For Susan Nasca, there truly is no place like home. “I grew up in Birmingham, but I didn’t realize how special it is until I started traveling around the country,” she says. “I have lived in Washington D.C., New York City, and San Francisco, and while those are all amazing urban areas, I felt a calling to come home.” Susan also had another compelling reason for wanting to return to her roots. “I adopted my daughter, Megan, while I was living in a very transient area of California where people are constantly moving in and out. As Megan got closer to starting school, I realized I wanted her to grow up in a place with more of a neighborhood feel.” And since Susan’s job in the contract division of Restoration Hardware allows her to work remotely, she had the freedom to make a big move.
With furniture packed up and the west coast in her rearview mirror, Susan set her sights on which areas of the Magic City most appealed to her. “I have always been drawn to the older sections of Birmingham, so I knew those were the areas I wanted to focus on in my house hunt,” she says. That search led her to a home tucked away in a quiet neighborhood near Canterbury Methodist Church in Mountain Brook. “It definitely needed an extensive renovation, but I have renovated homes before and really enjoyed the process,” says Susan. She enlisted architect Scott Carlisle to help design the project. “Once Scott and I met with contractors, we learned it would be more expensive and would take longer to work around the existing structure. There was some serious decay, so we made the decision to tear down most of the house.” However, they did keep the original footprint of the home, adding some extensions where necessary. “Because the unique shape of the lot created some size limitations, it made sense to maintain the footprint,” says Scott.
The steep slope of the lot also played a role in many of the design decisions. “We knew from the outset that the size of the house, combined with its elevated site, could feel imposing from the street,” says Scott. “By hipping part of the roof, creating a subtle curve at the front entrance stair, and adding a lower planter wall, we were able to break up the expanse of the exterior walls.” These design choices also were in keeping with Susan’s desire for a cottage look. “I have visited Carmel, California, and have always loved the quaint, storybook cottage feel of the houses there. I wanted this home to reflect that,” says Susan. “The mixed natural materials we chose especially helped achieve that look.” She also was determined to include some locally sourced stone. “I found the perfect mix of stones with the gray hues I love at Alabama Wholesale Stone Company in Oneonta.” And to make the stone become an even more prominent feature on the front of the house, she chose a light mortar.
For the interior plan, Susan made a wish list of the spaces and details she desired. “I wanted an open living/dining/kitchen plan that included a generous kitchen with island seating,” she says. She also requested a small office, a large laundry/craft/pet room with laundry chute, and a finished basement apartment. “Along the way, I tried to envision how a larger family would use the home, so Scott took that into consideration in the design,” says Susan. “Scott and I definitely had a collaborative process. I came with a point of view and he was able to translate my needs into a home that is absolutely perfect for my daughter and me.”
A Family Plan
Architect Scott Carlisle collaborated with Susan to create custom features that make this house a family home. Tailor these ideas to fit your own brood—big or small.
Window seats in every bedroom. Nothing adds a bit of coziness like a window seat. Use it as a reading nook or as extra storage or display space.
An upstairs playroom with space for a second-floor laundry closet. Susan’s family of two may not need the extra laundry room right now, but a future buyer will have the space to add one if desired.
A terrace with both open and covered areas. No matter what the weather is like, there will always be some outside space for family and friends to gather.
A basement suite and kitchenette for guests. Whether your company stays for a night or a month, they’ll have plenty of room and privacy.
A laundry chute. This handy feature is making a big comeback for two-story homes—and saving a lot of legwork.
Why Birmingham Feels Like Home
Easy Access “I love that the city offers so many wonderful neighborhoods that feel remote yet are within minutes of downtown,” says Susan. “We live in a very quiet area, but I can hop in my car and be on 280 in no time.”
Nature Trails and Parks Susan and her daughter, Megan, love to explore the beautiful trails and parks throughout Birmingham. “We are fortunate to have so many public spaces for enjoying the outdoors,” she says. “Jemison Trail is very close to our home and is one of our favorite places to visit.”
Walkability Birmingham offers plenty of sidewalks that connect many neighborhoods to business districts. “We love taking leisurely walks to Mountain Brook Village and Crestline Village,” says Susan. “And there’s nothing like strolling through the Pepper Place Farmer’s Market on Saturday mornings.”
Restaurant Scene “Birmingham rivals any big city when it comes to food,” says Susan. “Ollie Irene and Taco Mama are two of our favorites.”
Shops Galore No matter what you are looking for, you are sure to find it in a brick-and-mortar store somewhere in the city. “At Home Furnishings has been a fun source for finishing our interiors,” says Susan. “And Megan and I enjoy stopping in The Lili Pad to check out their children’s clothes.”
Architect: T. Scott Carlisle, Carlisle Moore Architects, carlislemoorearchitects.com Builder: Davis Construction Services, davisconstructionservicesllc.com Cabinet Design: Tasha B. Davis, tashabdavisinteriors.com Cabinet construction: Mann Custom Woodworks, 205.503.3617 Landscape design: Falkner Gardens, falknergardens.com Pool design and construction: Backyard Creations, backyardcreationsal.com Kitchen countertops: Surface One, surface1.com Kitchen sconces and faucet: Waterworks, waterworks.com Kitchen hardware and most furnishings: Restoration Hardware, restorationhardware.com Vases on dining table: Shoppe Birmingham, 205.224.4450 Painting over fireplace: Shannon Harris, Grace Gallery, 205.834.1923 Fireplace and pavers: Firerock, firerock.us Windows: Auburn Millwork, 334.887.7060 Exterior stone: Alabama Wholesale Stone Company, alastone.com Exterior lighting: Bevolo, bevolo.com Outdoor shower enclosure: Seth Hart, 205.949.7285