Floral designer Lois Owens decked the halls for Ellen and Jim Walker of Mountain Brook for the holidays last year. As part of the Independent Presbyterian Homes tour, the Walkers opened up their home for the seasonal fundraiser which benefits women and children’s ministries supported by the Presbyterian Women of IPC. “The homes we choose are historic homes or homes that show talent and creativity, ” says Beth Adams, Independent Presbyterian Holiday House Tour chairman for 2011. “We combine a lot of different aspects in the homes on our tour. The Walkers’ home was built by architectural firm Warren Knight and Davis. Ellen planned a major renovation, adding a second story and bringing the 1920s home up to date after buying it in 2000. “It was a big concern not to lose the flavor of the original architects, ” Ellen says. “I thought it was interesting that these are the same architects who designed our church, Independent Presbyterian.”
The people who open their homes to help our potpourri of charities are the nicest people you’ll ever meet, and usually, they’re used to opening their homes for entertaining friends.” For the Walkers, the emphasis was on greenery and floral arrangements, which were chosen to last as long as possible to accommodate a family wedding.
“Working with Lois was great, because she’s a family friend, ” Ellen says. “She has a really easy and fun personality and she’s very talented.” We made a plan in the beginning, but I just let her go with it. She had great ideas, so it wasn’t hard to say, ‘Okay.’”
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“We wanted to decorate with plants that you could just add water to and flowers that were long lasting, ” says Lois, so she chose roses, peonies and ilex berries. Garlands are made of mixed evergreens blended with magnolia leaves. “These were things that would hold up for a while, ” Lois says. “The home is really traditional, and we tried to use some of the existing architectural features. We used garlands around antique columns in the entrance hall, close to the back door.”
At the top of the columns, Lois echoed the look from the garland and wreath over the front exterior. “If you repeat the same look or colors throughout a home, it makes it more soothing and gives you a much cleaner appearance, ” says Lois.
The entry hall of the Walker home was an ideal space to illustrate that effect. From the front door, visitors for the tour could see straight through to a back door where Lois mirrored the floral and evergreen designs. According to tour chairman Beth Adams, “Ellen’s home has lots of wood, stone, and natural materials that worked well with the use of greenery, peonies, evergreens, and berries. The berries and hawthorn were carried over from the home into her back garden.”
Ellen’s mother Frances Gorrie owns Blackjack Gardens, a source for many of the accent pieces. Ellen also incorporated her mother’s antique tapestries in the décor. Lois used those metal-trimmed embroidery pieces to sew a runner for the dining room table.
“Ellen can use that from year to year, ” Lois says. “It really worked out well with an arrangement of several different colors of roses with peach stock and crimson peonies.”
The living room also showcased elegant floral arrangements combined with garlands of greenery. “The lovely coral roses that were used in the living room brought out the color in Ellen’s rug, ” Beth says. “Everything Lois did was very easy on the eye, and avoided introducing too many flower differentiations or color combinations.”
Lois describes the Walker home as “comfortable and beautifully appointed with pretty pieces of furniture, a great kitchen area, and a wonderful yard.”
“It reflects the family’s love of nature and the outdoors, ” Lois says. “Frances has always had the most beautiful taste, and Ellen inherited that.”
Cara E. Clark