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A Twist of Fate

Having bought a historical Vestavia home on a whim more than a decade ago, a couple serendipitously teams up with longtime friend and interior designer Michaele Travis to renovate the guesthouse and give it the architectural character it deserves.

Behind the main house, above, a detached garage with an upstairs apartment adds to the charm of the property.

Behind the main house, above, a detached garage with an upstairs apartment adds to the charm of the property.

photography by Jean Allsopp

“We were not even looking to move,” Vicki Brannon says. “In fact, we had just finished building our ‘perfect’ house, and our plan was to stay put.” But fate had other ideas that day in 1999 when Vicki stumbled across a newspaper ad for a historical stone house off of Shades Crest Road in Vestavia.

Harrison, Vicki’s husband, has always been a fan of anything constructed of stone. “I just knew I had to go have a look at the house for his sake and let Harrison know what I had seen,” says Vicki. “But I really wasn’t thinking we would buy it.”

That mindset changed as soon as Vicki made her way down the narrow, winding road leading to the house. That was on a Wednesday, and by Saturday, the residence was theirs. Behind the main house, a detached garage with an upstairs apartment adds to the charm of the property. “The main house only has three bedrooms,” explains Harrison. “When we moved in, each of our three daughters wanted her own room. So the only option was for our oldest daughter, who was a teenager at the time, to live above the garage.” 

The exterior of the stone guesthouse blends seamlessly with the main residence that sits a few yards away. The Brannons replaced the garage doors below the apartment with ones that look more like a carriage house.

Over the next decade, that guesthouse served not only as a teenage suite that hosted many spend-the-night parties but also as a first apartment years later for two of the Brannons’ daughters after each graduated from college. With so much traffic coming and going during that time, the interiors of the guesthouse experienced quite a bit of wear and tear. So in 2010, with the space empty, Vicki and Harrison decided it was time to renovate.

“My sister recommended that I contact her interior designer friend named Michaele Travis to help with the project,” says Vicki. “I was a little hesitant to call her because I really wanted to have a lot of say in the look of the guesthouse. I was worried that an outsider would want to take over.”

“I wanted a nature look but not a rustic feel. We were able to achieve that delicate balance through careful research in selecting the right accessories, furniture, and collectibles.” —Vicki Brannon

At their initial meeting, Vicki and Michaele quickly realized that they knew each other from their high school sorority days. “At that point, we were meant to be a team,” says Vicki.  The duo quickly became a trio as Harrison stepped in to offer his ideas as well.

The common goal was to restore the apartment to a look that was in keeping with the character of the main house. “We started by pulling up all of the old carpet and replacing it with reclaimed pine floors,” says Michaele. “Then we replaced all of the doors, windows, and trim. The baseboards that were originally in the apartment were very small and narrow, but houses built in the early 20th century had tall baseboards. So we installed those to make the guesthouse architecturally true to its roots.”

Keep scrolling down for more images of the Brannon's home.
For pictures of their fabulous garden, click here.
 

The next order of business was to find just the right color for the interior walls. “I was determined to paint the walls blue,” explains Vicki. “On a trip to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, many years before, I had fallen in love with the subtle blue hues of the grasses in the area, and I wanted to incorporate those colors. But we quickly realized that the space called for a more historical color. Blue could have taken away from the character of the guesthouse.”

Instead, Michaele picked out a more neutral shade and then incorporated the slate-blue tones that Vicki loves in the Oriental rug and the bird-adorned throw pillows on the sofa. “The rest of the room was sort of built around those accessories,” she says.

Splashes of dark wood accent the room in the form of art boxes, swivel barstools, and a wooden flat-file chest. Spindle armchairs anchor each side of the sofa.

The original breakfast bar was replaced with one that is counter height to allow for a better view from the kitchen to the other areas of the apartment. “The original bar was so tall it divided up the space and didn’t allow for the open flow we were striving for,” explains Michaele.

The guesthouse also includes a full kitchen that opens to the sitting area. Custom cabinets were installed and painted gray, and Sub-Zero appliances added the modern conveniences of today’s kitchens without taking away from the historical charm. For the countertops and backsplash, Michaele and Vicki considered marble because of its clean, fresh appeal, but they decided that the polished stone would appear too formal in the space. When they looked at granite options, Vicki felt that many of the busier patterns would be too overwhelming in the more simplified style of the apartment. Just when the women were ready to throw in the towel on their search, they came across a slab of granite that had the look of marble but with an antique finish that gave the piece some texture. “We could not believe we actually found a stone that met all of the criteria on our wish list,” says Michaele. “It seemed to be custom-made for our project.”

In addition to the sitting area and kitchen, the open floor plan includes a space for sleeping. An iron bed and matching night stands anchor the area. Touches of slate blue appear again, this time in the pillow shams.
Now that the guesthouse is complete, the Brannons enjoy welcoming friends and family to stay overnight. “We have even spent a few weekends in the apartment ourselves,” says Harrison. “It’s our own escape right in our backyard.”

Looking back on the project, Vicki, Harrison, and Michaele agree that while it was a lot of work, it was also a lot of fun. “The Brannons have a special place in my heart, as does their guest house,” says Michaele. “Together, we have created a little oasis.”

RESOURCES

interior design: Michaele Travis of Michaele Barrow Designs 205.296.8168 contractor: Dean Lunceford of Lunceford Group Construction 205.682.2822 wall paint: Benjamin Moore “Grants Beige” HC-83 quatrefoil ceiling fixture/kitchen island and bath fixture: Circa LightinG circalighting.com • 877.762.2323 lamp on wooden chest: (base) Pottery Barn potterybarn.com • 888.779.5176 (shade) Village Firefly 205.870.4560 wooden chest, spindle chairs, jade lamp, and apothecary floor lamp: Richard TubB Interiors 205.324.7613 santos angel: The Nest 205.870.1264 coat rack/stand: Tricia’s Treasures triciastreasures.us • 205.871.9779 bamboo magazine holder: Hanna Antiques 205.323.6036 night stands and bedside table lamps: Three Sheets 205.871.2337 Flemish tramp art wooden boxes on right nightstand: Tricia’s Treasures, Hanna Antiques, and The Nest bull-and-bear bronze lamp and antique butterfly prints: Arceneaux Art Gallery 205.824.5800 barstools, bed frame, and bedding: Restoration Hardware pillow shams: Schumacher fschumacher.com • 800.523.1200 flooring: Floor Covering Options floorcoveringoptions.com hardwood floors: River Bottom Pine riverbottompine.com sofa by Bernhardt: Birmingham Wholesale Furniture birminghamwholesalefurniture.com • 205.322.1687 ottomans: All Coffee Tables allcoffeetables.com • 866.513.2570 window treatment fabric: Schumacher fschumacher.com • 800.523.1200 window treatments: Dana Larson Custom Window Treatments 205.979.4663 wrought-iron drapery rod: Robert Lehman Studio 205.324.0901 bamboo bookcase and bath cabinet: Tricia’s Treasures rugs: Paige Albright Orientals paigealbrightorientals.com • 205.877.3232 black boxes: Vagabond Vintage Furnishings vagabondvintage.com • Atlanta, GA • 404.351.6484 round wicker table: Richard Tubb Interiors lamp on round wicker table: www.interiorsantiques.com  • 205.822.9922 bowling pins: Restoration Hardware bath mirror: Pottery Barn mosaic tile in bath: Crossville Tile and Stone 205.871.2619 travertine tile in bath: Design Tile & Stone designtilestone.com • 205.324.8473 kitchen cabinets: Kurt Zolman of Zolman Fine Cabinetry 205.901.2909  kitchen cabinet hardware: Restoration Hardware paint on kitchen cabinets: Martha Stewart Colors “8085 Mourning Dove” door hardware: Southern Accents sa1969.com • 308 2nd Ave. SE, Cullman • AL • 877.737.0554 sub-zero appliances: AllSouth Appliance Group, INC. allsouthappliances.net • 205.942.0408 kitchen faucet: Rohl rohlhome.com • 800.777.9762 kitchen sink: Barclay Products barclayproducts.com • 847.244.1234 granite countertops and backsplash: Masonry Arts Stone masonryarts.com • 205.326.4440 plumbing fixtures: Kenny & company kennycompany.com

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