When N. Jackson Thacker moved his residential design business to E. Washington Street nearly 25 years ago, he saw the lot’s potential to someday play host to a second structure.
“All this was wisteria,” Thacker says of the lower half of his property. “When I started this, people couldn’t believe I could get this building on this site.”
While he prides himself on his ability to put five pounds in a two-pound bag when it comes to space-saving design, time is a different matter. There are still only so many hours in a day. With his designs in demand all over town from the moment he hung out his shingle, Thacker had to put his own projects on the back burner for a decade or two.
Opportunity knocked when Thacker’s son, Michael, found himself in need of a place to live, and the two teamed up to finally build that house out back. The result of this father-son effort is 950 square feet of intelligent design that makes good use of every square inch.
Thacker used a round wall and doors that fold on a radius to tuck a small den into the corner between the bedroom and main living area—an ingenious solution that leaves ample room for his two young grandsons to inhabit when they visit. The ceiling in the grandboys’ nook is fashioned from surplus Caribbean pine someone had discarded.
The first several stair risers leading to a second level—all those stairs that can be reached from the floor—are fitted with hinged doors that give way to storage for vacuum cleaners and the like, and the steps are staggered side by side in order to accommodate the appropriate number of steps without encroaching on precious floor space.
“I just wanted to let my hair down and do funky things and use things that I’ve found and collected over the years,” Thacker says, proclaiming himself a devotee of Fred Sanford—skilled in the art of scavenging for and giving new life to old, unwanted, or leftover materials.
Thacker chose corrugated metal to add texture to the ceiling in the bedroom and scored a deal on a section that had been flattened by a forklift. He used the excess as a privacy rail around the deck that can be accessed from both the master bedroom and the kitchen.
“I was looking for some old stuff, and I just didn’t like the rust,” Thacker says of his corrugated metal quest. “So I bought new and had a glaze put on it.” Thacker designed, and had built, a platform bed for this room, with drawers underneath for out-of-the-way storage.
Perhaps the most talked about room in the house is the bathroom, thanks to a jewel of a stool installed at Michael’s insistence. Michael first became acquainted with the Toto Washlet while traveling in Asia on business and knew he would one day call this throne his own. The Washlet automates the washroom experience—from the lid that lifts on approach to the bidet that bids one adieu.
Mirrored doors over the vanity appear to house the traditional medicine cabinet, but curious guests are instead treated to a majestic view of the downtown Greenville skyline. The doors can be adjusted to let in plenty of light without compromising privacy.
Thacker’s knack for cleverly disguised storage is showcased in the kitchen. He never had a full set of drawings, just designed as he went, and along the way decided to thicken one wall of the kitchen, veneer over it with panels, and create a slim pantry. A two-foot refrigerator disappears in the cabinetry, and its freezer companion is across the room in a pull-out drawer. An old milk crate installed on casters acts as wine storage.
And speaking of disappearing, every outlet and switch in the kitchen was installed on the underside of the cabinets, for an undisturbed antique mirror backsplash.
What was originally conceived as a bachelor/single dad pad for Michael is now a hot commodity among out-of-town visitors. The Thackers take great pride in using their property to show off their beloved hometown. Lucky attendees of their inaugural Fourth of July gathering had front-row seats for the city’s fireworks display, and guests are often pleasantly surprised by the lack of street noise despite being mere steps away from all downtown has to offer.