Open House

Interior decorator Iris Thorpe and her Homewood client have worked on this project for years—tweaking things slowly and collecting just-right antiques over time. But when the Hollywood home tour came around last April, the project went into overdrive, and Iris finished the job in one fast and furious month.

Photos by Jean Allsopp

Decorating over time takes a lot of patience, especially when most homeowners want it done “right now!” But that’s when mistakes can happen and spur-of-the-moment decisions become costly regrets. “So many young people want to go out and buy everything at once, ” says decorator and shop owner Iris Thorpe. “I always advise homeowners to buy one really nice piece of furniture (or art) per year, ” she says. “You can build a collection quicker than you realize.” Working with this particular Homewood client, Iris says she did it right and the decoration evolved over several years. “Of course you always need to start with a plan, ” Iris says. “When approaching an individual room or whole house, I work with my client to choose all the pieces at one time. First we shop their house and evaluate the items they already have. Then, we pull fabrics and colors and lay it all out.”

When Iris started this project, the home needed a major renovation. Cyndy Cantley of Cantley & Co. tranformed the kitchen and Twin Construction helped with the nuts and bolts of the building process. And an abundance of white paint (Cotton Ball, Benjamin Moore) instantly brightened the circa 1920s home, setting the scene for the owner’s pretty assembly of antiques.

Most furnishings are French or English—investment pieces that will move well with the family to their next home. Rooms are uncluttered and accents are deliberate. The owner’s collections include pretty silver and equestrian art.

“We worked quickly to finish the project for the homes tour, ” says Iris. And, thankfully, Birmingham had plenty of local resources willing to lend a hand.

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The kitchen is splendid in its classic styling The timeless look of Alabama white marble countertops white cabinets a subway tile backsplash custom matched to the paint color by Kenny Co and stainless steel appliances complement the traditional home
Iris designed the custom banquette notice the drawers beneath in the kitchen A gray blue buffalo check fabric offers soft seating and ties in to the colors of the adjacent dining room Cottage charm comes through in beaded board and French cane back chairs The dining table is a local find from Kings House Antiques
In design school they teach you that you should always start with the rug says decorator Iris Thorpe You do have to have a starting point but you should begin with what you love most For the dining room Iris started with the antique French Trumeau mirror from Kings House Antiques This was one of the first pieces the homeowners bought says Iris We later found a rug that would play off the mirrors gray blue finish The dining table and chairs are antiques The sideboard and lamps are from Robert Hill Antiques I love to buy locally We have a great community of shop owners and antiques dealers Iris says
In the renovation phase Iris opened up door frames on either side of the fireplace to bring in light and add symmetry to the living room When the owners purchased the house they knew this wouldnt be their forever home Iris kept that in mindinvesting in antiques over architectural enhancements or an addition Most everything here will translate easily to their new home she says
A French commode resides in the hallway This transitional piece would work just as easily in a dining room or bedroom The mirror is a French antique
A downstairs powder room exhibits the only wallpaper in the house
The master bedroom features a custom upholstered bed and custom monogrammed linens Iris also customized a chandelier that came with the house We took the vintage chandelier and painted the whole thing whitecrystals and all Iris says The inexpensive easy update gave it just enough of a modern look
The house is a basic rectangle Public spaces extend from a grand entry hall downstairs and bedrooms mark the four corners upstairs In a daughters room Iris situated twin beds beneath canopies of pale blush
In the nursery an antique Murphy bed is both pretty and functional Opened its just enough room for mom or dad to catch a few winks between nighttime feedings

Meet Iris Thorpe

A Huntsville, Alabama native, decorator Iris Thorpe opened her shop, Iris & Co., five years ago. Stemming from her passion for work as a decorator with a need for retail, her small storefront in Cahaba Heights exhibits just a snippet of her sense of style. Filled with a curated mix of Southern artists, African artifacts, antiques, and dazzling furniture and lighting by Niermann Weeks (she’s the only dealer in Alabama! You can skip the trip to Atlanta!), her designs are classic with just the right balance of old and new. Fifteen years of living in New Orleans honed Iris’s knowledge of divergent cultural influence, not limited by era or origin. “I fell in love with the mixing of genre within the same room, ” Iris says. “I love contrast and the element of surprise. I learned to make formal antiques more approachable by mixing them in to a casual setting.”

Stop by the shop. You don’t want to miss her one-of-a-kind finds, art, and fantastic resource room. Need more of her goods to peruse? Iris is the only Birmingham shop on—and she’ll be one of the Tastemakers this fall at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Every other year, the Holly Oak Garden Club selects historic homes to feature for the Hollywood Homes Tour. The next tour will be 2015. Ticket sales help maintain plantings and flowers in public medians, as well as holiday greenery and bows. Other proceeds benefit Shades Cahaba Elementary School.


Designer: IRIS THORPE, IRIS & CO. Vestavia Hills, Alabama · 205.969.5727 • Dining room: vase: NIERMANN WEEKS through IRIS & CO. painting: McDONOUGH FINE ART Atlanta, Georgia • rug: PAIGE ALBRIGHT ORIENTALS Mt. Brook, Alabama • 205.877.3232 • mirror: KING’S HOUSE ANTIQUES Birmingham, Alabama • 205.877.3232 • sideboard/lamps: ROBERT HILL ANTIQUES Birmingham, Alabama • 205.326.0088 • Kitchen: design: CYNDY CANTLEY, CANTLEY & CO. Birmingham, Alabama • 205.324.2400 builders: TWIN CONSTRUCTION Homewood, Alabama • 205.802.3920 • countertops/cabinets/subway tile: KENNY & CO. Birmingham, Alabama • 205.323.5616 • appliances: ALL SOUTH APPLIANCES Birmingham, Alabama • 205.942.0408 • hardware: BRANDINO BRASS Homewood, Alabama • 205.978.8900 • paint: BENJAMIN MOORE  banquette cushions: custom through IRIS & CO. table: KING’S HOUSE ANTIQUES Living room: candlesticks: ROBERT HILL ANTIQUES vessel: JULIE SILVERS through IRIS & CO. coffee table: CIRCA Mt. Brook, Alabama • 205.868.9199 • upholstery: custom through IRIS & CO. Bedroom: canopies/linens: IRIS & CO

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Cathy Still McGowin

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