Custom Color

A past life as a research librarian can be pretty handy when it comes to a second career as an interior designer. After years at Southern Progress in the corporate library, Laurl turned corporate downsizing into an opportunity and took her long-loved passion for interiors, antiques, and crafting full-time through a variety of part-time ventures. You can find her on Etsy (Owl and Thistle), and you may see her at any number of local art shows. Laurl also has more than one antiques booth, and, most recently, she became a dealer on Hunter’s Alley (a branch of One Kings Lane).

For this project, Laurl meshed all her knowledge, creativity, and verve into one smart, budget-minded condo in downtown Birmingham’s Liv on Fifth. Owner Shaun Chavis, a book editor, hostess, and lover of all things culinary, asked Laurl to bring a colorful sense of fun to her lofty space. Other requests? Find creative ways for extra seating and storage—and, bring in some pink.

Brainstorming ensued, and Laurl decided to maintain the industrial white walls and use color as bold accents. The half wall that divides the living room from the bedroom makes the biggest statement. Coating the wall with a swath of fushia pink chalkboard paint, Laurl took the punchy accent one step further by overlaying it with a hand-crafted stencil and painting it orange to create just-enough contrast. This allows Shaun to use the wall as an ever-changing tableaux for recipes, musings, and inspirational quotes. “It’s never the same, ” Laurl says.

To make sure Shaun had plenty of room to serve the Sorghum & Tahini so elegantly scripted, Laurl created extra seating—out of the way. Custom ottomans tuck beneath an internet-order, glass-top coffee table. “I checked and double-checked the measurements. They had to be exact for the ottomans to fit just right, ” Laurl says. Underfoot, carpet tiles from offer a pretty and budget-friendly way to warm up the concrete room. An armchair culled from Mountain Brook Trading received a fresh finish with black-and-white fabrics and orange accents.

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With all that has been added to the condo, there is one thing missing—a TV. And Shaun doesn’t care to have one. On her chalkboard wall, she has tacked a note: “Dear Guests, I don’t have a TV so please entertain yourself by drawing on the wall.” The result is a home that sets the stage for many fun evenings filled with colorful conversation. 


ABOVE Laurl stands in front of a bold abstract—a secret source she found for replicating existing artwork in any size.


Laurl Self, Laurl Designs 205.249.5863 •
Artwork (poodle portrait), Christopher Davis

text by Cathy Still McGowin • photography by Jean Allsopp

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