A Fashionable Refresh

Interior designer Danielle Balanis saw a diamond in the rough in her Mountain Brook home and took it from dated to dazzling with unexpected and stylish ideas that work for her young family.

In the family den, Danielle blended unexpected colors and fabrics and different periods of furniture. The pendant light fixture is from Fixtures & Finishes and the small wooden coffee table is from Roman Brantley. Photos by Jean Allsopp

The fashion designer Mark Jacobs once said, “I always find beauty in things that are odd and imperfect; they are much more interesting.” This view applies to the home of interior designer Danielle Balanis albeit with a slight twist—her things are beautifully odd and imperfect. Fashion designers—favorites Dries Van Noten and Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele—and interior designers Billy Baldwin, Miles Redd, and Michelle Nussbaumer are some of Balanis’s reference points. She is also inspired by the interiors and spaces created in James Bond films (“I am completely in awe.”), as well as the sets of the television series Mad Men and the early years of the Rolling Stones. Danielle’s aesthetic is not about understated elegance but rather about unexpected design. “A room should be smart and intriguing, even sometimes a little peculiar,” she says. “It should keep you on your toes yet put you at ease. When a room makes me feel this way, it is a success.” 

A grid of multiple small pendants hangs throughout the kitchen inspired by a restaurant in Chicago that Danielle saw years ago. “I like the industrial note they add.”
A black La Cornue French oven looks more like a piece of fine furniture than an appliance.

All of the above put the designer in good stead when looking for a larger home for her family. She was willing to take a chance on a house in Mountain Brook that had languished on the market for a couple of years. “I loved it at first sight and could see beyond its imperfections,” says Danielle.

While the renovation involved a new first-floor master suite, a totally revamped kitchen, and other architectural tweaks, much of the home’s allure springs from Danielle’s vision for the interiors. For the kitchen’s tailored black-and-white appeal, she looked to the head-to-toe tiling of the indoor pool space at the Biltmore Estate, as well as traditional English basement kitchens.

The dining room has an Old Hollywood allure with its glamorous window treatments in Schumacher fabric with trim around the pelmet from King Cotton. The room shows off Danielle’s deft hand when mixing traditional antiques with more modern ones such as the dining room chairs from Kellum & Company in Homewood.

The palette for the rest of the house surprises from the front door and beyond. “I’m drawn to strong saturated colors and I like to focus on the contrast between colors,” says Danielle. Think mustard, blue, and orange—deftly orchestrated and grounded with menswear fabrics. “One of my color inspirations is the work of the Los Angeles and Nashville design firm Pierce & Ward—they challenge the eye a bit, but in a pleasing way,” says Danielle. She explains that nothing is too jarring as you move through the rooms, but there’s a reason to pause at almost at every step—Pierre Frey wallpaper, framed as a triptych, in the dining room; art groupings of small pieces that cause you to lean in to appreciate; the almost peacock-toned fabric for windows treatments—a color you can’t quite identify; and the push and pull of textures, objects, and art. “Design works best when you find a way to mix extreme opposites,” says Danielle. “And you need to have a sensory experience through the mix of textures.”

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Her style, however, is not too esoteric to eschew family heirlooms, her husband’s love of golf or her young boys need to create a little chaos upstairs in their shared bedroom. Because what’s a family home if the family doesn’t feel at home? Not an issue in this magical mélange.

The study’s furniture shows off interesting silhouettes and fabrics. “I totally adhere to a high-low mix, and I’m not snobby about my sources; if it’s right for the space that’s all that matters.”
The master bathroom is bathed in Sun Dried Tomato from Sherwin-Williams in a high-gloss finish which gives the room a slightly decadent couture vibe.
The master bath is lighter and more feminine with its pretty floral wallpaper in a gray colorway that plays against the black-and-white marble floors.

Get to know Danielle Balanis

As a child growing up in Tifton, Georgia, Danielle could be found leafing through her mother’s archives of Architectural Digest and Southern Accents even going so far as to draw her own house plans. Still she didn’t think about interior design as a career until a friend told her that’s what she was majoring in, and it clicked. “I can do this!” With a degree in hand, she started out with Birmingham interior designer Sandra Lynn, but then took a turn working for her family’s business while being busy with three young boys. Design lured her back, and she starting helping friends with various projects. The soft-spoken petite blonde has full-size ideas about decorating that she put into action in her Mountain Brook home—such as menswear fabrics, engaging saturated color combinations, nostalgic pieces mixed with more modern items—all with a keen eye for scale in every room.

Danielle on Design

Be always on the lookout for pieces that will give your home personality even in unlikely places. “I bought some art on the street in Brooklyn, then had to do some sleuthing to find him again for more!

Think about proportion and scale when choosing pieces for your home. You may find something beautiful, but will it look lost in your large living room?

Don’t be shy about mixing prints and colors. It’s okay to experiment. Objects need to have a unique juxtaposition imbedded in that layering that we all strive for. My decorating (and fashion style) is more based on feelings and impulses than logic.

If you have a decorating challenge, such as an awkward or dull space, embrace it rather than try to hide it. We had a hallway that was very utilitarian looking, so I papered it in stripes, even the ceiling!

Designer: Danielle Balanis Design, 229.392.2853 Architect: Chad Bryant, C.M. Bryant Architecture, 205.223.8602 Builder and interior wood finishing: Francis Bryant Construction, 205.802.7700, francisbryant.com Landscape: Falkner Gardens, 205.871.5999, falknergardens.com Kitchen and bath cabinets: Cotton Woodworks, 205.567.5469, cottonwoodworks.com Kitchen and bath hardware and lighting: Fixtures & Finishes, 205.323.5616 Countertops: Montclair Danby Marble from Surface One, 205.621.1125, surface1.com; walnut Countertops from Cotton Woodworks Tile/backsplash: Floor & Decor, 877.675.0002, flooranddecor.com Sink: Surface One Faucet: VW Gallerie, 205.324.9521, vwplumbingsupply.com Lighting: Fixtures & Finishes Hardwood floors: Alabama Hardwood Floors, 205.338.6878; Master bath, bookcase hallway, and powder bath tile, den pendants, and sconces: Fixtures & Finishes Custom master bed upholstery: Leonard’s Upholstery, 205.251.3021 Master bedroom: Lamps: Fixtures & Finishes. Coffee table in front of loveseat: Roman Brantley Arts & Antiques, 205.460.1224 Dining room: Chairs: Kellum & Company, 205.874.9530, kellumandco.com; Custom recovering: Leonard’s Upholstery Chandelier: Fixtures & Finishes Study: Loveseat: Circa Interiors & Antiques, 205.868.9199, circainteriors.com Black side table: Argent Antiques, 205.871.4221 Door hardware and gas lighting: Brandino Brass, 205.978.8900, brandinobrass.com

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