24 Kimberly Avenue, Part I

Last week I met again with realtor Sabine in Asheville, NC, for another house tour-Kells Castle.  Located in the Grove Park area on 24 Kimberly Avenue, the unique cement block and brick house sits away from the street behind a curtain of green.  Many thanks to the gracious homeowner for greeting us and then allowing us to roam around at whim.

Architect Douglas Ellington designed this home for his friend, the artist Rose Brown, and her husband Sanford in 1949.  Clay Griffith writes in his book An Inventory of Douglas Ellington’s Architectural Work in Western North Carolina:

Rose Brown, an accomplished painter and designer, took the inspiration for the residence from the Book of Kells, which Ellington had loaned to her, and from the architecture of medieval Irish monasteries.   She reportedly challenged Ellington that he could not build her a house of cinder block that she would like.  Inspired by the challenge issued to him, Ellington constructed the house of exposed cinder block with brick accents and banding and covered with a red tile roof.

Ellington is also the architect of the art deco S & W Cafeteria in downtown Asheville–a favorite building of mine.

There are two front entrances, both arched doors with a diamond motif.

One door leads to Brown’s former art studio and the other to a small mural-covered foyer.  Brown painted the mural herself, inspired by the complex illustrations of the Book of Kells.More hand-painted designs cover the ceiling of the great room, to the right from the foyer.

I didn’t have a chance to ask the homeowner about the collections here in the room, ones that imply an affinity with travel to faraway lands.  The total effect here does not appear precious but loved and evolved over time.  The room sets the tone for the whole house, an air of whimsical bohemian academia.

Kells Castle is listed for sale, and according to the seller’s pamphlet, the tiered iron chandeliers are originally from the Dupont Estate in Florida.  The home’s second owner installed the grand fixtures in the 1990s.  I can’t imagine the room without them.The homeowner told me and Sabine of the fabulous parties she and her husband have thrown in this room with a disco ball and strobe lights for dancing.  She also said that Rose Brown, the original owner, used to hold seances in this great room.  Brown urged those who attended the seances to write their name and birthday on the walls of the basement stairwell.  Here the names still remain, up and down the risers.
On the wall opposite the wall of names is the astrological chart and verses painted by Brown.

On the other side of the foyer is the kitchen.

Brown’s former studio soaks up light from a skylight on the other side of the great room.  I love this room–feels very theatrical to me.  There is a piano, stairs that look like a stage, a curtain drawn to the side…

…and Juliet’s balcony is ready for Act II.

A Calder-esque mobile hangs in front of a painting made by Asheville artist Benjamin M. Betsalel.
Up the stairs a little window looks out back under a swath of fringed fabric, informally installed with tacks.
The room at the top of the stairs:

One of my favorite things about the house is something simple:  doors throughout are different, unique, and thoughtful.


Kells Castle teases with two personalities–one with a storied past and the other with a contemporary multi-storied perspective.  The current owners built a tower addition in 2003 that weaves in and out of the original structure at different levels, creating this seemingly magical place of time and space.  Don’t miss Part II of Kells Castle when we explore the tower.  Thank you to the homeowners and Sabine!


  1. Cristal says:

    Very interesting house with a very interesting past. But is it just me or is that mural kind of creepy??

  2. Definitely magical. You had me sold at “whimsical bohemian academia.” That’s perfect! And my favorite part, the little fringed bit of fabric tacked above the window. I think someone really loves this place and it shows.

  3. Karen Tyner says:

    Wonderful time in Asheville with the kids, heard I almost had an opportunity to tour with you!! Home again and fun to be back on your blog. Interesting places and things to do in Asheville!

  4. I. Love. that. house. Period.

  5. Peggy says:

    I love the way the stairs are done. Beautiful home. But if I lived there, I’d have to paint over the seance visitors. Too creepy.

  6. I would love to know how much those chandeliers are worth! They’re lovely!

  7. What a cool place. How do you bust into all of these place for a tour? Do you knock on the doors and say “Hi, I am Angela, let me in.”

    I would let you in if you knocked on my door:-)

  8. Nancy C hadley says:

    Sanford Brown was my great uncle. What a treasure to see the inside of this house again. His brother Carl B Brown was my grandfather. Nancy Hadley, Asheville/Wilmington, NC

  9. Thanks for sharing your thoughts about Asheville Real Estate.

  10. My cousin lives there now! How cool to see it before all their renovations!

  11. Richard A Hansley says:

    Good Afternoon-
    I teach a class on the architectural history of Asheville at the Reuter Center (Olli)and am interested in adding the Kells house to my PowerPoint presentation. May I have permission to use some of your photographs and if possible a floor plan showing the 2004 addition.

    In 2011 my book Asheville’s Historic Architecture was published by The History Press.
    Thank You,


  1. […] We are exploring the tower, a 2003 addition, of Kells Castle in Asheville, North Carolina.  If you missed the tour of the original 1949 house, check out Part I. […]

  2. […] Kells Studio: from The Painted House blog, “24 Kimberly Avenue, Part I”, blog and photo by Angela Chrusciaki Blehm, who visited the home in 2010. http://www.tphblog.com/24-kimberly-avenue-part-i/ […]

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