Cottage Contemporary

Building a home on a pie-shaped lot that once held the neighbor’s swimming pool seemed like a challenge to most people. But walking through the rooms of the expertly-styled home today, it feels as if the house has been nestled into its hillside spot forever. Built in the style of an old English cottage and accented with manicured garden spaces by landscape architect Ben Page, the newly constructed home fits seamlessly into the historic neighborhood.

“We tried to build in the style of the neighborhood, ” says Architect Chris Tippet of McAlpine Tankersley Architecture. “Birmingham has a lot of English Tudor—and that’s really what the house is—a cottage version of it.”

Empty nesters looking to downsize, the homeowners interviewed a number of architects and studied several floorplans for two years before finding a combination that made their dream of building on such a challenging lot possible. Chris presented a plan for a four-bedroom, 4, 500 square-foot home that gave the couple exactly what they were looking for—a house one room deep that would graciously fit on the lot.

“They wanted to be able to live on one level, ” says Chris. “The house is one-room deep so you can get light from both sides.”

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With interior designer Marcia Unger’s help, the couple transitioned from the traditional design of their former home, just a few miles away, to modern elegance. Starting with a blank canvas brought new design goals. The couple discarded the majority of their old furniture. “We bought almost everything new, ” Marcia says. “We got the coffee table way before we had plans, and also believe it or not, the fire screen.” {For more on Marcia, click here.}

For the owners, the design change was a big jump. The home’s main living area is one large room on the first floor, divided into three separate areas. The master suite, and the kitchen reside on opposite ends. Bedrooms for guests or visiting grandchildren are tucked upstairs so the owner’s can close off the space as when not in use.

The open floorplan meant that the formal living area, dining room, and casual sitting room, needed to be cohesive and complementary, while still maintaining the individual intention of each space. Marcia used strategic furniture placement to define each area, and specific pieces played very important roles.

In the casual living area, a large rustic table and bold black iron chandelier act in tandem to create both a partition and a bridge between a formal sitting area and a family den.

The formal living area, is set with four matching armchairs gathered around a cocktail table for converstation. A grand piano nestles into a bay window. The brightly colored painting is even more vibrant in the neutral space.

In the dining area, casual mixes with elegant to create the perfect space for meals with friends and family. “We used a rustic antique table, and put really gorgeous chairs with it. They are tremendously comfortable and very sleek, ” Marcia says. Connecting it all, a floor-to-ceiling bookshelf spans the length of one wall in the expansive room, displaying family photos, books, and eye-catching accent pieces arranged to add character and personality. “The bookshelves took a lot of time, and I think they look phenomenal, ” Marcia says. “I love the library lights above as well, because they are so edgy and so contemporary.”

In the kitchen, top-of-the-line appliances were combined with Emperor Dark marble countertops. Details include wood and travertine tile floors and a stained cypress beamed ceiling. The breakfast nook features an antique wine tasting table and wooden chairs in the alcove of a bay window.

Whether entertaining or spending time with grandchildren, these owners have found a home that offers the perfect balance for their lifestyle. Planning and persistence paid off, and they now have a space to relax and enjoy friends, family, and great design.


interior design: Marcia Unger: Marcia Unger Interiors 205.870.1380 architect: Chris Tippet: McAlpine Tankersley Architecture 334.262.8315 • builder: George Kurtts: Kurtts Construction 205.991.5719 landscape architecture: Ben Page: Page|Duke Landscape Architecture 615.320.0220 • living room sofas and chairs: R. Jones. & Associates Inc. 214.951.0091 • coffee table: Interiors Market 404.352.0055 • dining chairs: Stewart Furniture 276.744.0185 • kitchen fixture: South of Market 404.995.9399 • dining fixture: Niermann Weeks Company 410.923.0123 • kitchen cabinets: S&H Cabinet Works 205.663.6381 kitchen appliances: Wolf range, Sub-Zero ovens and warming drawer: Kohler sink kitchen stools and living room rugs: Hiltz Lauber 205.879.0039 • patio table and chairs: Restoration Hardware 205.967.1901 • patio clock and club chairs: MCJ Company Interiors 205.458.2700 kitchen sconces: Urban Electric Company 843.723.8140 • draperies: Donghia

Molly Montgomery

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