Full Circle

A modern farmhouse in Mountain Brook provides a sense of peace and youthful escapism for family.

<em>The back of the house is the architects favorite elevation and the back lawn is a favorite playground for the homeowners children The country aesthetic is cemented with a raised vegetable garden firepit bee boxes and sweeping trees with swings Photos by Jean Allsopp Styling by Cathy Still McGowin <em>

Walker Renneker of Tent Shop Design is a third-generation architect and has worked on many houses—but he says if his wife could trade their personal home for any of the ones he’s designed, this modern farmhouse would be it.

<em>Taking advantage of the long narrow lot the architect set the house back from the street to emphasize its country setting Farmhouse styling is evident in the vertical siding metal roof and stacked stone fireplace<em>

This project allowed him to combine his two loves: architecture and his role as a father and family man. The icing on the cake? Reconnecting with an old friend from childhood and reminiscing on shared memories.

<em>To give rooms in the open floorplan distinction Walker varied ceiling heights and ceiling treatments The kitchen and dining room feature lower ceilings with beams while the living rooms ceiling peaks to the second story page 52 In the kitchen a half wall of cabinets next to the fridge shoulders the stairwell leading to the basement This design decision allowed windows to continue across the back of the house to bring in natural light<em>

For Walker and his clients, life came full circle through this project, and the dots from their pasts connected to the present serendipitously. It all started with a tired mom and a determination to lull her children to sleep. 

<em>A sliding barn door accesses the girls side of the house that includes bedrooms baths and a playroom as well as task areas such as the mudroom laundry and powder bath Walker imbued instant character through the cobblestone flooring salvaged from Morris Avenue timber accents and custom doors and windows<em>

Like a lot of people, this parent knew that sometimes, the best way to help your children fall asleep is by fastening them into their car seats and taking a drive. On one such occasion when the wife was driving her young daughters around town, she was also using the outing as an excuse to look for houses. She discovered a “For Sale” sign on a property in the Abingdon area of Mountain Brook and told her husband about it. 

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<em>The entry is reminicient of a historic dogtrot thanks to its enclosed steel and glass pass through and covered breezeway <em>

Ironically, the husband knew exactly where the land was located. The site had once belonged to the family of his childhood best friend. He fondly remembered the area known for its estate-size lots, small horse farms, and pastoral setting. “I shot BB guns and bow and arrows there as a kid,” he says. “We’d been looking for houses for two-and a half years, but we never thought we’d build—until we found this lot.” 

<em>A round window opens the upstairs to the main floor a design replicated in the master bathroom<em>

The couple knew right away that this find was meant to be. “I grew up having a big yard and a place to roam,” says the husband. “I am drawn to the outdoors and didn’t want to be elbow-to-elbow with our neighbors. So when we found a place with space, we jumped all over it.”

<em>The dining room just inside the entry overlooks the expansive front lawn<em>

The couple then brought Walker on board and asked him for a design with simplicity that offered functionality over bells and whistles. Walker’s answer was a modern farmhouse with the attributes of a historic dogtrot, including the classic, central breezeway. However, instead of keeping that space open to the elements, the architect added custom windows and doors to connect spaces yet allow the house to be closed tight when desired or opened up to fresh air at a whim. The breezeway also serves to separate the children’s rooms and task areas from the main house. “Looking across the house through the glass entryway, you can see through to the playroom from the kitchen and living area, but you don’t have to hear everything going on in there,” the wife says. “It works.”

<em>The breakfast nook offers a built in banquette for casual meals Walker designed the half wall of cabinets and counter height door so it wouldnt block light or backyard views<em>

While Walker dislikes the term “open concept,” he did utilize the principle with shared living spaces that flow together comfortably yet stand apart in function. “The different spaces all have a design connection to each other,” Walker says. “And while it all feels close, the rooms each have a distinct purpose. For example, the homeowners have a somewhat detached space to enjoy once they put the kids to bed.”

T<em>he couples master suite is set in its own part of the home an oasis after a long day of running around with kids Everyone needs to have their own space architect Walker Renneker says I know how valuable recovery time is for parents <em>

To maintain the calm continuum within the interior spaces, Walker and the homeowners worked with interior designer Emory Ratliff on hard finishes. “We wanted to reflect the couple’s personal style and keep things pretty clean,” Emory says. 

<em>One oversized sink serves the purpose of two separate sinks in the master bathroom allowing for plenty of counter space<em>

The result is a family home with plenty of space to spread out. “I love coming home from work, pulling in the driveway, and seeing the girls running around in the yard,” the husband says.  “And we spend a lot of time in the backyard. We kind of feel like we’re in our own private, peaceful world.”

<em>A pair of Adirondack chairs in the backyard offers the perfect spot for taking in views<em>

Resources: Architect: Walker Renneker, Tent Shop Design Builder: Chris Franks, Franks Building Company Interior finishes: Emory Ratliff Interiors Landscape design: Fletcher Smith, Curb Appeal Kitchen runner: Lilikat Rugs at Design Supply Kitchen cabinets: Alan Deal, Deal Cabinets Hardware: Brandino Brass Appliances: AllSouth Appliance Group Countertops: Alabama Stone Works Tile/Backsplash: Cottage Supply Company Custom range hood and chandelier in living area: Jeremy Roegner, Artistic Birmingham Artworks Plumbing fixtures: Ferguson Custom steel doors and windows: Iron Horse Metal Works Interior paint color: White Dove, Benjamin Moore Exterior siding: James Hardie

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Rachel Burchfield

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