Kitchen remodel enhances usability, preserves Victorian sensibilities
Long-distance relationships are hard. Carrie Torres knows this firsthand.
In the 1980s, she fell in love with Western North Carolina during summer trips to visit her grandparents in Lake Lure. The granite cliffs and roaring waterfalls tugged at her heart. The great expanses of green gave her butterflies. “I felt like I had found heaven on earth,” Torres says dreamily. “Relocating became my goal.”
But as the years wore on, Torres drifted further from this wild terrain. She met her husband in Miami and started a family. Unable to move to North Carolina because of his career, Torres settled for extended weekends and holiday vacations. During one of these trips, she found herself driving along a backroad near Laurel Park, daydreaming of purchasing a home in the mountains.
Then, as Torres rounded a corner, she saw it: an 1864 Victorian mansion nestled on five acres at the base of Davis Mountain. She was mesmerized.
“I sat in the middle of the road with my chin resting on the steering wheel,” she says. “I was frozen. It was like she had a hold of me, and I was paralyzed with admiration.”
Every trip thereafter, Torres returned to the home, appreciating it from a distance. Then, in 2020, the mansion went up for sale.
“‘We should buy her,’” Torres remembers telling her brother-in-law, Ricardo Ordonez. Though she was half-joking, Ordonez — a Miami entrepreneur with a network of luxury properties across the world — saw the home’s potential as a rental property. And so, the pair partnered with two couples to purchase the sprawling manor, which they promptly dubbed “Casa Carolina Estate.”
Alas, restoring the 19th-century relic to her original grandeur has been no easy feat. The sheer size — 5,613 square feet — was its own challenge. Even more onerous was the task of marrying old and new. “We wanted to keep the glamor of the Victorian architecture while adding very modern spaces,” Ordonez explains.
Striking this balance was especially difficult in the kitchen, says interior designer Matthew Watkins of American Refinery in Hendersonville. Though the galley had been updated over the years, the latest iteration was, he says, “just terrible.”
Watkins elaborates: “There were two sinks, weird tile countertops, and old cabinets.” Pre-renovation photos also reveal floral wallpaper. Needless to say, “cooking in there was nearly impossible.”
But rather than abandon the galley layout altogether, Watkins and the homeowners knocked down a wall dividing the kitchen from the foyer. They also chose to keep the original hardwood flooring and ornate moulding around the windows and doorways. “[We] did not want to disregard her past,” Watkins quips.
They did, however, want to disregard the bulky, oak-faced cabinets. Working with Packard Cabinetry in Hendersonville, the team selected a Shaker style with brushed brass hardware to provide a “transitional look” that’s contemporary without feeling stark, says Packard Kitchen and Bath Designer Karen Kalan.
To add a pop of whimsy, Watkins and the clients settled on “Rosemary” — a soothing shade by Sherwin-Williams — for the cabinets. According to Torres, the hue speaks to the persimmon, mulberry, and pecan trees that dot the property. “We wanted to bring those colors inside,” she says.
Keeping with the nature-centric theme, the team selected a colonial-white leathered granite from Integrity Marble and Granite in Forest City. A waterfall edge was added for “understated drama,” says Watkins.
The resulting aesthetic is clean and sleek. But it still whispers of days gone by.
“Originally, the home belonged to a doctor,” Torres reveals. “Other owners have used the property as a pig farm and an orchard.”
Today, it will serve as a vacation rental for folks like Torres — people who must love these mountains from afar, at least for now.
“Preserving this piece of history is our gift to Hendersonville,” says Torres, who hopes to finally relocate to Western NC once her children head off to college. “[It’s] a thank you, if you will, for all the wonderful memories from my childhood, plus the many more yet to come.”
Kitchen Design and Cabinetry: Packard Cabinetry (Hendersonville and Mebane, NC; Sea Cliff, NY)
Interior Designer: Matthew Watkins, American Refinery (Hendersonville)
General Contractor: Union Design and Remodeling (Miami, Florida)
Countertops: Integrity Marble and Granite (Forest City)
Kitchen Lighting: Hinkley (Avon Lake, Ohio)