On a crisp December day, the unbearably cute, 13-year-old pooch Bernie greets me on the front porch with his tail wagging. A wrought iron fence surrounds the plush green front lawn of Daidree Tofano and her mom Valerie's home, which is host to one of the most amazing vegetable and herb gardens I've ever seen. (Last summer, Daidree invited me over for Sunday brunch. When I got there, she escorted me into the front yard, where we created the most delicious summer salad I have ever eaten.) Daidree and Val are standing in the doorway to welcome me.
Located in NoDa, the original structure of the house was built in 1939. The entryway opens up into a large front room, its walls painted a soft, tranquil yellow. The delicious aroma of bread baking in the oven creates an even deeper sense of warmth and comfort that can already be felt throughout the home. The beautiful artwork and precious photographs lining the walls tell a tale of this family's extensive travels and rich family lineage.
"When I graduated from Duke in '06, I moved to the mountains to work on an organic medicinal herb garden," Daidree, an opera singer and graduate student at Winthrop University, says. "After that, I moved home in 2007 and began violin and voice lessons before going to grad school in 2010. It's been wonderful being here with [my family]. I wouldn't have it any other way."
There is indeed a feeling of joyfulness within the residence. Their bright and sunny disposition is palpable and resonates throughout their living space. The dining, kitchen and living areas are all decorated with everything from traditional Indian hanging art to intricate wooden corbels that flank either side of the original brass fireplace. Exquisitely crafted brass statuettes sit perched atop the corbels, and centering the opposite wall, against a wine red backdrop, is a one-of-a-kind framed lithograph from World War I that Val purchased from the Metrolina Expo.
"That one cost a few dollars," Val explains good-naturedly.
The dining and kitchen areas are separated by a gorgeous blond, solid wood breakfast bar that was once a floor panel. It's clear that this place belongs to an artist. The paintbrushes soaking in water and the gorgeous oil and acrylic canvases everywhere may be a dead giveaway, but the artistry is also reflected in the unique color palette and perfect harmony of classic and modern decor that run throughout the house.
"I've been an interior designer for years," says Val. "I bought this house in 1988, redesigned the entire kitchen and master bath. It was only in 2009 that I actually started to paint. I always said I'd do it when I retired, but in '09, after I fought [and won] my battle with cancer, I picked up the paintbrush. We were coming back from Durham one day, and Daidree said, 'Mom, we're going to get you an easel and you're going to start painting now.' And so I did." (Today, several of her most unique and sought after oil and acrylic canvases are currently on display at the Charlotte Art League.)