My daughters describe our home as a ‘surprise house’,” Allison Spensley says. “They say it’s all dark and serious on the outside and then a party on the inside.” Living inside that surprise on a wooded 6-acre lakeside property in Shelby County’s Stonegate Farms are Allison, Steve, and their three children, 11- year-old Emm, 8 year-old Clara, and 3 year-old Charlie, along with Boomer, a chocolate lab, and Felix, a Zambian rescue cat. “My kids love to be busy all the time—making slime, creating art projects, riding their bikes, and running around,” Allison says. “They definitely influenced the way we designed the house.”
When the Spensleys first purchased the property, they collaborated with Richard Long of Birmingham’s Long & Long Design on their new home’s architectural plans. “I don’t consider myself a very traditional person, so I didn’t want a formal, traditional house,” Allison says. “Instead, I wanted to create spaces that are friendly and welcoming and encourage togetherness.” Richard and his team designed a five-bedroom, four-and-a-half bath, two-story home with about 4,700 square feet of living space. “The home’s exterior architecture is simple, modern, and barn-like with vertical cypress siding, corrugated metal roofing, and a stone water table,” Richard says. Allison adds, “When you enter the house, with its dark, monochromatic exterior, you really don’t expect to find the light, colorful, airy spaces inside. I love that moment.”
The interior opens to the main level’s great room encompassing the living, dining, and kitchen areas where color reigns supreme. “It was exciting to work with the Spensleys to transform the rooms with such bold and beautiful hues,” Richard says. “Many of those wall colors and art pieces represent their love for the culture of Zambia, where they once lived.”
The open floorplan is completely focused on family, eschewing conventional spaces for task-oriented areas and together time. “We’ve had formal living and dining areas, and for us they were a waste of space,” Allison says. “Anyone who visits our house has to join into our craziness—there’s no formality in our lives!”
One of the Spensleys’ most used spaces is the laundry/mudroom/craft room just off the kitchen. “This area is the headquarters for the family,” Allison says. “It’s usually full of craft supplies, muddy boots, fishing poles, sports equipment, and pet toys. You name it, it’s in there.” The room includes a locker for each family member, a washer and dryer, a dog-wash station, project workspace and storage space, food pantry storage, a utility sink, and a desktop.
Another one of Allison’s goals was making sure she chose durable materials and furniture. She explains that white quartz countertops from Cottage Supply Company “are indestructible,” a warm stain on oak floors “hides all of the dirt, dust, and debris,” and unlacquered brass fixtures “just get better with time.” And she especially loves the corner protectors that she designed. “They are made of iron that’s painted black and bolted onto interior corners, and they take all the abuse an 11-, 8-, and 3-year-old can give,” she says.
Color (yes, please.)
Inspired ideas for filling your home with color and happiness.
BE BRAVE. “I chose bright, clear colors that pop from a background of white,” Allison says. “I will be the first to say that my color choices are not for everyone, but I wanted a space that would bring happiness to our lives. I’ve had many people say how brave I am to use the colors I did, but I don’t really think of it that way. I just wanted my home to reflect what makes me smile.”
CHOOSE JOY. “Everywhere I look in the house, I see my creative decisions. They add such joy!” Allison says. A daily activity the Spensleys enjoy is their “happy jar” project. Each family member has his or her own vase to fill with positive thoughts and joyful moments. “Every day, we each write a quick note about something that made us happy that day,” Allison says. At the end of the year, the family reads these reminders together.
MAKE A CONNECTION. Allison is a collector of art and objects from around the world, all of which have a place of pride in her home. “My work in international health has taken me all over the globe, and I love finding craft markets and art galleries wherever I go,” she says. “I have become very skilled at fitting whatever I find into my suitcases to bring back home!” Her collections include pieces from Nicaragua, Peru, South Africa, Rwanda, Zambia, and Swaziland.
Interiors: Allison Spensley, IG @RedTemboDesigns, Architect: Richard Long, Long & Long Design, longandlongdesign.com, 205.637.5777 Builder: Ruff Reams, ruffreams.com, 205.982.8002 Kitchen and bath cabinets: Bud’s Cabinets, Sylacauga, 256.249.3716 Hardware: Brandino Brass, brandinobrass.com, 205.978.8900 Appliances: AllSouth, allsouthappliance.net, 205.942.0408. Countertops: Cottage Supply Company, cottagesupplycompany.com, 205.458.0002 Master bathroom fixtures: Fixtures & Finishes, 205.323.5616 Powder room vanity: fabricated by Red Mountain Ironworks, redmountainiron.com, 205.226.9055 Interior lighting (except for master bathroom): Barn Light Electric Company, barnlight.com Pillow fabric in living room: King Cotton, kingcottonfabrics.com, 205.732.8283