Allyson Kirkpatrick’s grandiose home is tucked inside an unassuming duplex apartment. (Yes, you read that right!) The Huntsville-based designer incorporated architectural embellishments and a treasure trove of family heirlooms to create a one-of-a-kind showplace that’s been a lifetime in the making.
BEFORE The plain-Jane exterior lacked charm thanks to tired landscaping and a drab color palette. AFTER The refreshed exterior includes a gray-and-cream paint job, expanded windows, new screened-in porch, and spruced-up landscaping. A carport (to the right) and half-story addition (to the left) were also discreetly tucked in.
You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover. Nor should you judge a home by its exterior. At least that’s what Allyson Kirkpatrick’s Huntsville, Alabama, duplex proves. Drive by and you’ll see a pretty little rancher nestled into the town’s historic Twickenham District. But step inside and you’ll discover a one-of-a-kind home steeped in luxurious finishes and brimming with color, artwork, and antiques. And that’s no accident. Every inch of the design was meticulously planned by Allyson, who worked with Huntsville-based architect Darryl Bird to transform the sleepy duplex apartment into a home befitting an imaginative designer. (The other side was left untouched with Allyson’s friend renting that space.)
“The home, which belonged to my parents, was built as a duplex in the 1960s,” says Allyson. “Since it’s in the historic district, we were very limited on what we could change about the exterior, roofline, and so forth.” Those limitations forced the duo to get creative with subtle upgrades, such as replacing windows to let in more light and taking ceilings to the rafters where they could. Inspired by circa 1800s Parisian homes, they reimagined the floor plans to include a central great room flanked by smaller, salon-style spaces. To add character in keeping with that European flair, they also incorporated heaps of architectural remnants (collected by Allyson during overseas antiquing trips) and rich treatments, such as tray ceilings, plaster walls, and bespoke millwork. Next came the fun part—layering in the antiques, many passed down to Allyson by her parents. “Design is all about surrounding yourself with pieces that hold meaning,” she says. “I was thrilled to display so many items my parents loved.”
With the dust settled on the renovation and each treasured item perfectly in place, Allyson can finally say the nearly 9-month-long overhaul was worth the wait. “I love that you walk in and it instantly feels like you’ve entered another time and place.”
ABOVE LEFT The enveloping blue entryway contains a Venetian mirror and Italian campaign chairs.
ABOVE RIGHT A painting by Russian artist Murat Kaboulov inspired the great room’s jewel-tone palette. “I carried the painting with me—no small feat! —to showrooms while selecting furniture and accessories,” Allyson says. The artwork is prominently displayed in the newly added recess of a library wall.
ABOVE LEFT Before: Low ceilings and small doorways left the house feeling cramped. After: Expanded windows, Lucite furnishings, and a gleaming brass fireplace reflect light at every turn. Allyson worked with Huntsville craftsman Mike Knox to perfect the look. “I love that it will obtain a rich patina over time.” A newly vaulted ceiling adds to the airy atmosphere.
ABOVE RIGHT Before: Ho-hum finishes and a mismatch of furniture resulted in a lifeless space. After: An ornate fireplace and coffered ceiling, along with a well-curated assortment of antiques, infuse the room with elegant panache.
ABOVE A Parisian-inspired salon features numerous Francophile antiques such as the centuries-old brass clock. Dainty X-back chairs feature French blue upholstery.
ABOVE The spacious bedroom (“I could have a dance party in here!” Allyson says) is anchored by two opulent pieces—a gilded Italian headboard purchased from Scott Antique Market and a Chinoiserie screen gifted to Allyson’s father by a Japanese diplomat. Cool pinks, blues, and grays emit a restful air, while a clover motif on the ceiling creates a “crown” for the German Muller Frères chandelier.
Here’s how Allyson and architect Darryl Bird took ranch-home hallmarks, such as low ceilings, wet bars, small spaces, and one-story floor plans, up a notch with innovative, eye-catching details.
- Take it to the rafters. In the great room, the ceiling was vaulted to maximize natural light and create a more open and expansive feel.
- Decorate every last inch. Allyson and Darryl maximized the home’s wet bar off the living room with an arched ceiling and bold finishes such as antiqued mirrors and brass countertops. (The cocoon-like blue entryway possesses a similar effect.)
- Focus on the ceilings. Where they couldn’t raise the roof, Allyson and Darryl made the most of the ranch home’s low-slung roofline with ceiling embellishments like the coffered beams in the living room and library and the clover-shaped tray ceiling in the master bedroom.
- Sneak in storage space. In the addition off the back of the house, Darryl introduced a one-car garage with a storage room above. The stairwell leading to the second-story area features numerous pull-out drawers in what would have otherwise been unused space.
Meet Allyson Kirkpatrick
From I grew up as a military brat. Most of my childhood was spent in Europe, which certainly influenced my style.
Design Philosophy My goal is to transform a space into a personal oasis for the owner with favorite colors and meaningful items he or she has collected. The home should feel like it came together over a lifetime, not a few months.
Pattern & Color I take my color cue from a favorite focal point, such as artwork or a rug, and use it in various shades and textures throughout a room to unify elements. Then I add a few pops of a contrasting hue to bring some zing.
Favorite Accessory I like items that bounce and expand light, such as mirrors, brass, and Lucite pieces. I also can never pass up anything Chinoiserie.
Designer: Allyson Kirkpatrick, Huntsville, allysonkdesigns.com Architect: Darryl Bird, Bird & Kamback Architects, Huntsville, bkarchitects.com, 256.536.1160 Builder: Craftsmen Homebuilders, Huntsville, craftsmenhomebuilders.com Plasterwork, bar ceiling, brass fireplace: Mike Knox, Huntsville firstname.lastname@example.org Tile and countertops: Ceramic Harmony, Huntsville, ceramicharmony.com