The Daily Tar Heel

Serving the students and the University community since 1893

Saturday December 10th

In shadow of development, artistic home flourishes

Sally Harmon, the laid-back owner of the home on Boyd Street in Carrboro, eclectically decorated the walls of her living room with a mix of pieces she has crafted herself, traded for or purchased.

“I do goofy drawings, and I do collages with paint chips, and I do fabric,” Harmon said.

She and her husband, Ricardo Palao, share a knack for creation. He uses the basement as a wood shop, where he builds guitars.

“The electronic component he has to buy, but the wood part is his,” Harmon explained, displaying an electric guitar, the body of which Palao crafted from a single slab of hardwood.

“He’ll do pieces of furniture,” she said, motioning to a gigantic bureau covered with artsy knickknacks. “But he prefers to make guitars.”

The pair also shares another creative passion: cooking.

Harmon said they met in 1992 while cooking at Crook’s Corner, a restaurant in Carrboro known for its southern cuisine. They now have a 6-year-old, Nora, and an 8-year-old, Carmen. After they met, Palao continued his career in the restaurant industry and now manages Lantern, an up-scale Asian restaurant on Franklin Street. Harmon continued her cooking career as well, most recently working at the Pi Beta Phi sorority house.

Harmon said she continues to enjoy cooking at home, although her children only like to eat the same five foods over and over again.

As for the house itself, Harmon said it was likely built from a Sears or Montgomery Ward kit — one of the kits available in the early 20th century that would be delivered by train for landowners to build their own homes.

Harmon said the house has been home largely to renters and has faced various remodels, some by herself and Palao.

She said one of her favorite features of the home is the hardwood floor.

“They say that the floors are quartersawn pine, and they don’t make them like that anymore,” she said. “And we haven’t refurbished or done anything with them to make them look great.”

A house with this type of history and vintage character seems almost out of place among the changes that Boyd Street’s surrounding properties have seen.

Harmon and her family recently endured having a huge crane as a next-door neighbor during the construction of Carrboro’s first parking deck. Now the area is preparing for more changes, including the second and third phases of development for the 300 East Main property.

Despite the changing neighborhood, Harmon said she is content to remain in her home and enjoy time with her family.

“We go to the playground, drink beer,” she said. “Not at the same time, though.”

Harmon plans to continue making art and has an account on, a Durham-based company started by UNC alumni, under the name boris_thumbkin. Harmon uses her account to sell fabrics she designs.

“It’s cool that people somewhere are wearing a skirt with fabric I designed,” she said.

Harmon said she has entertained thoughts of expanding her art sales to Etsy, but she is not in a hurry to do so. Her relaxed demeanor seems to be reflected in her home, a complement to her artistic lifestyle.

“Mostly I make pictures and design fabric, hang out with kids and cook those five foods.”


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