Margaret and Taylor Lanier’s stunning renovation of Pandora’s Manor in High Point
By Maria Johnson • Photographs by Bert VanderVeen
Greensboro’s Taylor and Margaret Lanier have four children.
They really don’t need another.
But they have one — a 112-year-old baby that hangs out by the railroad tracks in downtown High Point.
That would be Pandora’s Manor, a boutique bed-and-breakfast that the couple, who own Lanier Builders, have painstakingly restored and expanded over the last year and a half.
“It’s been a time-consuming labor of love,” says Margaret Lanier. “Having to be there all the time and supervise — it’s like having a baby. You can’t leave it alone, and you get very attached.”
The B&B’s owner, Chicago businessman Ridvan Tatargil, is tickled at the new arrival on the High Point hospitality scene.
“It’s better than I thought it could be,” says the 58-year-old Tatargil, who has been coming to the city’s furniture market for 30 years to push the wares of his primary concern, Eastern Accents, a maker of luxury bedroom textiles.
The company has a showroom in Market Square, right around the corner from Pandora’s. Tatargil had noticed the white Classical Revival manse from a parking lot. He got nervous when he found out another home on the street had been demolished.
“I thought, ‘Oh, my God, this is going to go down, too. I wish I could buy it before it goes down,’” Tatargil says. “And I did.”
He bought the trackside home for a little under half a million dollars in 2015 with an eye to renew, rename and reopen the property that had been operating as Wilson House Bed and Breakfast.
Two years and $2 million later, Pandora’s Manor is a done-to-the-max showplace, thanks largely to the Laniers. They knew Tatargil because they had worked on a High Point home that Eastern Accents maintains for employees who come to town during furniture market.
“It’s like a bunkroom,” says Margaret Lanier.
“It’s got, like, 40 single beds in it,” chimes in Taylor.
The Laniers were the first builders Tatargil called after buying the 6,200-square-foot B&B on West High Avenue.
“We were looking for a contractor who would go slow and keep talking to us about every detail,” says Tatargil. “A lot of times, when you have a tradesman like Taylor, you make a suggestion, and they say, ‘No,’ and the egos get involved. But Taylor is very easy to work with. He listens to find a compromise. He’s a very professional person to work with.”
Tatargil’s idea was to use the bed-and-breakfast as a marketing tool for Eastern Accents. He would round up designers — some of whom sell their merchandise through his company — and give each a bedroom to decorate.
Tatargil would foot the bill.
The only stipulation: The designers had to use Eastern Accents bedding, upholstered headboards and curtains. The other pieces could come from the designers’ lines or from a list of preferred vendors.
If Pandora’s guests wanted any accessory or piece of furniture in the house, they could order it. In essence, they’d be sleeping in a showroom.
“It’s kind of interesting to have a living, breathing showroom in a town that’s full of empty showrooms most of the year,” says Louise Traficanti, the design director at Eastern Accents and chief shot-caller for the Pandora’s project.
The Laniers — Margaret runs the office, Taylor runs the construction side — first saw the house in September 2015.
“We broke walls in November,” Taylor says with a grin.
The Laniers’ initial order was to renovate one bathroom and to tear out a backside stairwell to make space for a half-bath.
“We didn’t even get that done before they said, ‘Let’s renovate four more bathrooms and get started on the kitchen,’” says Taylor. “It grew from there.”
Eventually, the Laniers redid the entire home, from paint and wallpaper, to plumbing and wiring and trim. Doors came and went. Walls disappeared and reappeared. Interior chases that hid pipes and wiring vanished.
A new rear entrance, with porte cochere and reception area, materialized. Following the plans of Greensboro architect Wayne Smith, the addition wore the same architectural details as the original home: cedar lap siding, Ionic columns, and granite steps and granite foundation veneer.
As much as possible, Traficanti and Tatargil remained true to the home’s turn-of-the-century roots.
Inside, that meant preserving the original oak floors, with planks laid in concentric rectangles in every room. The oak wainscoting stayed, too. Taylor Lanier personally reproduced wainscoting that had been removed for a conduit in the dining room.
“When it comes to trim, I’m hands-on,” says Lanier, a Grimsley High School graduate. “I’ve done everything, but I like woodworking the best.”
Other keepers included the oak banisters, diminutive stair railings, heavy oak mantels and, often, the iron doors of the coal-burning fireboxes.
In several rooms, Lanier and his subcontractors added a picture rail a foot or so below the ceiling, harking to an era when pictures dangled on wires anchored at the rails.
They also hung reams of wallpaper reminiscent of early 20th-century motifs. The main halls are covered with a hummingbird design on a muted gold foil background.
Margaret Lanier, a UNCG graduate whose father is former CBS golf announcer Ben Wright, says people often remark that her husband is young, at 38, to have such a way with old houses. He had worked in Greensboro’s historic Fisher Park and Westerwood neighborhoods, but he’d never tackled a project like Pandora’s Manor.
“This is the oldest, by far,” Taylor says.
Built in 1905, the B&B is named for Pandora Fraser, wife of the home’s first owner, Henry Fraser, founder of the Alma Furniture and the Myrtle Desk companies, which were located right down the street.
Pandora is memorialized in a stained-glass window on the landing. The panel shows her as a Madonna-like mother holding her daughter, Isla. Henry Fraser commissioned the work after Pandora Fraser died in 1920, at age 67.
“He was heartbroken after she died,” says Traficanti. “He was a very religious man, and I think that’s why he went for the Madonna and child image.”
The home’s historic designation — it’s on the Guilford County Historical Register — required the window to stay, even when it was blocked by the addition. Lanier built a light box behind the stained glass to keep Pandora and her daughter glowing.
Soon after Pandora died, Henry Fraser moved to Florida and sold the home to local car dealer George F. Wilson, owner of High Point Motor Co. The Wilsons’ 10 children — two of whom died in infancy — filled the home. The home remained in the care of Wilsons for three generations, until Tatargil came along in 2015.
Actually, one of the Wilsons might be knocking around yet. Some believe the spirit of a family member who died in the house inhabits an upstairs room.
“I had an electrician leave one night because of it,” says Taylor.
On this side of the veil, one of the Wilson grandchildren, Frienda Tagliaferri of Thomasville, visited Pandora’s Inn with her husband, Bill, after the renovation was complete.
“It’s absolutely breathtaking,” says Frienda. “It’s really something to be proud of.”
Nowhere is the renovation more marked than in the kitchen, which was probably updated in the 1990s. Lanier and crew hauled it into the present day with custom coffered ceiling, commercial-grade stainless steel appliances, and leathered black granite counters.
More modern than any room in the home, the kitchen harbors a vast L-shaped dining bar topped with walnut milled to resemble wavy, live-edge timbers. JThompson Tops in Sandy Ridge handled the countertop.
“I wanted to put a wood feature in the kitchen because wood is such a prominent feature in the house,” Traficanti says. “I didn’t want it to feel like a restaurant kitchen. I wanted it to feel residential.”
Industrial black-can pendant lights, by Currey & Company, complete the chic sawmill look.
Traficanti also directed the renovation of the bathrooms, which are done primarily in black and white tile; designers picked paint and wallpaper that meshed with their rooms. Each has a distinct style.
John Loecke and Jason Oliver Nixon, the owners of Madcap Cottage in High Point, were the only local designers to get a room. (See story on page 43.)
The room done by Celerie Kemball, of Palm Beach and New York City, sighs in soft pastels.
Tobi Fairley, a domestic diva out of Little Rock, Arkansas, made her room buzz like a bumblebee with vibrant yellows against black walls.
Manhattanite Alexa Hampton’s room luxuriates in deep blues and chocolates punched with bright red curtains.
Thom Filicia, who’s also based in Gotham, crafted a suite full of long lines, including three stripes of horizontal white trim across slate blue walls.
Barclay Butera, from Los Angeles, grounded his suite in restful navy and creams that call to mind a swanky sunroom.
Working with top designers was an experience, says Taylor Lanier.
Yes, they were picky; Lanier and his team painted and repainted, papered and repapered several times. Designer Filicia insisted that the molding in his room be moved, slightly, three times.
“Homeowners don’t know what they want,” Taylor Lanier says. “Designers know exactly what they want, and they get it spot-on. We’re happy to do it. It pays the bills.”
With room rates starting at $500 a night — suites go for $1,000 a snooze — Pandora’s hopes to woo visitors to furniture market, High Point University, High Point Regional Hospital, Furnitureland South and the corporate offices along N.C. 68.
“This is a special place for people who want a special experience,” says events coordinator Connie Lineberry. “No detail has been spared.”
The inn also hopes to attract non-lodgers who want to rent the kitchen, dining room and wraparound porch for weddings, graduations and other occasions.
As soon as the beer and wine license comes through, Lineberry says, Pandora’s will offer Sunday brunches and evenings with wine on the veranda.
The crowds can only grow. The Laniers’ next assignment is to build an event space in the parking lot behind the B&B. The glassed-in pavilion, flanked by prep kitchens, will seat about 200 people. Tatargil’s daughter Leyla plans to get married there next summer.
Already, the Laniers are upgrading a duplex, on nearby Oak Street, to be used as a home for Pandora’s innkeeper.
And who knows, maybe they’ll get the call to refurbish a couple of more High Point properties that Tatargil recently picked up: an old bar at Oak Street and West Green Drive that he wants to turn into a craft brewery, and the former headquarters of the N.C. Shakespeare Festival, a 55,000-square-foot warehouse at West Green Drive and West Ward Avenue. Tatargil envisions the site as a working space for artists and craftspeople.
The Laniers are happy to expand their family with more projects.
“We’re very thankful for them,” says Margaret, “be they the sixth, seventh, eighth or ninth child.” h
Maria Johnson is a regular contributor to Seasons.