Traditional style and contemporary finishes combine in a Mountain Brook house designed to be a young family’s lifelong home.
Dark-stained wood siding sets off the master bedroom wing (left) and the kitchen and garage (right). Stone masonry and hipped roofs highlight the home’s central structure, where a second-story bedroom window extends to the lofty living room window below. Photos by Chris Luker
Historically an area of horse farms and equestrian trails, southwest Mountain Brook maintains a tranquil, exurban air despite its proximity to the bustle of Highway 280. After months of looking for a home site, Lesley and Bradford Woodworth found the location to be the ideal setting for an expansive new house. Located on a quiet cul-de-sac, the 2½-acre lot offers plenty of play space for their sons, 8-year-old Holden and 14-year-old twins Austen and Brandon. “We like the privacy and safety here,” Lesley says. “The dead-end street means the boys can ride their bikes more freely.”
The neighborhood is made up of large, often newer houses in diverse traditional styles that possess the scale of rural manors. For the Woodworths’ home, architect Louis Nequette took cues from the setting and from city regulations. “In this area, Mountain Brook requires a 100-foot setback on the front and 75-foot setbacks on the sides,” he explains. The woods behind the house add to the bucolic feeling. “It feels rural, so the design is like a country house but with many urbane elements,” Louis says.
Named for an English city, Birmingham has long displayed English influences in its residential and commercial architecture. Louis is a longtime admirer of Edward Lutyens and C. F. A. Voysey, English architects whose picturesque houses cloaked modern features in time-honored styles. “The design for this home definitely has touches of English style, but it’s meant to be timeless and enduring,” he says.
Woods screen the slope behind the house, giving the dining area off the living room a feeling of verdant seclusion.
Multiple windows and doors comprise the house, breaking up its mass and maximizing light and views. Because of another city ordinance against front-facing garages, Louis created a motor court to access the side-facing garage. Stone cladding and hipped roofs anchor the design’s central entrance and adjacent living/dining room.
The living room flows into a spacious kitchen where a long line of casement windows takes the place of upper cabinets. Reflecting the kitchen’s current status as the heart of a home, this one has a large, marble-topped island and plenty of storage in the form of a pantry, a butler’s pantry, alcoves holding a home office and laundry space, and cabinets and cubbies for household gear. Just off the kitchen, a welcoming screened porch includes a stone fireplace and an outdoor grill. Like other rooms facing the back woods, the porch feels a bit like a tree house, in contrast to the front’s orientation to a broad lawn and crisp landscaping.
Inside, a palette of muted earth tones gives walls and woodwork a soothing unity. “We wanted a comfortable environment, not too formal but aesthetically pleasing,” Lesley says. Craftsman details include stonework, paneled walls, and custom iron hardware. The front porch even sports a Bevolo gas lantern from New Orleans—a nod to Lesley’s roots.
“The house has an understated elegance,” says interior designer Caitie Morgan. “We wanted the furniture to complement the natural colors and materials and to be cohesive with the architecture.” The result is a restful refuge for Lesley, Bradford (a busy physician), and their boys that will accommodate the family for many years to come.
Built to Last
A well-designed house can be a cherished retreat for generations. Architect Louis Nequette shares insights on building to last.
Consider the Context
A house should maximize the site’s potential. That includes orienting certain rooms to capture the sun and views based on how those spaces will be used. It’s important to also consider the approach and view from the street. A house of lasting value will complement and reinforce the quality of the neighborhood.
Design for Living
It’s my job to understand how clients live and entertain today, how their needs will change in the future, and how to deploy the budget effectively. That can mean concentrating premium materials in the most-used spaces. Anything you’re going to touch daily should be of high quality—hardware, cabinetry, lighting and plumbing fixtures, countertops.
Look to the Classics
Traditional design encompasses a spectrum of architectural styles, from high classical to vernacular. Drawing from it means we’re conscious of and honoring the historical influences of our past as we create architecture that will support the lifestyles of today and 50 years from now.
Picture lights above artwork double as sconces in the paneled entrance hall, where stairs lead to the boys’ second-floor bedrooms. Curtained for privacy, a steel-and-glass divider allows a guest bedroom to share light with a seating area.
A pale palette prevails on floor-to-ceiling shelves in the living room, where inviting seating flanks a stone-clad fireplace.
“The design combines formal elements with a more agrarian style, reminiscent of when there were horse farms all along Caldwell Mill Road.” — Architect Louis Nequette
Ample storage in the long, airy kitchen, including pantries and office and laundry alcoves, allowed upper cabinets to be replaced by a band of casement windows.
A herringbone pattern adds a splash of interest to the spacious master bath shower. A mirrored wall amplifies light in the marble-tiled master bath.
Architect: Nequette Architect & Design, 205.329.7001, nequette.com Interior furnishings: Caitie Morgan Interiors, 205.527.5086 Builder: H2, h2realestate.com Landscape: Father Nature Landscapes, fathernaturelandscapes.com Hardware: Brandino Brass, brandinobrass.com Appliances: Allsouth Appliances, allsouthappliances.net Countertops: Pacific Shore Stones, pacificshorestones.com Tile: Fixtures & Finishes, 205.323.5616 Hardwoods: FireRock Building Materials, firerock.us Sofa, chairs, counter stools, and custom pillows: Circa Interiors & Antiques, circainteriors.com Living room tables and lamps: Richard Tubb Interiors, richardtubbinteriors.com Accessories: Table Matters, table-matters.com; Charlie Thigpen’s Garden Gallery, charliethigpensgardengallery.com; Antiquities, shopantiquities.com Paint: Custom mixes through Benjamin Moore, benjaminmoore.com