Old World Notions
A little French country, a tiny bit Tuscan, and just-enough English Manor, this Vestavia Hills home and garden nod to European influences without adhering to strict guidelines.
A stone pathway leads to the climbing vine-adorned side door, frequently used by the family.
When Melinda and Ron Helveston decided it was time to build the house of their dreams, they called architect jeremy erdreich and asked for a home with Old World influences. “I told him I wanted a beautiful home and I wanted to call it ‘European-ish,’ ” says Melinda, who had been saving pictures of styles she liked. “I did not want it to be patterned after a definite period with small European staircases and low ceilings. I wanted everything to be open.”
Melinda had collected art and antiques slowly over the years—pieces she used as direction for the architecture and room perimeters. “I’m really not attached to one certain style,” Melinda says. “I just chose pieces I loved. That’s why I call it ‘European-ish.’ There are French things, but also a few English pieces.”
An Irish limestone fireplace competes for attention with the view in the dining room. Taking it all in, a large, custom wood table comfortably seats 12. The slipcovered cane-back dining room chairs (circa 1930) from Centuries are finished in an aged gold and light green patina. “It’s rare to find an old set of chairs in this good of shape,” says Melinda.
The melded architecture sets the tone for Melinda’s antiques. One-hundred-year-old rough-hewn beams dominate the interior ceilings, while stone quarried from Alabama dresses the facade. “I love stone and have always been enamored with the houses in France and England. So when it came time to build, I knew that I wanted a stone house with a beautiful slate roof,” Melinda says.
The dining room, one of the homeowners’ favorite spaces, features a custom table designed to seat 12. A gold-leaf-and-crystal chandelier and a 105-year-old Irish fireplace add drama and effect to the already spectacular view of the garden. “I especially love the dining room when the garden is in full bloom,” Melinda says. “The colors are soft and it’s such a happy and pretty room.”
In addition to the timeless décor, some of the home’s most striking features are the floor-to-ceiling windows in the front and back of the home. The entry extends to a family room with even more expansive windows showcasing a stunning view of the mountain, as well as a landscape of formal gardens. Such qualities add to the enduring European style of this home. And thanks to the architect’s creative eye, the Old World style seamlessly blends with the homeowners’ personal tastes and lifestyle.
ABOVE Landscape designer Randy McDaniel used the view, as well as Melinda’s request for formality, to help shape the garden. Stone paths, boxwood hedges, and cypress trees define borders and garden rooms. The front garden features a circular stone terrace and limestone fountain from Architectural Heritage. A boxwood hedge pins back roses and perennials such as Annabelle hydrangeas, Southern shield ferns, and camellias. “We chose plants that are tried and true to perform well,” Randy says.
LEFT A walnut and cherry French chest (circa 1750) anchors one corner of the great room. A carved Trumeau mirror reflects the expansive view from the room’s bank of windows. Hydrangeas—both blue and pink—are plucked from the prolific garden to fill vases throughout the house. RIGHT In the master bathroom, a hand-painted mural by artist Jane Ingols depicts a scene from Pompeii.
LEFT The expansive bay of windows in the dining room overlooks the front garden and fountain. The sideboard is an antique from Spain. RIGHT A 6- by 8-foot marble island serves everyday living as well as entertaining needs. The custom kitchen is complemented by a monogrammed tile backsplash and a copper hood above the range.
LEFT A side chair accompanies the oldest piece in the house, a late 1700s armoire bought at Royal Street Antiques in New Orleans. RIGHT A gravel motor court allows for additional guest parking.
ABOVE An antique limestone fountain acts as the focal point of the front garden and walkway.
LEFT Blooming hydrangeas offer Southern charm to the surroundings of the European-styled home. RIGHT The formal gardens include a variety of climbing roses and vines, adding dimension to the home’s exterior.
architect: Jeremy Erdreich erdreicharchitecture.com • builders: Steve Bryant and Tim Ryan Kelly Construction & Co. kellyconstructioncompany.com • landscape designer: Randy McDaniel McDaniel Land Designs email@example.com • decorator: Pandy Agnew Interiors 205.835.4405 • kitchen and bath: Kenny and Co. kennycompany.com • tile: Crossville Tile & Stone 205.987.3617