Perhaps not surprisingly, Asheville’s best-known mid-century residential architect also designed churches. There is something uplifting about Bert King’s designs that inspires contemplation, a Zen quality that struck homeowner Randy Siegel the first time he saw the home he now shares with his partner, Don Baker. , and their dog, Onyx. Although he had never lived in a Modernist home before, Siegal says he was “looking for an open and airy home with a long-term view that would showcase my art collection” and immediately knew this house in North Asheville was the right one.
Completed in 1959 for local physician and philanthropist Dr Leon Feldman and his family, the house was designed in a “contemporary California” style, a new direction in an Asheville that expanded to include suburbs such as where the house is. located near the Asheville Country Club. Born in South Carolina but raised locally, King went on to become the main arbiter of mid-century architecture in western North Carolina, with renowned projects such as his iconic wooden chapel on the Warren campus. Wilson.
While interest in mid-century architecture has waned for several decades, it is back in full force now, and King-designed properties are highly sought after in the Asheville real estate market. Siegel bought the house in 2002, attracted by its serenity and simplicity. The house itself is an architectural gem, but the artwork, he says, is its heart and soul.
âIn the language of dreams, houses often represent the psyche,â says Siegel. For him, it is a fitting way of viewing the diverse collection of art and antiques in the couple’s home, an outward manifestation of inner life. Everything in the house âbrings its gift and its voice, and everything works together to create something stronger,â he says, echoing his vision of a world that values ââdiversity, self-expression and community.
At home in harmony
Renovations had been made to the house under the previous owners, but many of its original features were intact, including the lobby’s slate floor (a Bert King finish), Japanese-inspired woven screens separating the hallway front of the great room, and the elegant floating fireplace in the room. Another King signature – the wooden roof beams crossing the front overhang to the rear – unifies the house along the center of the sloping ceiling. The downstairs kitchen, master bath and guest suite have been renovated by Sally Spiegel of Sally House to Home, changes meant to update while retaining the original spirit of the House.
King’s respect for nature and his knack for framing the views of the surrounding mountains of Asheville is evident in the house. Through the awe-inspiring Great Hall windows, the view stretches out to Town Mountain, with the Grove Park Inn’s red-tiled roof in the distance and the twinkling lights of downtown visible in winter. Siegel worked with Asheville landscape architect Mike Oshita to develop a plan that complements the house, a plan that incorporates elements of Japanese garden design, including the bonsai that Oshita still maintains today. In a walled garden next to the dining room, expertly carved bonsai trees and a water feature are a meditative and modern reminder that the house is in harmony with nature.
Know your art
âPeople collect art for many reasons, including financial gain, social status, creative community and creating a legacy,â says Siegel. âWhile I can relate to all of this, for me collecting art is above all a journey of self-awareness. â¦ Living with the pieces from my collection has helped me to know, integrate and possibly share hidden aspects of myself.
This approach explains why the work of the collection is not limited by medium, period or style. Although he has very specific interests – South African-American brut art, self-portraits, for example – Siegel is motivated by his connection to the work rather than by any orthodoxy as to its origin. There are paintings by well-known foreign artists such as Thornton Dial, Clementine Hunter, and Minnie Evans. But there are also a number of portraits of anonymous artists, torn from obscurity at flea markets and auctions, “lost souls” who find a home amidst this vast collection. In the study, there is a highboy made for an African American barber shop in Georgia, circa 1940s. Inspired by a traditional highboy, but constructed with found materials, it is decorated with African hexagonal symbols and painted. inside in blue “haint” to ward off spirits. But there’s also mixed traditional furniture, of American (and even North Carolinian) origin, as well as folk pieces from other cultures, like dowry chests from Mexico and India.
As much as every room has its place in the house, “nothing is static” here, says Siegel. âI am constantly making things happen. He “creates the dialogue” between the objects, changing the conversation from time to time to associate different works with each other. In new positions in the home, objects and art can ârelate to each other in totally different ways,â he says. The simplicity of the design of the house facilitates the dynamics. And its openness and balance with nature brings fresh elements to the palette in every season, from expansive light in summer to fire glow in winter.
Siegel himself is an accomplished oil painter whose work focuses on what he calls “the inner landscape”. His works, ranging from portraits to abstract pieces, have been described as “postcards of the psyche”. With a studio in the garage, her home and her artistic life are seamlessly integrated.
Before the pandemic, Siegel and Baker enjoyed welcoming friends and welcomed their curiosity about the art collection. âWe invited guests to tour the house, choose a painting and tell a story about it. Inevitable, the story would be theirs, âsays Siegel. In this inclusive collection, art is a threshold not only for looking out to the world, but also for turning the lens inward for better self-understanding – impactful views in all directions.
The King’s Legacy
Architect Bertram “Bert” King (1924-2012) designed not only many mid-century homes in the Asheville area, but also some of the area’s most recognizable commercial, public and religious buildings.