Life {in the} Pitts

Need a vacation, but don’t have the time, budget or energy to go very far? Visit Houston Blair and Cheryl Conrad.

The husband and wife team opened their five-room bed and breakfast, 458 West, named after its Pittsboro street address, after departing their respective careers in manufacturing and computer software. They spent years renovating the historical home, and now share it with guests from far and near.

Less than 45 minutes from Cary, it’s close enough to hop in the car and arrive before you realize you’re on the road, yet enough of a trip to feel like a true getaway.

TARA CROFT: What inspired you to open a B&B?
CHERYL CONRAD: We’ve been married 28 years. We have talked about it since we’ve been married. We had looked at some properties, but never found any to seriously consider. When this one came around, we only had 24 hours to make a decision. We had no time to talk ourselves out of it. Another offer came in on the same day. It’s our understanding that they were going to bulldoze the house.

Who originally owned the home?
The home was built in 1923 by schoolteacher who is well-known in Pittsboro, Lossie Hester. At some point she boarded teachers in the house. She taught history, and some of the 90-year-old women in town had her and remember her. Someone else had lived here for 25 years, and they didn’t love it. It was in ill repair. We spend three and a half years renovating the house and opened up a year ago.

Did you change anything about the building?
Often sinks and toilets would be in the rooms, so we had to change that. It did have an addition on the side, and we didn’t really need it. We wanted to get the house back to its original footprint, so we took it down. The original chimney we had to take down. We had it relaid as the front sidewalk.

For the floors, we kept the originals. Some of the boards had to be taken up during repairs, but they were put back. Everything from the parlor back is pine flooring, and other is oak.
We had to remove a staircase leading to the attic, and you can still see an imprint of it on the wall.

What is your design style?
We’ve tried to blend the old and the new. There are some antiques and some new pieces. We blended pieces from consignment stores, Restoration Hardware, antique fairs and stores. In the hallway upstairs is a pew out of one of Houston’s churches. It’s probably 150 years old or more. They weren’t in use anymore, but the church still had them. The buffet in the hallway upstairs used to belong to my aunt. We thought we’d have to get rid of it, but I found a use for it. (It’s where guests can find coffee and snacks!)

How do you add a personal touch to the rooms?
I did all the decorating. Typically I’d have one thing, like a pillow where I liked the color, that inspired the room. We have a lot of original art in the house. In The Nest, there is a hand-painted mural by our daughter, Sarah Justice. My daughter painted the mural in three hours, and there’s a whitewash over it to soften it.

The fabric headboard in that room was the inspiration for the colors. My sister in law helped me design the room. We decided in the bathroom to cut the doors in half so people didn’t have to be faced with such a large door. And the sink came from the laundry room.

What’s in store for the future of 458 West?
HOUSTON BLAIR: We have a commercial kitchen, so we can do banquets and dinners. The fourth Friday of every month we’ll open for dinner by reservation. We have a lot of outdoor space where we could do weddings. We’re still working on the landscaping. We have about one acre.

458 West St., Pittsboro
(919) 491-4229

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