Barbara Ashford's love for collections, antiques, and Christmas creates a holiday rich with tradition that any family would love.
photography by Jean Allsopp
Barbara Ashford has an unabashed love for all things English. From royal weddings to handsome English antiques, this Birmingham Anglophile’s style is reflected in the home she shares with husband Leon, and in Henhouse Antiques, the shop that she and her partner, Judy Hill, have owned and operated for over 14 years. Born in Japan, and having traveled throughout Europe, Barbara has designed her home to reflect her appreciation for beautiful classic pieces. Her affinity for antiques, and especially for collections, brings a rich sense of history, each telling its own story.
The Ashfords’ home, built in the 1920s, was featured in one of the first editions of House Beautiful. Originally described as a “cottage,” rooms have been added and the floor plan re-configured, resulting in a spacious, classically elegant home that no longer resembles a cottage in size but has retained the warm, comfortable feel associated with “cottage style.”
Though the word cottage connotates small, Christmas is no little affair at the Ashford home. A large formal Christmas tree occupies the living room and sparkles from top to bottom with Christopher Radko ornaments. Barbara says, “I have collected Christopher Radko since before anyone had heard of him.” Rex Bowman of Rex Bowman Designs draped the carved marble mantle in fresh evergreens. The tree is flanked on the left by a French reproduction Bergère chair and ottoman in a cream colored silk moiré and on the right by an 18th-century French antique painted commode with a faux marble top. The timelessness of the design of the Rose Cummings floral chintz drapes has remained a favorite aspect of the drapes for Barbara. Many pieces have come and gone but the drapes have remained.
In the dining room, she plays up her fondness for color, collections, and antiques. “The red and white checked silk taffeta drapes make decorating the dining room for Christmas easy,” says Barbara. She hangs wreaths on the French doors, letting the red ribbon run long. Console containers are filled with red apples, an easy arrangement for any time of year. Ornaments collected over the years intersperse with crystals on her chandelier. For several years, her husband’s law firm has given a dated sterling silver ornament to each of the wives of the firm. Leon began the tradition and is still the one who selects the ornaments each year.
When the Ashfords’ grown children were young, they decorated a second tree in the playroom. One year, after her children were grown, Barbara felt it was time to do away with the youthful tree. Barbara says, “My grown children were so disappointed that I learned very quickly that there are some traditions we never outgrow.”
HENHOUSE ANTIQUES 1900 Cahaba Road, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.918.0505 • www.shophenhouseantiques.com • firstname.lastname@example.org living room drapes: ROSE CUMMING DESIGNS • 207.210.0818 • www.rosecummingdesign.com greenery: REX BOWMAN, REX BOWMAN DESIGNS 1019 A Glenview Road, Birmingham, AL 35222 dining room flowers: DOROTHY MCDANIEL, DOROTHY MCDANIEL’S FLOWER MARKET 2560 18th Street, south, Birmingham, Alabama 35209 • 205.871.0092 • www.dorothymcdaniel.com kitchen remodel: CYNDY CANTLEY, CANTLEY & COMPANY 2829 2ND Avenue, south, #120, Birmingham, Alabama • 205.324.2400 playroom: interior design: MARJORIE JOHNSTON, MARJORIE JOHNSTON & CO 2841 Culver Road, Birmingham, Alabama 35223 • 205.414.7860 • www.mhjinteriors.com