Pursley Architecture

February 17, 2010 | 22 comments
Must. Visit. Charlotte.

That is the thought that has been circling my mind since discovering the Charlotte-based residential architecture firm Pursley Architecture. It's not every day that an architect's portfolio incites so much enthusiasm in me, but the work of Ken Pursley's firm is simply amazing. All of it.

An alumnus of the McAlpine Tankersley school of architecture, you can see the application of clean lines to classical architecture in Pursley's portfolio that is the rubber stamp of McAlpine influence. Pieces of furniture from the McAlpine line for Lee Industries also make regular appearances. Make no mistake though, the portfolio clearly declares that Pursley has a style unto himself with his regular infusion of unique, enchanting details. Sweeping lines reminiscent of Dutch parapets, bold ironwork and striking kitchens all confirm that signature aesthetic.

We'll kickoff an abbreviated tour of the firm's portfolio with a set of distinct bathroom designs. The creativity really shines through there.

I find the the furniture-like vanity with floating, ceiling-suspended mirror quite interesting. Presumably a toilet is tucked behind the mirror wall. And upon close inspection of this photo, it appears that it was taken from inside an enclosed shower. I think that blue-green line down the left-side of the photo is that of a glass door.

Here the bump-out of the cantilevered vanity to accommodate the profile of the sink is unique. So too is the use of a bridge faucet that is most commonly seen in a kitchen. Furthermore, the mirror placements add a bit of whimsy.

The signature Dutch lines show up here in the profile of the vanity counter. The cabinets bookending the vanity remind me of a design often used on the paneled screens from the McAlpine collection for Lee Industries. Presumably the cabinets are fronted in fabric and nail head trim like the screens.

The Dutch parapet influence stands out again in this bathroom's vanity. Adding to its mystique is a one-of-a-kind mirror application that is a visual and engineering marvel. The door built into the paneled wall is also something I enjoy about the room. Interestingly, I don't notice any sort of knob (just the towel hook) to control the opening and closing of the door.

Moving along, we'll cover some other unique interior detailing before looking at exterior elements.

I found this floor-to-ceiling, paneled "bed wrap" to be unexpected and intriguing. It's like a room within a room. The oval window above the bed makes the wall suggestive of being an actual wall to the outside of the home, although it isn't.

This finely appointed master closet is rich in architectural detail. Notice the vaulting of the ceiling, the furniture-like details of the dressing island, the doors and trim of the clothing cabinets and the window. What a window! And to think that's just the closet!

One of Pursley's specialties is kitchens. I found this one in particular to be a great example of his genius at work. There's a lot to enjoy here - the unique pattern of the detail on the ceiling, the room-length range hood, and the Dutch-style island ends to name a few.

There they are again, those omnipresent fireballs so often seen in the designs of McAlpine and his disciples. Don't let that distract you though. The real star of the show here is the doors. I've never seen anything like them before. Amazing. And the same silhouette is carried over to the beams used at ends of the walls of the room.

Now onto a quick glimpse of the exteriors.

Here a stunning pool house project showcases some of the excellent ironwork designed by the firm, not to mention the structure itself. Notice that the Dutch influence shows up on the exteriors as much as the interiors. The landscape architecture here is quite brilliant too.

Ironwork makes a statement again in the railing and lantern mount in this photo. There is such whimsical beauty in that railing.

Described as Scottish Revival, this architecturally rich house has a lot going on, but it all works. Always there, the Dutch influence shows up in the wall connecting to the turret that presumably houses the main entrance. I imagine the wall encloses the patio displayed in the second photo.

Admittedly missing in this post is more coverage of the exterior architectural prowess of Pursley's firm. This inspiring farmhouse will give you more of an idea, though, of what's in the portfolio. Take a stereotypically simple structure and apply architectural wizardry and this is what you get. The double roof (for lack of a more architecturally-appropriate term) is quite intriguing in the way that it lights up at night.

If the built portfolio wasn't enough to satiate your architectural appetite, the Pursley Architecture website also features a rather large collection of houses that are in design. Each more inspiring than the last, they leave you yearning for a completion date and an address (to drive-by, of course).

Here's one rendering to entice you. You'll have to visit the website for more as we're out of space in this post.

Curiously absent from the Pursley Architecture website is a press section highlighting their accolades. I knew there must be press, though, so I went digging and was able to find a few pieces of due praise. Here they are for your enjoyment:
A trip to Charlotte for some architectural tourism is definitely in order. Perhaps over a weekend this Spring or Summer when the weather is more forgiving and I can fit in a bike ride on a set of roads new to me at the same time.

All images via the Pursley Architecture website.


Acanthus and Acorn said...

This was one of the most enjoyable posts I have ever read. The images were all stunning. Each and evey space. And, as you pointed out, the enchanting details are thrilling and abundant! But, if I had to play favorites, it would be the bathroom in the first image and the master closet with the oval window. The clothes one must own to warrent dressing in such a beautiful space!!!

TSL said...

James, I think I held my breath the entire time I read your post and viewed the photos! I am inspired by the calming whisper of perfection. Thank you!

Terry said...

Wow, you found another Auburn guy, another McAlpine spawn. Every one of your pictures have something that pushes it. That treble clef iron railing is a delight. Shed dormers galore. Thanks so much.

See you Saturday night?


First of all, James, great post. Your research and knowledge is evident. I like the restrained classicism apparent in Pursley's work; it holds a combination of modernity and history that will never tire. Love the bedroom treatment within the wall and I cannot help but to notice most of the sinks are just as elegant as they are universally friendly. Looks like a great day for some biking, by the way, hope you have a chance to enjoy!

Trouvais said...

Nice. Love the high oval windows (dressing room) and curve of that last exterior step. Simple bath with tub. Thanks, Trish

Terry said...

P.S. I y'all clicked the article "The Disappearing Kitchen" I've never seen anything like it. It may keep me awake tonight - in good way.

Blayne Macauley said...

Really great post, and a great introduction to a firm I had never heard of. Way to go on your research. I like the main house, but I have to admit I totally forgot about it once I saw the farmhouse. It is as if someone copied it straight from my dreams. I wish it was mine. I love farmhouses, but one drawback is that they are usually dark on the inside. Not this one! Natural light everywhere. How beautiful. I am going to have to save that picture so that when I get rich and famous I can have one for myself.

Things That Inspire said...

I saw this post this morning on my iphone, and could not wait to get home this evening so I could go through the website of Pursley Architects in great detail. What a find - what a discovery - thank you so much for this post!

It's funny, I had seen the Georgian house on the Pursley website before - through designer Carter Kay - but did not look up the architect of the house, even though the loggia is one of my favorite outdoors rooms that I have ever seen.

I hope you don't mind (and I hope Mr. Pursley doesn't mind), but there are at least 10 images that support posts I am working on...

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful blog you have created. Thanks to Belgian Pearls I found your blog. I look forward to future posts by you. Have a lovely evening. AK.

Doug Davis said...

...lots of, what my colleague Jeff Dungan would call 'pregnant lady curves' -- those big semi-circular shapes that Voysey and the English Arts & Crafts school were so fond of. There is something in every one of these images I could rave about...FAB-U-LOUS work. That first demi-lune vanity is really delightful, especially.

James said...

Thank you everyone. I'm glad you enjoyed the post and Pursley's architecture.

@doug: I was hoping someone like you would chime in with details about what I refer to as the Dutch lines. That's the second time I've heard reference to Voysey in a week. I did some digging on him, but haven't had time to digest it all. Agreed on the demi-lune vanity. I'll send you a photo of another I saw recently.

Things That Inspire said...

Oh, I wish Doug hadn't written pregnant lady curves! Oh well - I still like them. I particularly like how Pursey handles the panes of oval windows; there are several houses that have the curvy grid pattern.

I am glad that Doug referenced Voysey. I have done a tiny bit of research but one note on Voysey stands out: that he was the 'Frank Lloyd Wright' of England.

alice said...

So very pretty and elegant. I love a space that has interest but will be timelessly classic. I knew this would be a good post when I saw Ken Pursley came trained with McAlpine & Tankersley!

Francine Gardner said...

A feat to the eyes. I just spent a wonderful time browsing through ypour photographs. mc alpine happen to be my favorite architectural firm. i work with them on a regular basis via my showroom, and am involved in a small project with them for one of my clients. they bring a sense of timeless elegance to all their projects and so does Ken Pursley. i am so glad to have found you and will follow your blog.

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to let you know how much I truly enjoyed this post. I spent some time looking through there website and really enjoyed it. It's amazing how all of these homes have such staying power. That's exactly what I hope to create with my home. Also if your browsing through their site and you click on the built homes tab some of the homes have a small picture of an open book at the bottom. If you click on the open book it will bring up the magazine article.

James said...

@Things That Inspire: Pregnant lady curves is certainly an interesting description. There must be a better description than what Doug and I have used. I too still like them and am going to find out more about what the curvilinear details are actually called.

@Francine Gardner: Glad to have you here.

@Sherry: Thank you for the heads up. I overlooked the book icon with the press links. I'm going back now to take in all of the press.

Anonymous said...

Am I the only one who thinks it's a bit gimmicky and a knock-off of everyone from Lutyens to McAlpine himself? What's so original about it? Unlike the work of McAlpine, et al, instead of incorporating one unique architectural feature in a house, I see a dozen of them employed in each project. How can one thing be the "star" of a home when everything is competing?

Greet Lefèvre said...

Thank you so much for introducing us to the Pursley Architecture website! So beautiful!! And inspiring!!!
Have you seenthat picture with the stairway, where is made a sort of bookcase???!!!
Thank you so much!

Lauren said...

I love their work, particulary the bathrooms!

Clinton Smith said...

pretty! those (metal?) doors are amazing.

A Perfect Gray said...

wonderful post. enjoyed those images very much, especially the baths. obviously a lot of work went into that - it shows. thanks. . .

Anonymous said...

"Must. Visit. Charlotte!" I got the exact impression when I first stumbled upon Pursley Architecture. Thank you for the post.

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