Couple brings dream home to life

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Kathryn Hicks and Jackson Bowen share a laugh together in the living room Friday on Oak Street.


Staff Writer

Monday, June 3, 2019

Kathryn Hicks, 30, of Rocky Mount, likes to think outside the box.

When Hicks, an artist and marketing professional, told her family she was looking to put down permanent roots in her hometown and wanted to look in the older neighborhoods of Rocky Mount.

Her father Al Hicks said he thought she was talking about West Haven or the stately houses on Falls Road. Kathryn had another idea. After touring Rocky Mount neighborhoods and checking out available properties, she found where she wanted to plant her first home.

At the end of a short block at the end of Oak Street, back behind the old Booney’s Hot Dog restaurant, Kathryn could imagine her dream home.

“Growing up, I spent a lot of time on the Edgecombe side of Rocky Mount where my parents were raised. I took weekly trips to the library, played T-ball at the church on Grace Street and frequented Central Cafe,” Hicks said, “I wanted to be close by to that.”

She recalls that when she showed her favored location for her home to her family, her parents were not seeing what she was seeing.

“I was ... skeptical,” Kathryn’s father remembered during an interview at Kathryn’s recently completed home on Oak Street. “She got tired of me continually asking her, ‘Are you 100 percent sure about this?’”

She was. Where most people saw tired and old homes, Hicks saw a place where she could meld a modern home in an old neighborhood. A block that looked mostly forgotten and forlorn to someone else looked full of potential to Kathryn.

And as Al Hicks looked around the 1,600-square-foot home that Kathryn has made a reality, he admitted — she knew what she was doing.

Hicks said the mission of the the Rocky Mount Mill Village — live, play, work — appealed to her and she wanted to be near the Mill Village revitalization.

“So No. 1, I wanted to be in this general vicinity,” she said. “While the house that originally was here wasn’t salvageable, I love the quietness of the street, the woods behind my lot and the large size of the lot,” Kathryn said.

The brand-new modern style home is built on a 1.1 acre lot and definitely stands out from the other mid-century or earlier homes in her surrounding neighborhood off Falls Road.

Her father helped her draw up a plan for the interior space of the home and she commissioned Oakley Collier Architects to help design the modern exterior of the home.

They started building in July 2018 and Hicks and her fiancé, Jackson Bowen, moved in last week. HIcks said she and her fiancé and family worked on the house almost every weekend.

“I served as the contractor. I’d hire sub-contractors and tell them I just needed them to come — just them. Jackson and I were the labor and the assistants,” Hicks said, “There’s a lot of sweat equity in this house.”

She remembers that when the roof went on, it finally seemed real.

“I remember thinking, ‘OK, this is looking like a home now,’” she said.

Bowen remembers the 30-foot beams that had to go up, across the home.

“That was really hard,” he recalled. “We had a carpenter come in and told him we’d be the labor. Those things were so heavy. We had to call in some brothers for backup,” he said with a laugh.

The interior of the home is modern and utilitarian and perfect for displaying art — Hicks passion.

“I wanted the white walls, with good light to best display my art,” Hicks said.

The home’s furnishings are a mix of modern with vintage. The modern kitchen table with metal legs is made out of wood from the original doors in the home. The clawfoot tub in the guest bathroom is also original to the home.

“We saved what we could,” she said.

Hicks said she loves her neighborhood and has appreciated meeting her neighbors over the course of the past year as she was building her house.

“The kids especially were fun to meet. They wanted to see what we were doing,” Hicks said. “And one of my neighbors has promised me some fresh vegetables from his garden this summer.”

Hicks said all the neighbors she met have been very friendly and seem excited she’s going to live in the home she’s built.

“I dream of seeing this neighborhood as a healthy, diverse community that is reflective of the heritage of this area in North Carolina,” Hicks said. “I’d like to see young and old, homeowners and renters, black and white and green with polka dots — people as diverse as the architecture with modern homes, historic homes and traditional homes.”

Hicks said she hopes to show young people in Rocky Mount that you don’t have to rent to be part of the revitalization of the place they call home.

“Step out of your usual comfort zone and create a home for yourself in a neighborhood with diversity and history,” she said. “Building a new home can be a real option.”

Hicks, Bowen and Al Hicks all say working to build a house with as much sweat equity as they put into it takes tenacity and is not for the faint of heart.

“Sometimes it got really hard,” Hicks said. “But I knew the end result would be worth it.”

Al Hicks said it’s been something to see — his tiny two pound baby girl, born at 27 weeks, become such a talented, determined and accomplished young woman.

“She makes up her mind about what she is driven to do and she lets nothing stand in her way,” he said. “Which is a lesson we can all live by.”