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Author: H2 Real Estate

5 Ways to Get Urban Standard’s Reclaimed Style

urban standard


It’s easy to think of the downtown Loft District as an exercise in sleek, industrial style, where reclaimed materials abound but with a strictly minimalist feel. It doesn’t have to be that way, though, and Urban Standard is an excellent alternative option. Bursting with Urban inspiration, here are our tips for relaxed, reclaimed, and still Pinterest-worthy interiors.

1- Accent walls may not be the rage they once were, but color blocks are a statement worth making, as in the back wall of Urban Standard’s main space. Bonus points for being low-key and achievable using only sample paint containers. One caveat: You’ll want to plan these to accent larger furniture items, the simplest way to make them look intentional. Or use paint to create a flat, large-scale art piece.

2 – Say yes to theater seats. These show up with relative frequency at antique stores or even on Craigslist, but it’s easy to write them off as impractical for folks without abundant space. Urban Standard shows how well they can accent a low window wall, turning what would otherwise be blank space into extra seating options with character. Also consider using them near a front door to create a charming entryway vignette plus practical drop zone for bags and coats.  

3 – Curtain off rooms, not windows. Where privacy is not a major concern — as in the main living space on an upper floor — consider opting out of window treatments. Many of the large industrial windows in the district are just as well served without them. Instead, use curtains to create soft, flexible dividers between rooms in an otherwise open floor plan. They’ll create at least some privacy when hosting overnight guests or keep a cluttered bedroom area closed off when you’re entertaining.

4 – Find room for quirky accents. Found an extra-large bust at What’s on 2nd or really inspired taxidermy at Birmingham Oddities? Put it front and center. We like the way Urban’s busty dude pulls focus from the wall-mount TV above it. If a piece leans particularly airy, consider using it as window dressing the way Urban has with its birdcage.

5 – Stop designing your gallery wall. Remember when we hung stuff on walls without a carefully-balanced-but-asymmetrical plan? Urban proves you still can. Their rows of framed prints are only semi-aligned but still do their job in filling expansive wall space. One caveat: this strategy works best for relatively simple, monochromatic prints.

Our Team: Whit Winford

whit winford


We’ve all heard the tales of chance meetings that change your life, and that’s the way Whit Winford found his way to us. Though, admittedly, “change your life” might be putting it grandly. Still, chance meetings can lead to construction conversation among some like-minded men. And if you’re Whit Winford, they can kick off a satisfying career.

Whit Winford, our construction project manager, grew up in the construction business. He’s no stranger to the challenges of articulating grand architecture in common building materials. But like the rest of our spry, young team, he was looking for growth. The chance to build not just homes but a career. So when he met Carter Hughes — who, with his brother, Scott, co-founded H2 — at a friend’s dinner party, what he heard about H2 piqued his interest. Whit was drawn in by “the variety of residential, multi-family, and light commercial work, combined with this young but quickly growing company,” he said. “After a more formal interview with Carter and Scott I knew H2 was the place for me, and here I am!”

Whit’s average day involves splitting time between our downtown Loft District office and a current job site. He loves driving through gorgeous neighborhoods like Forest Park and seeing the architectural detail come alive. With his construction background, Whit appreciates a well-executed design.

In the space of a day he’ll work with our field superintendents, with subcontractors, suppliers, building inspectors, and home buyers. “It takes a collaborative effort of people from all different walks of life in order to build any project, and the ability to work with all of them is one of the things I enjoy most about my job,” he said.

Whit also loves being able to see his job well done in a finished home, an attitude you’ll find throughout the H2 team. Whether helping someone transform a bare lot into a charming home or finalize the lease on a new apartment, we’re in the business of helping folks find home base. It’s a task we take great pride in. Home isn’t just the place you sleep, after all, but the base unit of an entire community. Like Whit, albeit less literally, building’s in our blood.

Parkside-Style Mediterranean at Glory Bound

glory bound gyro parkside


What Chipotle is to the idea of quick, healthy-ish Mexican food, Glory Bound Gyro Co. is to Birmingham’s classic Mediterranean joint. Often, our city’s Mediterranean food niche is about a  certain hybrid comfort food, available at odd hours. Glory Bound offers a lighter approach, in line with the Parkside neighborhood’s active branding.

Despite gyro being part of its name, grease is hard to find at Glory Bound. The original gyro features meat that’s tender and fresh-tasting. It’s topped with a tzatziki that’s tangy and delicious, a partner to the meat rather than a counterpoint. The pita bread is warm and fluffy, and the cottage fries are thick potato wedges. The Greek salad is relatively light on dressing but wonderfully heavy on feta. And Glory Bound even has a liquor license, should you decide your falafel pairs best with a brew.

Glory Bound’s interior is charming — Parkside modern with just a hint of country store — but the restaurant’s outdoor space makes it special. Situated by the Rotary Trail entrance, it’s literally across the road from one of Birmingham’s best outdoor spaces. The combination of north/south traffic on 20th Street and east/west action on Rotary Trail rates Glory Bound high on the list for people watching.

This part of Parkside is becoming a corridor of convenience for both the UAB medical district and the downtown Loft District. Chains local to national bring all your basic essentials to the area: in the same block of Station 121, you can work out, get a haircut, and grab dinner. Add another block, and you can grocery shop as well.

It’s no accident that Rotary Trail is the defining outdoor feature on this end of the Parkside district. Unlike the lingering vibe around Railroad Park, there’s a forward energy to the trail that works well with the businesses here. The area is an urban reimagining of a well-stocked suburban shopping complex, and it’s Birmingham’s newest lifestyle center.

Wooden Goat: Why Avondale Food Earns the Hype

wooden goat


Wooden Goat has been a highly anticipated addition to the Avondale food scene, so much so that Thrillist mentioned it as a place to solidify the neighborhood’s Brooklyn vibe. It’s no surprise, then, that the Hotbox owners’ take on a restaurant would feel fresh and fun, while still affordable. Right in line with Avondale’s everyman atmosphere, eating at Wooden Goat is an easy adventure.

At only one page, the menu isn’t large. Which is a relief, because it’s challenging enough to narrow down delicious choices. Because we chose to sit outside in an Alabama summer, we quickly nixed anything soupy as a poor choice for temperature management. The cucumber salad — which our server described as “fresh” — was exactly right. It was light and tangy, with peanuts for extra crunch and a hit of cilantro in most bites. Short of ice cream, it may be the perfect summer dish.

We also chose the Vietnamese wings, which were wonderfully meaty. A sweet fish sauce glaze worked well against the crispy fried skins. The Indonesian fried noodles had a fascinating chargrilled flavor and an unexpectedly creamy texture that we really loved.

We suggest starting your dining experience with an Avondale beverage – either of the craft brew or clear distilled variety. We went with the Nathaniel Meriweather, which turned out to be our best gin cocktail in recent memory. Not too sweet or too sour, its lingering cucumber taste and hint of grapefruit tang offset a hot summer evening.

Do save room for dessert, though, and try the Vietnamese coffee affogato. The coffee and ice cream really blended into the flavor of a rich Vietnamese coffee. It was served with rice crackers, which we thought might just be a textural addition, a nice crunchy element for a creamy dessert. But they also had a slightly cheesy flavor that made the dessert a nice play on savory and sweet.

Paget Pizitz of Fancy’s on Fifth — another favorite — told Style Blueprint: “One of my servers said it best the other day: ‘We are fine food, not fine dining.” She was talking about Fancy’s, of course, but she could just as easily have been talking about Wooden Goat or, indeed, the Avondale food culture. The neighborhood has a pretense-free appreciation for good food that’s impossible not to love.

YP Tips: Brand Evolution with John's City Diner

john's city diner


Shannon Gober opened John’s City Diner in 2004 on the bones of Birmingham’s iconic John’s restaurant. The recession took its toll on the downtown neighborhood, he said, but he’s also seen a Loft District rebirth. Throughout the changing business environment, Gober has developed a clear sense of his diner brand and a healthy perspective on Magic City competition.

We tend to think of business competition as being one against external forces, but Gober said John’s has struggled mightily against its own history. The inaugural years of John’s City Diner were plagued by mistaken identity, he said, with customers unclear about the difference between the diner and the former restaurant. “We want to pay a lot of homage to that restaurant being there, to what it meant to the city, but also at the same time let people realize that we are a completely different restaurant,” Gober explained.

Part of that effort has been the series of physical changes to the diner, creating a space that’s visually distinct from the old John’s restaurant, according to Gober. But he’s also created a food perspective that sets the diner version apart, he said, focusing on local ingredients free of things like antibiotics and GMO tinkering.

Gober hasn’t simply had to differentiate himself against the old John’s, though. He’s also had to face a classic business problem: if an idea you helped pioneer has become the new standard, where do you go from there? The standard, in this case, being chicken and waffles.

“One of the things that we put on our menu several years ago was chicken and waffles, and we were really the first restaurant that I’m aware of to really go full-force with chicken and waffles,” Gober said. “And that has been something that really has almost developed a cult following if you will, and now, if you look around, you see chicken and waffles on menus all over the place.”

The waffle tale doesn’t come up as a complaint, but in the story of John’s newest menu revisions, which include two variations on the original dish. By adding Nashville and Hong styles, Gober is able to evolve the dish and incorporate new food ideas. The new dishes “introduce some things that are really who we are, which is elevating these old-school classics,” he said, “so we constantly look for those things that are popping up or things that might be a little different that people in Birmingham maybe haven’t had.”

Meanwhile, Gober acknowledges that the growing restaurant options in the Loft District around John’s could be construed as a threat. But he doesn’t see it that way. More business density means more people in the neighborhood, he explained, and more potential customers. “As far as we’re concerned, we’re happy to have it,” Gober said.

“And so before, where downtown really felt more like a city center, now our area in particular — here within a couple blocks of the restaurant, in the loft district — has kind of become a neighborhood area, almost like you would see in any residential neighborhood out there.”

Is MAKEbhm Avondale's Real "Brooklyn" Moment?



We’re so used to thinking about Avondale in terms of its food and entertainment options that we forget the ways it’s also increasingly becoming a business district. Already there are some retail options and small business locations, but we can’t help thinking the new MAKEbhm space is Avondale’s defining business moment.

The new Avondale location has always been part of the plan, according to a recent Weld article, but MAKE founder Bruce Lanier decided to pilot the project in a smaller space at Continental Gin. The pilot experience changed Lanier’s conception of the needs MAKE was serving, he told Weld, and prompted a shift toward providing space rather than just equipment rental.

“What we figured out was that our initial assumption that people would just want to come in and pay a membership fee to use equipment turned out not to be true. But what we did have consistently is people who just needed workspace–which is obvious, I guess, but it wasn’t obvious at first.”

Reading the Weld piece, we can’t help thinking about the new Make as a kind of Innovation Depot for artists. It cites Yellowhammer Creative as an example of a business born at MAKE’s Continental Gin proving ground, now in their own shop a block over from the new MAKE complex.

Like many of the recent moves by Innovation Depot graduates to spaces downtown, MAKE isn’t just nurturing businesses. It’s very likely nurturing local businesses that, like Yellowhammer Creative, will help fill out some of Avondale’s vacant spaces.

So while the focus of the Weld piece was on how MAKE is “building creative community” from its Avondale space, we’re thinking about it as a catalyst for Avondale as the next big live/work neighborhood. After all, MAKE is slated to have co-working space upstairs, according to Weld, and the coming Box Row will be an opportunity for mid-term entrepreneurial expansion.

Surrounding those opportunities are housing options from our own apartment rentals to adorable single-family bungalows. Besides its housing stock, Avondale boasts a Zyp bike station, an Urban Food Project outpost, and possibly our favorite local burger. With MAKE, in other words, it has the makings of a full-blown artistic enclave.

The foodies at What to Eat in Birmingham labeled Fancy’s on Fifth as Avondale’s urban “tipping point.” We think MAKE is the moment it fulfilled Thrillist’s Brooklyn prophecy.

Bham Eats: Standout Sides at Urban Standard

urban standard


Urban Standard is no stranger to our posts on Birmingham living. It’s shown up as a recommended first date spot, a great place for a client meeting, a doughnut purveyor and a defining vegetarian option. But in all that talk, we’ve never really discussed their meals. Consider this post a remedy, a return to the basic elements that have made Urban Standard such a downtown Loft District staple.

Like Woodlawn Cycle Cafe, Urban Standard thrives on the combination of delicious coffee and an unexpected food menu. Before there was a Starbucks or even a Revelator within walking distance, Urban Standard anchored the neighborhood with your basic coffee creations, including the kind of smoothly milky iced latte that keeps Birmingham summers both caffeinated and bearable.

When we were debating our lunch order, we thought hard about the grilled cheese — a not so basic combination that includes provolone and herbed cream cheese spread — and were told that the chicken panino is the most popular menu item. We ended up with the nopalito BLT, a sandwich that combines buttery toasted bread, crispy bacon, mixed greens, tomato slices and pimento cheese. The pimento cheese had a classic tea sandwich texture any native Southerner will recognized, updated with a Southwest kick.

What stands out the most, though, is the way Urban Standard has cleverly re-thought the lunch side. You can get potato chips if you want, of course, but with options like marinated broccoli and parsnip salad, there’s no good reason too. We tried the parsnip salad with our meal and loved its tangy red onion and fresh Italian parsley as an alternative to potato salad.

The result is a meal out that feels like real food. We’ve mentioned that phenomenon before at places like Feast & Forest, and we say it’s a critical niche in neighborhood food options. Assuming you stay out of the dessert case, eating out at Urban Standard feels like an indulgence only in the sense that you’re not cooking your own food. For the neighborhood’s on-the-go live/work mix, that’s a powerful amenity.

Original Parkside at B&A Warehouse

b&a warehouse


Before there was a Parkside — before there was even a park — B&A Warehouse was establishing the neighborhood’s modern reclaimed vibe. B&A epitomizes the area’s propensity toward low-slung brick spaces with large windows offering a combination of space and proximity. With its rustic interiors, multiple space options, & in-house catering, it has a lot to offer for your biggest of days.

That barn-chic wedding you’ve admired on Pinterest? B&A’s raw wood beams & strings of cafe lights can give you the look without driving out of the city. Or subjecting your fancy-dress guests to the sweaty indignities of an un-airconditioned Alabama summer.

But its best feature — keep in mind, this is a real estate blog, so you can guess where we’re going — is location. Nestled between LIV Parkside and Regions Field, snuggled into the edge of Railroad Park, a friendly neighbor to Good People and Baker’s Row, B&A offers the full Parkside perspective.

Besides the wedding-themed photos inside, you can easily plan on some of Birmingham’s greatest hits as a photo backdrop, not to mention a wide shot of the city skyline. B&A’s long call list of photo ops exists in part because the neighborhood is so compact. Like the venue, it packs many visual gems in a tidy, linear footprint.

If you time it right, there’s also no reason you couldn’t continue the party at a Baron’s game. There’s no baseball fan like one that shows up in wedding gear, after all. And besides the epic photos you’d earn, we reckon the ice cream float with coffee oatmeal stout is the ultimate cake chaser.

Even if you don’t take advantage, your guests well might. And they’ll love you for it. Before you know it, there will be a neighborhood hotel as well.

Most of all, B&A sets your event at the original epicenter of the neighborhood, the beta version of transforming neglected spaces into true destinations. It’s never been a low budget venue, but like the residential spaces nearby, it offers all sorts of options at an attainable price.

Mesa Verde: An Original Rental in Glen Iris

mesa verde


Let’s say you love Glen Iris’s greenery and historic homes, its relative affordability and proximity to downtown. You imagine your own charming bungalow there, but you’re not ready for home ownership. You want the feel of a Glen Iris home with the ease of an apartment. You want to live at Mesa Verde.

We fell in love with this property because it allowed us to create a truly different rental option. The bungalow feel of its structure carries through to the interiors, which offer surprisingly intact original features.

Older properties are complicated, after all. For every bit of historical charm – hardwoods, cast iron tubs – there tends to be an equal burden of decay. Without the right updates, they never quite feel clean. There’s a dinginess you don’t notice in photographs but that you definitely don’t want to live with.

Too many updates, though, and the button-cute exterior encases a space that looks like any other. You want a place that’s endured a few decades and wears them well, with some subtle upgrades that make it feel at home in the present.

Mesa Verde’s petite porches and glass paned front doors give way to an open plan living space. Recessed lighting bathes shaker-style kitchen cabinets and stainless steel appliances. A ceiling fan anchors the living space and keeps it comfy through long Alabama summers. Hardwood floors have been here since the property was built, polished up without erasing the patina of age.

Outside, you’ll love the tree-lined sidewalks and the beauty of historic Glen Iris Park a mere block away. Small dogs are welcome in these pet-friendly units, and keeping them happy has never been easier than with neighboring George Ward Park’s dog runs. Enjoy the warmth of a very residential neighborhood with city vistas reminding you that the action is never far away.

Mamanoes: Your Loft District Supply Shop


mamanoes grocery shop


We’re as excited about the new Publix as the next downtown resident, but it’s worth remembering the surrounding areas’ resources. And while residents of downtown’s Loft District will surely find themselves stocking up at 20 Midtown, we can imagine a slew of scenarios in which existing options might be better.

Styled somewhere between a city bodega and a country store, Mamanoes Grocery Shop is the quintessential loft district supply post. It’s the place that wins, hands down, over even the shortest superstore commute for area residents facing the following scenarios:

1 – You just got home both exhausted and starving. The ordeal of getting in your car and driving to the grocery store is seriously more than you can bear. Lacking the will to do anything besides collapse on the couch, you remember that basic sustenance is only a couple blocks away. With neither driving nor exposure to harsh florescent lights, you can secure a frozen pizza, a can of soup, or, let’s be honest, a box of pop tarts and a decent red blend. It may not be an adulting win, but it gets the job done.

2 – You’re having friends over, and despite your well-planned weekly shop, you managed to forget the hummus or the Peychaud’s bitters. You could go on another run, but folks will be showing up at any minute. Why not pop into Mamanoes for the literally two things you need and make it back in time to buzz friends in?

You’ve probably noticed these are the sorts of time-sensitive scenarios for which the convenience store was created. (Check Mamanoes’ Facebook reviews, and convenience is the key word.) What sets this store apart from the gas station variety is a clear consideration of the things you’d want to grab near home. A chia seed add-in, a working light bulb, a cone of brown sugar to round out your recipe — sometimes the corner store is just what you need.