No Rules: Condo Design Colors Outside the Lines

Meg and Armand Margjeka are not white picket fence people. Marriage and even a new baby couldn’t put them in a suburban bungalow. Instead, they have made a home for their young family in a Highland Park condo with a remarkable interior tailored to their personalities.

“Meg and Armand are creative people who know what they want, ” says interior decorator Fran Keenan, who helped make the condo into a place where the proverbial different drummer was right at home.

Although Meg has a degree in business, the businesses she has pursued call for creativity and an eye for design. Living in Los Angeles, she and a friend launched a line of cosmetics for teens, which took her all over, even to an appearance on QVC in London.

“We considered it our business school, ” Meg says. Graduation day came when Meg decided it was time to return home to Birmingham. She took a job at Etc., a jewelry and accessory store in Mountain Brook Village. Owner Judy Abroms was looking toward retirement, so Meg was presented with a business opportunity that she has embraced with new lines and a larger storefront in Mountain Brook Village.

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Armand, an artist and musician from Albania, has studied sculpture, painting, and drawing, but is currently concentrating on the music business. He has a newly released album, “Margo, Margo, ” and owns Pipe and Gun Studio in Homewood, a creative space where musicians from across the country record, produce, write, collaborate, and just hang out.

In keeping with the couple’s non-traditional approach to life, they had not one wedding, but two. The first took place in Arkansas, where Armand attended college.

“We had our wedding lunch at Chili’s, ” Meg says.

The casual nuptials came about because international red tape had snarled their plans for a wedding in Italy. Undeterred, the couple held the Italian wedding a year later just after learning that their son, Mercer, was on the way.

“He came to our wedding in Italy, ” Meg says. Mercer’s advent also spurred the couple to buy and renovate the condo. “We changed everything to suit us, ” Meg says. “I love everything casual. Armand is relaxed and he has helped me be less uptight.”

The first goal was to give the home an open feel, with a flow from room to room that is not interrupted with doors.

Scroll down for pictures and details of the Margjeka's home. See more style tips from Meg in “Meg's Must Haves”.

“Albanians have more communal spaces, ” Meg says. “So we wanted open space, with not a lot of doors and one room flowing into the others. Fran helped us catch that vibe.”

The rooms are specially suited to the Margjekas’ lifestyle. Instead of the usual living room, dining room and den, their home has an entry, gallery, listening room, and TV room.

“You walk into a round entry room, where all the doors are hidden (they open with touch latches) except for the French doors that open to the gallery, ” Meg says.

The gallery is an airy space with a recessed concrete “art wall” illuminated by LED lighting. The herringbone patterned floors push toward The Listening Room, where the couple enjoys the music that is an important part of their life. Adding depth are oriental rugs layered for a unique look that arose from Armand’s childhood.

“When Armand grew up, his home was wall to wall rugs, ” Meg says. “His mother made them and he remembers the hum of the machine and layers of rugs to sit on. We love this room. We can have a glass of wine, look at the view, and talk or listen to music.”

As in any home, the Margjekas’ kitchen is central to family life, and they made it to order. “We knocked out everything and created a blank canvas, ” Meg says.  She and Armand enjoy cooking together, so the kitchen boasts an eight-burner Wolf range and two ovens. Concrete countertops and a zinc-topped island provide workspace with style.

At the opposite end of the workspace is the keeping room, painted a rich eggplant, featuring a farm table and a custom banquette that runs the length of the room, and red bergere chairs, “two of my favorite chairs I have ever bought, ” says Fran.

“We wanted a bistro feel where we hang out, ” Meg says. “You can have meals at one end and read at the other end. There is a fireplace too.We can’t wait to use it.”

Contemporary art, traditional rugs, antiques, industrial artifacts, concrete walls, reclaimed oak flooring, a flat screen television, and a turntable with vinyl records—the mix of elements may sound like a baffling aggregation, but it has been put together with confidence from elements the Margjekas love. It makes for a striking and personal interior.

As Meg says, “We wanted to stay true to who we are.”


Condo Design Colors Outside the Lines Fran Keenan Design 205.821.8183 architect: John Hudson, Hudson Architecture 406.709.1029 contractor: Structures Inc. Will Kinnebrew, project manager • 205.663.4252 • flooring: KMAC Greenworks 2850 35th Avenue North, Birmingham, Alabama • woodwork: Aaron Lane, Lane Woodworking 205.337.2811 concrete work: Jeremy Darnell, Vessels of Expression 205.613.0538 metalwork: Manuel Hernandez, Hernandez Forging 205.655.4766 entry: Italian light fixture: Circa Interiors and Antiques 2831 Culver Road, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.868.9199 listening room: rugs: Paige Albright Orientals 2814 Petticoat Lane, Birmingham, Alabama • armoire: 1st Dibs, New York kitchen/keeping room: appliances: AllSouth Appliance 4 W. Oxmoor Road, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.942.0408 • banquette: Mark Jordan, Mark V. Jordan Upholstery 334.279.0056 chandelier: French Market Antiques, Interiors Market, Pepper Place, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.323.4700 bergere chairs: Robuck and Company Antiques 425 Peachtree Hills Ave NE • bar sink: Triton Stone 205.592.0202 • nursery: painting: Amy Pleasant custom changing table: Manuel Hernandez, Hernandez Forging 205.655.4766 oval crib: Stokke bubble chandelier: Liza Sherman, New York master suite: concrete end tables (also chair in entry): Vessels of Expression 205.613.0538 linens: Suite Dreams 2409 Montevallo Road, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.414.1922 teak platform: Lane Woodworking 205.337.2811

Lucy Merrill

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