Written by Nancy Atkinson
Photography by Jim Schmid It was the house everyone in Charlotte was interested in but no one would buy. Until self-proclaimed “serial remodelers” Joy and Michael Palermo walked through its doors.
“We almost didn’t buy it,” said Joy Palermo. She described breaking down after their tenth walk-through of the house with architect Frank Smith and builder Ben Collins of the Salins Group.
Joy explained that the house had a nice exterior but was so quirky on the inside that it turned people off. “The rooms were dark, the flow was bad and one of the bedrooms had no windows,” she said. “The interior walls were 16” thick cement and could not be moved.”
But the biggest design challenge would be adding an upstairs wing with bedrooms for the couple’s four children – within their budget.
Thankfully, at the eleventh hour, the team created a plan to make the Mediterranean style home a perfect fit for the Palermo family. Joy, an interior designer who graduated from the Fashion Institute of Technology, and her husband Michael, a banker who shares his wife’s love of remodeling and her sense of style, began working closely with architect Frank Smith on the design of the home.“I have always loved Frank’s style,” she said. “He and I discovered we both love the book Villa by architect John Saladino (known for creating serenely timeless interiors). We decided that’s where we wanted to go with it, and it grew from there.”
“We are so busy all the time,” said Joy. “I wanted to create an environment that made us feel really protected, a space that was cozy and soothing.”
Joy used a very calming color palette to create an overall feeling of symmetry. She mixed furniture and accessories from her other houses with new items selected specifically for this home.
“Antiques bought in Paris sit beside things from IKEA,” she said. “It’s a great eclectic mix of high and low, old and new, pulled together with the neutral tone.”
When asked about her favorite architectural detail Joy is quick to mention the courtyard with its new pool. “I love the courtyard,” she said. Previously unusable space, it was Frank’s idea to put in a pool. Now the family hangs out there all the time.
Joy laughs when she says the questions people ask the most are, ‘How can you live through a renovation like this with four children and how do you stay married?’ But the Palermos have renovated a total of five homes together in their 15-year marriage and they truly love the process.
“This house is unlike any of our other houses,” she said. “We have done the Southern thing and the Georgian thing, but this home is our little cocoon inside Charlotte. When you are here it feels like you could be anywhere in the world, even France or Italy. It is like you are on a vacation at home.”
And though she already has her next dream project in mind (a fisherman’s cottage in the Hamptons – done in all white) she admits this home could be a keeper.
“This house is beyond what I had envisioned,” said Joy. “It truly is one of those houses that is once in a lifetime – the house everybody wanted but nobody wanted. I am just so glad we saw the potential.”