The allure of a property is always that much more when it’s been home to somebody significant. Even if that somebody was a nondescript pig named Hamilton. “He did serve as the mascot for the local NHL team, you know,” chuckles interior designer Robert MacNeill, who insists neither Hamilton nor any of his predecessors had any influence on his and husband Paul Ingram’s decision to purchase said home in Raleigh, North Carolina’s Caraleigh Mills neighborhood.
“We came to find this unit in a roundabout way,” shares Robert, who helms Raleigh–based full-service design practice Roux MacNeill Studio alongside designer Brittany Roux. “We had set our hearts on living in Caraleigh Mills, but nothing we saw met our expectations.” What did appeal was a two-bedroom condo loft in a former mill (since converted into residential units), listed on North Carolina’s historic register, that wasn’t even on the market. “It was a home the agent owned himself, so we immediately went over to see it.” But it came with a caveat: The couple had to be willing to let the existing renter stay through to the end of his lease. It was an ask, of course, they were happy to oblige.
Robert and Paul’s motivation to wait stemmed from a need to be closer to Robert’s downtown design studio and live in a space with history. “As a couple with two cats, we had outgrown our 700-square-foot loft condo in downtown Durham,” avers Paul, a research scientist who shares with Robert a love of travel, being in nature, and collecting art. This home, then, with its giant windows, brick facade, pool, gym, community garden, and 14 acres of land, was a veritable oasis. The bonus? It was only five minutes from downtown Raleigh.
Beautiful as it was, the home had room for updates. After all, for a family of two humans and two cats, two bedrooms seemed excessive, especially when the living and dining areas were so pinched for space. To Robert and Paul, the solution was obvious—get rid of the walls altogether. Surely that would blur the line between the private and common areas, and create enough square footage to go around. The move turned out to be golden, enabling the couple to carve out a little lounge (in place of the original living room), plus a separate living room twice the size of the original, achieved by eliminating one bedroom. “The combined space is about one-third of the total footprint. That’s a good amount of seating for a condo so small,” enthuses Robert, who converted the metal loft above the remaining bedroom into an idyllic, semi-open guest nook.
The reorientation afforded the opportunity to bring in bold colors, considered textures, and layers of light. As art collectors, the couple also had more places to display their art, because, as they like to say, “We hang art anywhere we can find a spot.” That said, they exercised restraint with furniture, choosing to buy pieces only to fill in the gaps. “We got rid of very little when we moved from our previous place, and wanted to use what we had as far as possible. Sourcing anew was like trying to find the missing pieces of a very fun puzzle,” says Paul. Some pieces, of course, were more challenging to bring in than others—the yellow living room sofa, a fitting example. “It was the perfect addition—until we tried hauling it in through the front door. We ultimately had to screw off the hinges to get it inside,” laughs Robert.
The couple agrees that the home was worth the wait. “Our favorite thing about it is its history. Nothing about the building was made in an intentionally decorative way. We consider it a playground where we can experiment with design but not find ourselves bound by a previous style,” notes Robert. These days, he and Paul find as much joy inside the home as outside it. With restaurants, parks, and the state farmer’s market all within walking distance, there’s always something to do or see. It’s a season of life where everything feels just right.