Comforts of Home

Interior designer Jessica Prier converts a run-down rental house in Vestavia Hills into a stylish studio ideally suited for her growing business.

Photography by Jean Allsopp

As Jessica Prier knows all too well, working from home is great—until it isn’t. But giving up the comforts of it? That’s a narrative the interior designer wasn’t quite ready to embrace even though her design business, Birmingham Design House, was quickly outgrowing its designated work-from-home space. “When I started the company three years ago, we were working out of one room in my home, but soon I was searching for storage in every nook and cranny of my house,” Jessica says. “We had to go somewhere.”

That somewhere, however, was proving difficult to find. Jessica valued being at home—or at least near home—every day, but there were no commercial spaces available close to her neighborhood. To keep it within the community, the designer decided to get creative by turning her attention to a new option—a run-down rental house just down the road. She purchased the property, had it rezoned for commercial use, and adapted the space to serve as a studio. “It was the perfect decision for our business,” Jessica says. “It’s a place that fits what we do, offers office space for each of us, and is close enough for all our kids to drop by after school.”

Renovation Revolution
While the location of the structure checked all of the boxes, its outdated design did not. But the circa-1957 abode did provide a promising canvas for Jessica to construct a creative space that speaks to her keen eye for design. To carry out her vision, she turned to friend and architect Richard Long of Long & Long Design, who helped put together an overall plan to turn the eyesore into a stunning studio.

Working with her husband’s company, Prier Construction, Jessica and the team started by raising the front gable to give it more of a presence, which also allowed for larger windows to be brought in to increase the amount of natural light inside. She also enclosed the front porch to make it more substantial and introduced a circular window in the space. Both choices enhanced the overall elevation.

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“The studio really reflects what we do for clients
every day, which is create spaces that are
comfortable and inviting.”

—Jessica Prier

The conference room makes every client feel at home. A painting by Courtney Garrett, shelves and tables filled with antique jars, scented Trudon Candles, and collected accessories all represent the design aesthetic of Birmingham Design House. The art on a stand (image below) is by Birmingham artist Porter Rivers.

Commercial Conversion
The structure didn’t need significant demo work—most of the spaces were left intact and just given a fresh coat of paint—but the journey of converting the residential abode into a commercial space required navigating some challenges. The biggest was making the structure ADA (American Disabilities Act) accessible. The first priority in doing so was eliminating the steps on the front porch. Then, to make the bathroom ADA compliant, Jessica moved the door slightly over to provide the proper clearance and also removed unneeded items from the room to allow for the required 5-foot turnaround.

Crafting Comfort
Though the structure officially became a commercial space, Jessica didn’t want to lose the homelike aesthetic since it sits in a semi-residential neighborhood. To keep the studio feeling as comfortable as the homes she designs, she selected many of the same finishes her team often uses in residential spaces. On the outside, Jessica brought in reclaimed brick for the driveway and added gas lanterns to the front porch for a warm glow. For the landscape, she turned to Neil Couvillion of Forme Design Group to install a trim boxwood garden with a fountain from Elegant Earth.


Inside, the designer refinished the original red oak hardwood floors and topped them with Oushak rugs from Hazel House Collective. She also opted for natural materials wherever possible, including the Imperial Danby marble countertops from Alabama Stone Works, a wooden conference table by Manufacture Good, and brass fixtures from Brandino Brass in the bathroom and on cabinetry in the sample library. “The studio reflects my personal style, which is organic and earthy, while also mixing in a little unexpected moodiness and drama,” Jessica says. “My hope is that anyone who comes in feels relaxed and comfortable.”

The Birmingham Design House team
The Birmingham Design House team, from left: Kate Magley, Jordan Elkins, Jessica Prier

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