California Dream

A movie reference is not the usual reaction upon seeing a house. But that is exactly what came  to the minds of decorator Patti Woods and architects Jeremy Corkern and Paul Bates as they walked through a to-be-remodeled Mountain Brook house. 

“We looked around and said It’s Complicated, ” explains Patti. “This house had similar bones to the house that was featured in that movie.”

Bones were actually all they had to work with as the design team embarked on a renovation project that involved taking the house down to its skeleton. “It was a ’50s ranch house that had been remodeled about 10 years ago in a vaguely Mediterranean style, ” says Jeremy. “We decided we needed to gut it down to the studs.”

Once the dated interiors were eliminated, the home’s true potential became even more evident. The design team then set to work creating the certain sunny clime that the homeowner had requested.

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“He had lived in Newport Beach while growing up and loved it, ” says Patti. “He really wanted that California style—a sort of Malibu-like feeling.”

In order to transform the rancher into a California beauty,  more light was needed. The original front of the home seemed to be weighed down with a heavy-looking wood door and exterior walls made of stucco. Inside, too few windows and too many dark wood accents kept the rooms in a constant state of semi-gloom.

By adding more windows, skylights, and a striking new bronze-and-glass entryway, the design team brought the house to life. Interior walls were painted white for a beach-bright ambiance. “We all love white, ” Jeremy explains. “We wanted the house to be a beautiful backdrop for gatherings.”

The back of the home was also opened up to continue the living space out of doors. As a result, the home’s flow—from room to room and to the outside—not only contributes to the West Coast flavor, it makes for an easy atmosphere for entertaining, something the homeowner loves to do. 

The basic palette inside the home served as the team’s inspiration for the bleached, character oak flooring. Upholstered pieces in shades of brown and beige help to soften the surroundings, while a variety of rugs add subtle character to each area of the open space. “We
had to carefully coordinate the rugs because they could all ‘see’ each other, ” explains Patti. “We didn’t want them to compete or take away from the bleached floors, so it was important that we find just the right combination. And we seemed to have succeeded”

Alfresco areas of the home also played a prominent role in the renovation. The original pool was strangely located in a covered area. Since guests don’t clamor for fun in the shade, the pool area had to be changed. Rethinking that space led to opening the house onto a graceful veranda offering outdoor dining with media and party space as well.

Now, the revamped California-casual house serves as the perfect venue for large parties as well as a serene escape for quiet at-home evenings. In short, it’s anything but complicated.


ABOVE LEFT A pavilion marks the end of the long pool, perfectly embodying the home’s theme of indoor/outdoor living. It offers a respite from the sun, as well as an impressive view.

ABOVE RIGHT A beautiful swimming pool is the center of entertaining in warm months, so even the pool house bath is dressed for company. Limestone flooring and glass tiles add luxury to the glass-walled shower. The view to Vulcan is part of the ambiance, but when privacy is needed, blinds can be operated by remote control. 


ABOVE LEFT The airy foyer has a barrel ceiling, echoing the arch of the glass door. The console table repeats the metal of the door, with the marble top blending with the white walls. The Marilyn Monroe artwork, which the owner bought in South Beach, is actually a print on metal.

ABOVE RIGHT Clean lines mark the modern dining room. Anchored by a massive Holly Hunt walnut-and-stainless steel table, accompanying furnishings seem lighter than air, including the contemporary glass chandelier, chosen so as not to compete with the other elements but “to unify the room, ” says Patti.

ABOVE The kitchen area brings together the bleached wood and white backdrop to create a casual, functional space. A breakfast space is tucked into a box bay window. A waterfall-style island delineates the work area that was set at an angle, which Patti says was “a challenge but made it interesting.” The range hood was crafted to disappear. Similarly, cabinetry blends into the light floor and the light oak beams. 

ABOVE All attention in this media room is directed to a large-screen television (right). A mix of new and vintage furniture provides comfortable viewing. Additional hospitality is afforded from a bar, complete with a dishwasher, ice machine, and wine keeper. 

ABOVE In contrast to the palette of the rest of the house, the master bedroom is a deep-chocolate, masculine cocoon. A car collector, the owner fell in love with the Ralph Lauren bed that resembles the interior of a vintage automobile. A framed photo of a racecar over the headboard reinforces the theme. 


Architects: Jeremy Corkern and Paul Bates • Bates Corkern Studio 205.414.9939 
Builder: Philip Woods Home Builder, 1102 20th Street South, Birmingham • 205.933.2373
Decorator: Patti Woods Interiors, 205.566.1173
Landscaping: Bates Corkern Studio and Green Landscaping, 205.933.0707
Oak Flooring: River Bottom Pine • 2336 F.L. Shuttlesworth Drive, Birmingham • 205.527.6848
Rugs: Paige Albright Orientals 2814 Petticoat Lane, Birmingham 
Marble countertops: Triton Stone, 4500 5th Avenue South, Bldg. G, Birmingham • 205.592.0202 
Sink/faucet: Kenny & Company, 2500 2nd Avenue, Birmingham • 205.323-5616 
Jeweler’s table: Circa Interiors & Antiques 2831 Culver Road, Birmingham • 205.868.9199
Foyer: Sconces: Niermann Weeks through Iris & co. 
Floral design: Sybil Sylvester • Wildflower Designs, 205.322.1311 
Dining Room: Chairs: Lee Industries, 800.892.7150 
Chandelier: R Hughes Showroom, 1170 Howell Mill Road, Atlanta, GA • 404.607.8877
Master Bedroom: Bed: Ralph Lauren Home 
Custom area rug: Hiltz-Lauber, 2838 18th Street South, Birmingham • 205.879.0039 
Audio Visual: Jared Lewis of avx

text by Lucy Merrill • photography by Jean Allsopp • floral design by Sybil Sylvester

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