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German-born architect Toby Witte designs and builds modern houses for a living in Charlotte, so when it came time to be the architect of his own home, he simultaneously had all the tools he needed — and his work cut out for him.
“Since it was a house for myself and my family, the hardest part was to get my own design fervor in check,” he told CharlotteFive. “We had to meet our budget, make sure we get it all in — and so the trick was to behave.”
- Witte and his wife have three teen daughters, ages 17, 15 and 13.
- The family home in Concord is just 1,710 square feet, so Witte created a layout designed around maximum efficiency for both private and communal spaces.
- It has four bedrooms and two bathrooms.
- Trees and windows: Witte wanted to save as many trees as possible, and the home is designed with windows everywhere. This gives the home a treehouse feel, offering a contrast between the home’s modern design and its natural surroundings. Green becomes the theme throughout, thanks to the tree leaves.
The home’s ultimate test: Quarantine
When COVID-19 arrived and all five members of the family were working and attending school from home, the house was given its ultimate test: Could they all live together comfortably still, even now? The answer was a resounding yes, Witte told CharlotteFive recently. In fact, he said that for many homeowners, the pandemic actually highlighted what does — and doesn’t — work in home design.
“We have been actually stuck in here during the quarantine, during the pandemic, for a whole year. It’s a small house, 1,700 square feet, and yet it never felt like we were on top of each other. I noticed a lot of people are redesigning their homes, adding on, doing renovations because, precisely, their homes aren’t working.
“I really do think that homes here in Charlotte are just not made to be lived in. The nice sort of realization we had is that our house is actually working. The quarantine, the living at home, being cooped up in here actually brought to the forefront that it’s working as a living environment quite well.”
Some fun facts about the home:
- The house is designed around a brick wall, which begins outside and runs through the home. All of the spaces pinwheel around it.
- Unique storage solutions and built-ins can be found everywhere. In hallways, staircases and nooks, you’ll find easy-to access drawers, shoe storage, ceiling-high wardrobes and kitchen storage with custom built-in compost, spice drawers and more.
German-inspired: “I’m originally from Germany, and I’m sure I brought some ideas and concepts from there: modern ideas about living, space-saving ideas, all the good stuff.”
Here’s a look around:
I’m a sucker for organization, so of course my favorite part of the home tour was getting to see all the creative storage solutions. From nooks for coats and board games to seating areas tucked into a corner beside a tree-framed window (perfect for rainy day reading), I could see how 1,700 square feet could be plenty. As you check out the individual spaces, we’ll point out some of our favorites.
BUT FIRST: Note the storage options just in the staircase:
- Two steps become shoe storage.
- A column pulls double duty as a coat closet.
- Board games are displayed on shelves at the top of the stairs. Grab your favorite on the way down to the family room.
The kitchen window that looks out to the street is just the right shape and size for whoever is standing at the sink to feel like part of the community. Witte said he thinks the kitchen in every home should face the street, looking out into the neighborhood. I immediately pictured my own kitchen (of course), which does not do that, and I realized how right he is. Witt’s window ledge is made from a 300-year-old untreated North Carolina Oak that used to be in a log home.
Every inch of the kitchen was measured several times before building, with Witte’s plan being ease of use for multiple master chefs. Here, creative storage solutions include:
- A hole in the kitchen counter for compost that drops into a bin in a drawer below.
- A drawer for spices and other often-used ingredients keeps them convenient and tucked away.
Living and dining rooms
DINING ROOM, CLASSROOM, OFFICE: Versatility is important in the family’s shared living space, especially during the past year and a half. Liz Witte is a teacher who spent much of quarantine hosting virtual classes. Toby Witte worked from home, as well. All three children also attended school remotely. This went on for almost a year — Liz went back to the school around the holidays to Zoom from there.
Also of note:
- The laundry room/pantry are behind the teal doors near the stairs.
- The family’s three cats have hidden storage for bedding, litter, etc.
There’s not so much a door to the master bedroom as there is a movable wall. During the day, the Wittes open the bedroom wall into the living space, which generously offers more square footage to the family. “At night when you need privacy, you can give that back to the bedroom, and during the day, you have all the square feet and space in the living room,” he said.
Upstairs are the daughters’ bedrooms, designed to jut out from each other, with windows that look into each other’s bedrooms — but somehow, with privacy. If a Witte child stands directly at the window, she can wave at her sister or hold up a sign with the answers to her math quiz. For privacy, she simply needs to take a few steps back — and the room is hers again.
As expected, organization and storage are also important here, with five people sharing two bathrooms. The home’s brick wall really takes the stage in the bathroom.
Here, the living space spills outdoors, with a fire pit, seating throughout, a tightrope. Saving as many trees as possible on the property pays off in droves during outdoor time. The outdoor areas are shaded — which means its cooler during Carolina summers.
The exterior of the home was also carefully designed:
- There’s space for a future carport, should the family decide to add one.
- The entry has a 4×4’ plate overhead, just big enough so that two people can stand under it during a rainstorm, staying dry while fumbling for keys.