The Next Generation

A respectful renovation brings loads of personality and a new family to a 1950s Mountain Brook rancher.

Chickadee co-owners Kelly Neely (left) and Kate Hartman stand on the front steps of Kate’s renovated home. Kate credits architect Scott Torode with designing “an exterior elevation that incorporates the windows without losing the cottage charm of the house.” The front door, designed by Kate’s husband, Josh, a hobby welder, includes an offset pivot. “Our home is relatively close to the street. We didn’t want a house that towered over the street or felt oversized for the lot, ” Kate says. Photos by Jean Allsopp
“The hand-painted walls in the foyer are one of my favorite design features in the house—especially at night, ” says homeowner and designer Kate Hartman. The vintage Waterford crystal-and-brass chandelier was an estate sale find and gift from her mother-in-law. The mirror is an oversized French antique. The framed nude (leaning) is by Alabama Artist Susan N McCollough.

When Kate and Josh Hartman purchased their Mountain Brook home, it was a classic mid-century ranch where the sellers had raised their family and lived for most of their lives. The older couple made quite an impression on the younger one—who at the time did not know they would soon be expecting their first child. “We really loved the people who owned the house before us. They were so sweet, and very connected to the house, ” Kate says. Rather than take the popular path of complete tear-down, the Hartmans took the road less traveled and worked with the existing perimeters.

With the help of Scott Torode of Pfeffer Torode Architecture, the couple created a new exterior elevation but made only minor changes to the floorplan—mostly removing interior walls and bumping ceilings up to the roofline. “Like most people, we spend a great deal of time in the kitchen, so we combined the old kitchen and dining room into one large kitchen with a breakfast area. We made the previous den into a formal dining room and enclosed the former porch to create a sunroom on the back of the house, ” Kate says. The one addition to the home’s footprint was made to the master suite. “We added a bathroom and transformed the old master bath into his-and-hers closets.”

Kate, one of the owners and design minds behind Chickadee, a Cahaba Heights interiors boutique, took the interiors into her own capable hands. Oak hardwood floors, finished with a 50/50 mix of ebony and coffee-colored stains, unite every room in the home. Wood planks—cypress finished with a semitransparent stain—stretch overhead in the home’s living and dining room, entry and kitchen. Where the ceilings were just eight feet, they now soar, giving the rooms an airy feel.

In every space, Kate’s décor makes the home at once livable and sophisticated. “If you look at the house overall, you may think it leans modern, ” she says, “but as you look at the individual pieces in the rooms, you will see vintage and antique pieces around every corner.” Kate mixes French antiques with vintage furniture frames she’s reupholstered, as well as found accessories such as rugs and artwork. One of the most cosmopolitan elements in the home is the lighting. “I think that lighting is something that is overlooked or not properly budgeted for on projects, ” she says. “Lighting can make a room and should always be an important part of the design process.”

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When the Hartmans did the renovation, it was just the two of them and their dogs. But when baby Gus, a year old, was born, Kate felt even more of a connection to the previous owners. “They came to see it after we finished the renovation, ” she says. “They loved that we retained a bit of their family home in spirit.”

The sunroom—formerly a porch—offers a sitting area off the dining room. A vintage French sofa reupholstered in brown velvet and swivel chairs by CR Laine from Chickadee gather around a petite Lucite coffee table. Draped walls offer privacy.
“I love to cook so I wanted to have a functional kitchen with lots of room for people to hang out, ” Kate says. The kitchen stretches across the front of the house, incorporating a generous work triangle with two sinks boasting touch-free faucets, a built-in bar, and open floor space for a breakfast table. Flat-front kitchen cabinets are painted Sherwin-Williams Origami White, the same hue as the walls throughout the home.
A built-in bar anchors one end of the kitchen. Floating shelves, backed by a mirror, display a collection of vintage glasses and barware.
Two full-size custom velvet sofas embrace the room’s opposing focal points—the TV and fireplace. Some people might find white velvet sofas intimidating, but not Kate. “We love to lounge. A little Vectra Spray has kept them nice and white even with a baby and two dogs!” she says.
Accessible to the living room, kitchen, and sunroom through redesigned and arched openings, the dining room welcomes guests to its custom oval table with gold metal base and black marble top. The dining chairs are vintage frames reupholstered in a modern fabric. The mirror is a French antique.
Kate’s office is part work space, part guest room, thanks to the built-in daybed.
The master bedroom features soft blush tones. Local artist Sarah Soule Webb, a childhood friend of Kate’s, created the piece above the bed.

About Kate

Kate Hartman, co-owner and designer at Chickadee boutique in Cahaba Heights, is a Gulf Coast native and an Auburn alumnus who moved to Birmingham six years ago. Here, she shares a bit about herself and her design inspiration.

DESIGN MIND I am a licensed civil engineer and worked in engineering design in my previous life. My love for interiors, addiction to construction, and detail-oriented mindset made owning an interiors shop and creating spaces for clients an obvious fit.

ANTIQUES CONNECTIONS My mother-in-law (former owner of Birmingham shop Lamb’s Ear) has worked with lots of antiques pickers. We find things at estate sales, too, but mostly through dealers.

MIX MASTER I really love modern, but it can get very cold. I love that eclectic mix where it looks collected and bought over time, not like you got it all on the same day. One IKEA piece is fine; 20 is not.

INSPIRED BY I think you can find design inspiration in the most unusual places. Of course, you can find it on your trip to Paris, but you can also get it from Pinterest or magazines. For me, there’s a lot to be said for a collaborative effort. My design partner, Kelly Neely, and I sit down and feed off each other’s ideas. We can spend three or four hours in fabric stores, pulling what we like and figuring out how to make a room out of it. Artwork and lighting also offer easy jumping-off points for a room.

AT HOME I love to cook, and I love Cooks Illustrated. It has great recipes and it explores the science behind them.

ONLINE OR LOCAL I really hate online shopping! I try not to do it. It’s such a hassle, and nothing ever fits. I’d rather support local. For me, I prefer to see something in person.

CHICKADEE We have everything from the perfect gift to the perfect sofa. We have a great selection of pillows and accessories, including Susan Gordon pottery. If you’re looking for that last little thing to complete a space, a full-service design team, or anything in-between, we’ve got you covered.

Interiors: Kate Hartman, Chickadee • 3138 Cahaba Heights Rd. 205.969.3138 Architect: Scott Torode, Pfeffer Torode • 334.513.1976 Landscape design: Brent Donaldson • 205.337.2473 Kitchen cabinets: custom hardware: Emtek Appliances: Wolf Countertops, tile, backsplash: Synergy Stone • 205.556.8115 Sound system: Thomas Audio Video • 205.543.6224 Rug: vintage Heriz Interior wood details: cypress with semitransparent stain Custom living room sofas and daybed headboard: Griffin Upholstery • 256.237.6674 Lighting: Visual Comfort from Chickadee Artwork in nursery: Chickadee Paint colors: Walls: Origami White, Daybed Room: Chelsea Grey,  Nursery stripes: Benjamin Moore Moonshine Grey

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