Knock Knock: The Triangle’s Most Unusual Houses

Obrist House was built in 1962
Jul. 06, 2013 @ 11:29 AM

Kellie Johnson and Laura Miller love Mid-Century Modern homes, and they always wanted to own one of their own.

But, if you’ve ever looked for a modern home, it’s really hard to find one on the market. When they do surface they can be ridiculously expensive, or if they are affordable, they can need an excessive amount of renovation work to bring them up to a livable condition. Plus, I know from my own experience that people that build or buy a Mid-Century Modern home tend to stay in it for a long time, so, finding one to buy is a rare discovery indeed.

So, in 2011, Miller  and Johnson were thrilled to discover and purchase the Walter and Myrtle A. Obrist House on 2604 McDowell Road in Durham. Originally built in 1962, the house was a modest mid-century diamond in the rough, in need of just a little tender loving care. It was equal parts affordable and awesome. 

Even though it had been sold several times before and had been a rental home for college students for the past few years, it didn’t need drastic renovation work to bring it back to its original retro glory. Johnson and Miller just replaced the kitchen countertops and appliances and painted most of the dark wood siding. But, mostly they freshened up the spaces by cleaning off the years of neglect and adding a new coat of paint.

When I visited their home last week, Miller and Johnson proudly walked me around and told me how much they love the openness of the plan and the way the rooms flow from one space to another and the way the light floods into the space from the high windows. They told me how they love the way the home is nestled into the woods and how much they love their new neighborhood. 

They really did do a nice job reviving the house. It’s clean and modern and open, and retains all of its original retro 1960s fabulousness.  It even has an original cold-war bomb shelter in the basement. Granted, Johnson and Miller are using the space for storage now instead of a place to hide from the Soviets, but it’s nice to have.

You know, just in case.