Interiors Elevated

By employing classic architectural details, introducing soft contemporary furnishings, and rebalancing light and dark spaces, interior designer Dana Wolter brings a fresh elegance to this historic home.

New cabinetry in the music room houses the homeowner’s instruments. Fresh furnishings and a cozy atmosphere inspire creativity and set the mood for at-home concerts.
Photography by JEAN ALLSOPP

Sometimes, even a renovation needs a renovation. Especially if the last one was almost 25 years ago—and the home was built in 1928. Such was the case for these Birmingham homeowners when they bought their historic Warren Knight Davis home in 1999.

At that time, the couple started with the usual updates of upgrading the kitchen and baths and making a few cosmetic changes. But after living in the home for a while, they decided it was time to call on designer Dana Wolter and go next level. “The owners wanted a home that was not only beautiful but also more cohesive and livable,” Dana says. “While the project didn’t require a complete renovation, it did need updated finishes and furniture, as well as a focus on functionality.” The designer formulated a plan and then brought in builder Francis Bryant to help execute it.

The kitchen and bathrooms involved the most structural edits. “Even though the house has nice square footage, it consists of several small rooms,” Dana says. “After this renovation, it feels larger even though the footprint didn’t change.” One of the biggest improvements involved the addition of a full wall of cabinetry behind a paneled wall in the kitchen. In the primary bath, Dana moved door openings, as well as a window that is now centered in the space. “This made a huge difference by allowing more light into the room,” she says. “We also moved some closet doors to create space for a tub and a walk-in shower.”

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Dining room
Using the homeowner’s existing dining table and side chairs, Dana introduced new upholstered head chairs to add volume to the room. The chandelier received a small update as well—fitted shades. “Shades always dress up a light fixture,” Dana says.
Dining room

Elsewhere, Dana brought in new cabinetry and changed colors and finishes. “When we straightened out the arched, corner cabinets in the dining room, we gained more breathing space around the dining table,” she says. The new cabinets with Chippendale designs offer glass doors and shelving that runs from floor to ceiling. Here, china, crystal, and silver are on display and within easy reach. Drawers below hold linens and other entertaining accoutrements.

In the music room, built-ins replaced open bookshelves. “Electronics come with a lot of wires and equipment,” Dana says. “We designed custom cabinets that hide the hardworking pieces but also allow space to display collections. The owner’s assortment of guitars now reads like art behind the antique glass-front cabinets. We also included a pullout keyboard.”

For the walls, the designer chose to keep the room’s original paneling and update it with a darker, custom gray wash. The surrounding cabinetry and a new bar area are painted a dark, custom blue that complements the moody scene. A Phillip Jeffries snakeskin print on the ceiling adds depth. Dana also introduced new furnishings into the space. “By using the correct scale of furniture, the room actually feels bigger,” she says. “The blue velvet sofa was customized to fit like a glove between the built-ins we designed.” Above the sofa, she hung a commissioned photograph by David Hillegas of the horses at the client’s family farm. “I love including a piece that has such a special meaning to her,” Dana says.


In the guest bedroom, the designer used the owner’s existing bed and brightened the space around it with a soft paint color (Ballet White by Benjamin Moore, half formula) and light furniture and linens. In contrast, the primary bedroom brings drama and depth with a custom velvet headboard. “I wanted to ground the space by adding the upholstered headboard to the entire wall,” Dana says. “It’s the first place your eye goes when you walk into the room.”


With renovations complete and appointments in place, these owners now enjoy a home that is well-poised for the next several decades.

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