Liz Iftikhar went to an estate sale in 2009 and fell in love – not with a highboy dresser or wrought iron chaise lounge – but with the courtyard setting of the property itself.
And what’s not to like about any home in Greenwood – a historic Chapel Hill neighborhood that hugs the university’s Battle Park, a deeply wooded tract which has been, since 2004, under the aegis of the North Carolina Botanical Garden, a unit of the university.
The miles of hiking trails in Battle Park have been treasured by students, residents and nature lovers for many years. Iftikhar and her son – both runners – have enjoyed the trails immensely since moving to Greenwood from the Franklin-Rosemary Street Historic District, where the Iftikhars lived upon arriving in Chapel Hill.
“We were living in Florida with two young children when we decided to move,” Liz said.
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Liz Iftikhar and her husband Naveed are both entrepreneurs. Naveed is currently involved in Team Visibility, a start-up sales management software company, and Liz runs Baby BumbleBee, a children’s educational media company.
Since they are self-employed, they had a lot of flexibility in selecting a location. They wanted a city with a lot of trails, cultural opportunities and great schools for their two children. Chapel Hill made a short list of three cities (the other two were Austin and San Francisco).
On their second visit to North Carolina, the couple bought a home off Hillsborough Street in downtown Chapel Hill. They considered fixing up the house on Hillsborough, but decided that property didn’t have the possibilities for the kind of renovation they wanted.
“I have been a habitual remodeler wherever we’ve lived — Pennsylvania, Florida and now North Carolina,” Liz said. “It seems to be a disorder.”
After living in Chapel Hill for a year the couple fell in love with the Greenwood neighborhood and bought their first home at 908 Greenwood Road.
They spent the first 18 months extensively renovating the house, which backs up to the woods behind Gimghoul castle and has a lovely serpentine brick wall around the back yard.
Then she walked down the street to the estate sale at 808 Greenwood and, as she puts it, “fell in love” with the house.
“Well, parts of it anyway,” Liz said. “I loved the courtyard, pool, porches, pub, ballroom and yard.”
But the house, which had been owned by the Eatons for many years before being donated to the University, which held the estate sale, had two parts — a 1957 ranch structure and an extensive 1981 renovation that added a large (26-by-36-foot) ballroom (now a great room), an indoor pool, an English-style pub and a gallery to house their art collection.
“The flow was lovely and the addition created the beautiful courtyard that I fell in love with,” Liz said. “However, the original ranch didn’t mesh with the rest of the addition.”
The roofline of the addition seemed to Liz to “loom over the ranch.”
“I knew from the time of the estate sale that the biggest thing I’d want to do to that house was improve the elevation from the street,” she said.
A year or so after the estate sale, the house was up for sale. The Iftikhars bought it.
Liz says she had always wanted to try building a modular home, so she worked with Cary-based home designer Craig Amos and some do-it-yourself software to design the modular addition. An architect on the coast proofed the plans.
In early November she placed an order for the addition with Nationwide homes It was delivered the day after Thanksgiving, which Liz describes as “amazing!”
With the swing of a crane, the modular pieces of the house were in place, and within a year of starting, the renovation was complete.
The main house now has five bedrooms and six full baths plus two half-baths (all are ensuite and the pool area has its own bath). There is an apartment over the garage that has two bedrooms, and 1 1/2 baths.
So there are a total of seven bedrooms, seven bathrooms and three half-baths on the property, which has 8,000 heated square feet – about 4,000 of which is in the new modular.
A new kitchen connects the modular part of the house to the newly remodeled 1981 addition, part of which had to be torn down to the subfloor to make a seamless transition between old and new. Cox Carpentry out of Pleasant Garden near Greensboro did the renovation work.
Habitat for Humanity helped tear down the existing structure and reuse flooring and other materials which helped keep the project green, as did the use of a modular home builder, who was the official general contractor on the project.
Most courageously, the Iftikhars bought the property during the middle of what Liz terms a “lousy market.” She put her 908 Greenwood Road house on the market and, thankfully, it sold faster than she expected.
“I’d love to build again using modular,” Liz said. “It’s so fast, green and efficient. But next time, I want to build from scratch and make it semi-modern.”