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Great gay homes
Gays and lesbians in both Carolinas have the corner on stylish real estate

by David Moore
Q-Notes staff

Wesley Mancini and Bob Scheer

Plenty of folks around Charlotte know Wes Mancini. He’s one of the world’s leading textile designers and the man behind The Wesley Mancini Foundation, which provides grants for projects that promote the inclusion of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender individuals in the Charlotte community.

Mancini purchased his 4,488-square-foot Mediterranean-style Myers Park mansion in 1990.

“It was really very plain when I first bought it,” Mancini recalls. “So I had the whole place gutted.”

With the help of architect Michael Gallis, Mancini gave the house a massive makeover, but stayed true to the time period of the home (originally built in 1925) with his new designs and by maintaining some key features, like the structure’s original floors and its radiator heating system.

“We have central air,” he explains, “but I wanted to keep the radiators. So I had them sand-blasted.”

Mancini also removed the simple single front door and replaced it with dramatic Mahogany double doors. “I wanted a grand entranceway,” he says with a laugh.

Just beyond the foyer is a sweeping staircase highlighted by a crystal chandelier. To the right side of the foyer is a billiard room complete with knotty wood paneling, a reading room and a sunroom.

The opposite side of the foyer opens into a dining room, kitchen and a family room that has direct access to the estate’s gardens, greenhouse and pool.

Mancini and his partner Bob Scheer enjoy spending much of their time in this area, entertaining guests, tending to an exotic collection of plants gleaned from their many world travels and playing with their private zoo of pets that includes dogs, cats, rabbits and guinea pigs (among others).

Upstairs you’ll find Mancini and Scheer’s master suite, which boasts a sitting room (complete with a surround sound system hidden in the walls and ceiling), as well as two guestrooms and a jacuzzi. The master bedroom, bath, shower and jacuzzi all afford fabulous garden views.

The house is currently on the market, but Mancini isn’t quite sure he’s ready to sell just yet.

In a February interview with Q-Notes, he talked about his historic home (originally built by real estate developer John Cutter) and the equally historic building that houses his business in downtown Charlotte.

“It’s a lot to maintain,” he said at the time. “I think something’s going to have to go.”

A half a year later Mancini’s still holding on to both properties.

He gets a gleam in his eye when he talks about the house that he’s vested so much of his personal creativity into. “I have a lot of things in the works,” he explains. “So we’ll see what happens.”

Lindsay Dukes and Catherine Lafonde

Lindsay Dukes is a real estate agent in Charleston and the surrounding area. She and her partner Catherine LaFonde (a real estate attorney) enjoy purchasing older homes, restoring their livelihood and then placing them back on the market for new ownership. Their current project is a turn-of-the-20th century home in Summerville, S.C.

“It’s about 25 miles outside of Charleston and right in downtown Summerville,” says Dukes. “It’s a two story with 2,500 square feet and five bedrooms. It’s got this very high-pitched roof, so it looks kind of like a castle. It’s a beautiful old property.”

Other projects the two have tackled in the past include a 1940s arts and crafts style home in Riverland and a one-story ranch on James Island.

The home the two share together is also located on James Island.

Built in the early ’70s, it’s a contemporary style home with vertical wood shingles and it’s right on the waterfront.

Dukes recalls the state of the home when they bought it with comedic detail.

“It was like you had stepped back in time to the 1970s,” she chuckles. “Brown walls and shag carpeting and appliances in avocado green, harvest gold and orange.

“The carpet was in such perfect condition you’d think they used the shag brush on it everyday. We took up the carpeting and put in heart of pine floors. In the kitchen we removed the linoleum and put in tile.

“All the ceilings had that popcorn texture, so we smoothed that out and painted the cheap wood paneling a light tan. After all that — it turned out great. We’re very happy here.”

If you’re thinking about investing in a fixer-upper for resale, Dukes has a few words of advice.

“I’ve seen people fix up houses and try to cut corners. You have to do nice things to the house and use quality material and work if you want to sell it for what you hope to get.”

Lisa Griffin and Carrie Gault

The house psychologist Lisa Griffin and architect Carrie Gault share in Charlotte’s Foxcroft neighborhood is unlike any other structure in the entire city.

Covered in raw, vertical wood siding, the roof is made from rough-cut, cedar wood shingles. As with most houses constructed using this and similar materials, the exterior has turned an attractive grayish-silver with age.

“ As an architect, I could not duplicate this work today,” says Gault. “It’s an incredible house.”

According to Gault, the northern California-style ’70s home was designed by architect W. Crutcher Ross and constructed by Reynolds Construction.

A tree reaches towards the sky from the atrium in the center of the house. Surrounding the atrium are eight rooms, four of which are bedrooms, each with its own bath.

“ The family that built the home owned a tile company,” says Gault, “so there is a lot of beautiful tile throughout the house.

Another striking aspect to the interior of the home are tongue and groove fir ceilings.

“ This house is quite an anomaly for this neighborhood. Most of what you see out here is standard ’50s ranches.”

Tucked discretely away from the street and designed with organic and Japanese influences — the house is like a world all of its own.

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