February Yard of the Month: 1700 Tippah Ave
February 11 @ 8:00 am - March 8 @ 5:00 pm
Congratulations to our February 2018 Yard of the Month winner, Sharon Kugelmass, at 1700 Tippah.
People come by, admire it and ask: “Who built it? Who designed it? What is it meant to be?” A swirling river, cascading waterfalls, Van Gogh’s “Starry Night,” Gaudi’s spider web gates and entryways. Electric eels frolicking up the hill. It’s all these and more, a neighborhood conversation-starter and a connector.
We’re talking about the railing that snakes up the hill of Sharon Kuglemass’s home on 1700 Tippah Ave., climbs up two sets of stairs and connects a pathway from her house to the street below. After Sharon fell down the stairs racing to an appointment, she realized she needed a railing. She resisted at first just as she had the eye glasses before it. Just her luck to get hurt on the brink of retirement when she was about to be free of encumbrance.
Eight months after that cold slippery day in January 2014, her arm was still in a sling following rotator cuff surgery. Sharon and her neighbor, Edna, walked the neighborhood during her recovery. Edna forging ahead, Sharon tailing behind, discovering the charm and eccentricity of Plaza Midwood, details Sharon said she had missed before in her rush to get — somewhere. She didn’t walk the neighborhood much before the injury, which she said is surprising, considering how much she walked or rode her bike in New York, from the Battery to Greenwich Village, where she lived, to the Theatre District and Museum Mile, to Bloomingdale’s and back, with her mother — no less in the dead of winter. Still, it hadn’t occurred to Sharon to walk in Charlotte – she drove — until Edna took her in hand.
“Edna must have known I was stalling when she showed me the ‘Bubble Fence’ on Belvedere and Winter,” Sharon said. “I was admiring the metallic grasses, cats, bugs and bubbles embedded in the fence when out stepped homeowner and landscape architect Laurel Holtzapple. Yes, the fence was her design, a family project, hence the childlike whimsy and wonder of it, and the family initials tumbling through it.”
Sharon said she knew at once she wanted Laurel to design her railing and her garden. Laurel found “Iron Man” Theron Ross to build the railing and artist-architect Carrie Gault to create the swirling terra cotta mosaic to connect the stairs, which were reduced in grade and risk.
Sharon’s goals for the railing were to make it safe, functional, inviting and consistent with the neighborhood – funky, individualistic, but not too far out. After many drawings and emails and visits to Theron’s workshop, they nailed it, or more accurately forged it to specs. Stainless-steel coils flow up the slope with teal blue metal disks that match the front door, reinforced by steel rods cemented into the brick stairway. Although it looks like it’s about to float uphill, that railing is not going anywhere.
“For me, the railing stands in for acceptance and defiance,” Sharon said. “If you’ve got to have a railing, make it funky and bright. Paint the door blue. And, if you’ve got to wear glasses… well, mine are red, oversized, and get the conversation flowing. Another connector.”
Sharon is now connected from the front porch with the blue door to the street and beyond. She said she doesn’t race down the steps anymore. It’s not so bad — she can still get down the steps and be part of The Scene, the dog walkers and runners, moms and dads strolling or jogging with carriages, and the vitality of the ‘hood.
What next? Now Theron and Laurel are collaborating on another project, a metal fence at the community garden in Midwood Park. The fence will run over the culvert parallel to the walkway and prevent kids from falling into the creek below. Inspired by the plants and animals of the park, the fence will be beautiful and functional, serving as the focal point for the park and also for protection. It will cost about $5,500 to design and fabricate. So far, the Plaza-Midwood Neighborhood Association has $1,400 and plans to raise the rest through donations and raffle sales at the Winter Fling on March 3rd.
This is a terrific opportunity to add to our wonderful community garden. If you’ve enjoyed the lovely rail at Sharon’s home on Tippah, please consider making a donation to our garden rail project by reaching out to Udo Robitsch HERE. All donations are 100 percent tax deductible.