lee graduated in 1960 and went to work for J. N. Pease Associates for four years.  He received several awards including an AIA Merit Award for a branch of First Citizens Bank.  After leaving Pease, Lee worked in Charlotte as a partner with Brackett, Sadri & Lee before moving to Raleigh briefly to establish a branch office for Lyles Bissett Carlisle & Wolfe.  He returned to Charlotte for Little Lee & Associates in 1967.  Lee left there to establish his own firm in 1971 and the firm became Little and Associates.  He died in 1977. Credit to our friends at Triangle Modernist Houses for their research on Mr. Lee.

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