When those proverbial birds of a feather flock together in the design world, the result just may be a practically perfect nest in every respect, from the façade right down to the cabinet hardware. That’s what happened when Sumner and Jeff Starling decided to build a house with the dynamic duo of Paul Bates and Jeremy Corkern of Bates Corkern Studio.
Sumner has worked in interior design with Marjorie Johnston and grew up with an appreciation for beautiful things and art; but above all, she simply has a great eye. “Sumner has really excellent taste, and she appreciates all aspects of design, ” explains Jeremy. “She had great ideas and pushed us to do things that sometimes felt a little over the top but ended up being perfect and in sync with her style.” And Sumner is equally enthusiastic about the collaboration. “Paul and Jeremy designed the house around how we actually live, not some fantasy of how we should live, ” she says. “I wanted practicality with certain things such as upper cabinets in the kitchen and no open shelving. They really held my hand the whole time to make sure everything I wanted worked together.”
The Mountain Brook lot that the Starlings chose came with a rather unusual restriction—there had to be front entrances on both sides of the house since it straddles two streets. For the architects, it was a fun professional challenge. Still, the Starlings have a traditional foyer that they use as their primary entrance.
Jeremy describes the home’s style as pared-down French. “We wanted it to be somewhat traditional but within a more modern form.” Unique interior details, an obsession for all involved in the project, show up everywhere. There’s the x-pattern beams in the kitchen ceiling, random-width tongue-and-groove planks backing the bookcases, deep circular windows strategically placed for interest and extra light, and many curved treatments throughout. Such added elements made a pleasing backdrop for Sumner’s many family antiques and treasures. Mixed in with newer pieces such as modern chandeliers and Lucite nesting tables, these heirlooms bring a sense of balance between traditional and contemporary style.
Sumner also wanted to repurpose certain items from her old house. Custom silk window treatments that had been a part of her décor for years were refreshed with a fabric border added along the bottom, a feature that looks original to the panels. And beloved pieces of artwork created by her sister and other talented friends gave the new space a personal touch.
While the interior palette reads mostly neutral, it is certainly not staid given the hand-painted wallpaper panels, mix of finishes, and hints of color in the accents. The result of this joint effort is a new home that feels lived in and loved, and of course, very well feathered.
Architects: Bates Corkern Studio, 205.414.9939 • batescorkern.com Builder: Wiggins Building Corporation, 205.823.6161 • wigginsbuildingcorp.com Fireplace: Firerock • firerock.us Kitchen: cabinetry: Bud’s Cabinets, 256.249.3716 • Sylacauga, AL Brass hardware: Brandino Brass, 205.979.8900; Chandeliers: Visual Comfort & Co. • visualcomfort.com Walls: Silver Lining by Pratt & Lambert • prattandlambert.com Keeping room: walls: Field Gray by Pratt & Lambert; Floor lamps: West Elm • westelm.com Dining room: walls: Clunch by Farrow & Ball farrow-ball.com Hand-painted wallpaper panels: “Earlham” by de gournay • degournay.com Chandelier: Dennis & Leen • dennisandleen.com French mirror: Henhouse Antiques, 205.918.0505 • henhouseantiques.com Living room: brass lamps: Circa Lighting • circalighting.com Office: walls: Arrowfoot by Pratt & Lambert; Bookcase and trim: Zinc by Pratt & Lambert; Floor lamp: Circa Lighting; Chandelier: Arteriors • arteriorshome.com