Sunday, May 20, 2012

General News Feature - "Open-air art - An unusual cabana reflects its owners' spirit of fun"

Open-air art - An unusual cabana reflects its owners' spirit of fun
Greensboro News & Record (NC)-May 20, 2012
Edition: News & Record
Section: LifePage: D1

        GREENSBORO - You might notice something is a little different as soon as you pull up to the home of Drs. Larry Ransom and Kathleen Lucas.

        A bright bird of paradise is painted on the mailbox. The entry is a stained-glass work of the plant, too, one that blooms into a brilliant plume of yellowish orange, purple and green.

        Proceed down the long driveway. And listen. You'll hear the sound of a … waterfall? Where is it coming from? Is it the carport?

        Nope. That's their car cabana.

        "Par-ty, par-ty, chi-chi-chi," Lucas chanted one recent morning as she described the mood that she and her husband wanted to create when they built the open-air structure.

        Is it functional? Sure. But it's also a piece of art, it's fun, and it captures their spirit.

        The car cabana features a skylight, a water feature, a cupola and a one-of-a-kind, built-in sculpture by renowned Greensboro artist Jim Gallucci.

        Lucas bought the home in northwest Greensboro in 1998, a year before she married Ransom.

        The couple honeymooned in Aruba and then got their first bird of paradise. The plant now stands nearly 4 feet tall in their living room and blooms every year. The colors and its spirit of calm run through their home and her office.

        When Ransom, a neonatologist and a Master Horticulturist, leaves his tiny patients, he comes home to a sanctuary that he has spent years cultivating - one that includes a fruit orchard, mini vineyard, greenhouse and, now, this project.

        The couple had a practical need for a carport. But they had other storage spaces, so the new building didn't need to be a garage.

        "The car cabana isn't just about a place to park," Lucas said. "It's a place to gather and entertain."

        Lucas' home and office are decorated in the colors of the bird of paradise: shades of purple, aqua blues and lush greens.

        "I like things that are art as well as practical," Lucas said.

        Enter architect Carl Myatt, who helped Lucas redesign her pediatric practice years ago.

        "The idea is to start the job with a concept and then figure out how to interpret the idea," Myatt said. "It's got to fit the style of the house and bring in the idea."

        And in this case, the technical requirements weren't easy. The cabana is open on all four sides, with no support beams in the middle, and requires a pump for the water feature.

        But the extra, exposed structural beams underneath just provided an opportunity for more colors to be injected into the project.

        With the help of builder John Fields, Myatt, Gallucci and other experts, they did it. The pitch of the roof and even the shingles match the home's roof.

        Though the carport faces the front of the house, the custom cupola, the water feature and the skylight all face the home.

        "I wanted to relate the structure to the existing home," Myatt said.

        All of the artistic details happened organically, too, Lucas said.

        Whether it was solving problems of splashing or finding creative new touches (such as using a Chinese takeout box as a sculptural element to slow the flow of water on each side), there seems to be a story about every detail.

        Lucas and her sister, Gina Lucas, created a tile mosaic in the catch basin of the water feature, and each capstone in the base of each support beam has a special meaning.

        Even after the space was finished, elements were added. During a trip to Asheville, Lucas found an albatross mobile that now hangs in the middle of the space, almost serving as a protector of the domain.

        When the car cabana was finished, Ransom got to work on other projects, including a Japanese rock garden and a bamboo installation to blend into a nearby koi pond.

        Ransom said the whole project - including the landscaping, cabana and four tons of gravel that he shoveled into the Zen garden - probably cost between $15,000 and $20,000.

        But the end result? A veritable oasis.

        Lucas has advice to other homeowners who might want to make improvements to their homes.

        "Don't be afraid to go out of the box," she said. "Use all of your senses. And then find someone to help you design it."