A Family-Friendly Renovation in Mountain Brook

A young family takes their home from good to great with a savvy renovation, new addition, and floor-to-ceiling refresh.

Before The home was handsome, but the façade lacked depth. Inside, a disjointed floor plan left the homeowners feeling cramped. After A reimagined portico and contrasting conservatory-style office bring dimension to the exterior, while new French doors and an expanded front patio connect the indoors and out. Photos by Holland Williams Photography
Both the homeowners and the designers cite the office as the favorite room in the house. With white-washed, oak-paneled walls, a pecky cypress ceiling, and window treatments in a meandering bird-and-vine motif, the room is a wonderfully Southern take on the look of an Old English library.

Sarah and Dave Stewart are firm believers in the “you-should-live-in-a-house-before-you-renovate-it” adage. Two years after moving into their circa -1940s Mountain Brook home, the couple realized that, while lovely and spacious, the house just wasn’t working for their family. “By that point we had two young children, and the closed-off floor plan was problematic on a daily basis,” Sarah says. “In addition, the kids’ bedrooms and our master suite were at opposite ends of the house. We also didn’t like that the living area was situated far away from the kitchen.”

The Stewarts did, however, love the location of the home, as well as its beautiful, old bones, so they decided to embark on an ambitious whole-house overhaul that would create a more family-friendly flow and better reflect their personal styles. They enlisted the help of Christopher Architecture & Interiors to spearhead the project and revamp the home’s overall layout.

The couple went through multiple rounds of blueprints until they found a floor plan they felt would work with their day-to-day lives for years to come. What they landed on involved strategically opening up the kitchen and dining room, adding a sunny home office at the front of the house, and creating an equally light-filled family room off the back. “As a result, the kitchen feels like what it was meant to be—the heart of the home,” says Sarah. “Now we can enjoy each other’s company in this easy, laidback setting.”

With the floor plan problems solved, the couple next turned their attention to enhancing the home’s style both indoors and out. Outside, they took a less-is-more approach, working with Dave Eyrich of Environmental Design Studio to create a nuanced mix of ground coverings and shrubbery. “The house used to feel perched on the lot, but we worked with the natural topography to make it feel more nestled,” says the landscape architect. “We also created layers of fencing and beds so there’s a better sense of privacy.”

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Inside, the Stewarts turned to the professionals at Chickadee Interiors to enliven the spaces with color, as well as merge Dave’s traditional sensibilities with Sarah’s more modern eye. “This house turned out to be a fun challenge because Dave and Sarah have such differing style preferences,” says Chickadee Interiors co-owner Kate Hartman. The solution involved a strategic formula of timeless motifs in the form of florals and chinoiserie-style toiles, along with antique furnishings, modern art, and pops of blue in varying shades. “From indigo to robin’s egg, blue hues became a central theme throughout this project,” says Kelly Petro Neely, Kate’s business partner at Chickadee Interiors. “Blue is one of the few colors that can read as both classic and on-trend.”

With the renovation and redesign now complete, the Stewarts have no doubt that the results more than exceeded their expectations. As Sarah says, “It feels like the home was tailor-made for us, but it also still has that old-house charm. It’s the best of both worlds right under one roof.”

Brass accents, including the curvy chandelier and detailing on the range hood, warm up the neutral kitchen.
The home’s thread of blue takes a dramatic turn with an enveloping navy blue in the pass-through bar addition.
The expanded breakfast banquette was integral to the family-friendly sight lines the Stewarts craved.
The dining room is a feast for the eyes with a mix of pieces the Stewarts already owned, such as an antique farmhouse table and a Persian rug, as well as new additions incorporated by Chickadee Interiors, such as the sunburst mirror and custom-painted Louis XVI dining chairs.
Chickadee Interiors loosened up the feel of the dining room’s more traditional elements with abstract art by Laura Park and a clean-lined, shell-inlayed credenza.
When Sarah wanted blush and Dave wanted blue in the new den, the designers at Chickadee Interiors came up with a his-and-hers combo of throw pillows that marry the two, as well as a heaping helping of green and leopard print for good measure. A pivotal addition in the renovation, the den benefits from abundant sunshine. Lush linen curtain panels let the Stewarts control light and privacy as they see fit.
Chickadee Interiors brightened up the formerly dark master bedroom with a host of white furniture and accessories, such as the upholstered headboard, shapely wingbacks, and sleek side tables. Rich turquoise textiles add just the right touch of sophistication to the airy space.

Design Speak

Kate Hartman and Kelly Petro Neely are co-owners of the interiors shop and design firm, Chickadee Interiors.

Design Philosophy A house should look like it has evolved over time. Our style is all about a collected look, with layers that tell a story about the person who uses the space.

Color Cues We love to repeat a shade throughout a house. (In this home, it was blue.) From window treatments and pillows to artwork and paint colors, the various pops keep a house interesting but also create a visual connection from room to room.

Pattern Play When mixing patterns, which we love to do, we try to use an equal number of large-and small-scale prints, along with one anchoring solid. This balance keeps the various designs from fighting for your attention. 

Favorite accessory Pillows—lots of them! Decorative pillows can bring life to a room by providing pattern and texture without overwhelming a space. 

While the portico and conservatory are the showstoppers of the renovation, subtler elements such as the windows boxes further dimensionalize the exterior.

Curb Appeal with Dave Eyrich

Easiest Update Make sure your bed lines are well-defined. (You can use a shovel and pine straw to achieve this result.) This low-effort, low-cost enhancement will make plantings pop.

Ultimate Southern Combo Boxwoods and hydrangeas. Boxwoods provide necessary punctuation points in a landscape. And I can’t imagine anyone who cannot find a variety of hydrangeas to love. Plus they thrive in our region!

Most overlooked shrub Azaleas. They often get a bad rap because our grandparents’ azaleas were older, spindly varieties. But the indica azaleas are attractive, leafy shrubs that mass well and look nice even when not in bloom.  

Architecture: Christopher Architecture & Interiors, christopherai.com, 205.413.8531 Interior Design: Chickadee Interiors, chickadeeinteriors.com, 205.969.3138  Construction: Cotton Construction, cottonconstructioninc.com, 205.413.1962 Landscape Design: Dave Eyrich of Environmental Design Studio, environmentaldesignstudio.com, 205.582.2052

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