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Exterior Inspiration from Five Points South Historic Homes

Five Points South historic homes

Five Points South historic homes

One of the things we love most about Five Points South historic homes is the wealth of color. It’s a little like living with the everyday version of Painted Ladies, which feels good for the creative soul. But no matter your home’s era, there are ideas to be had here.

If you love the idea of true color scheme but have trouble visualizing beyond white, wandering through Five Points South is your ideal starting point.

The architecture, full of Victorian and American Foursquare examples, is what makes color so vibrant in these areas. Victorian styles, especially, make use of bold contrast colors to highlight intricate trim details. And since they frequently include a scheme of three or four distinct shades, they offer a broad range of palette ideas.

Generally speaking, two of those shades will be in the same family, likely the same paint card. That makes for a simple way to translate elaborate historic color schemes into a more subdued plan.

But even on simpler midcentury homes, there’s room for some exterior paint fun. B-metro featured a Homewood craftsman recently with its window woodwork painted turquoise. So feel free to pull a similarly bright hue to accent more minimal architecture.

What kind of colors are you likely to find? Greens are popular, from the fresh minty and evergreen combo of the Oasis Counseling Center to softer shades of sage and juniper nearby. Whether in brickwork or trim accents, reds play a starring role.

One of our favorite simple palettes is an overcast pale blue with clean white trim and a rosy red door. There’s also a lovely pale gray with charcoal trim and buttery accents. Both of which feel highly accessible for less bohemian neighborhoods.

So next time you’re headed for Dreamland, take a Southside winding road ‘till inspiration strikes.


Louis Nequette’s Downtown Design Plan

downtown design

The thing we love about Nequette Architecture & Design is their ability to stake out a timeless middle ground in their design projects. They eschew the starkly modern but refuse to be constrained by the past. And as they renovate their own two buildings on Second Avenue North, we asked owner Louis Nequette to tell us about their downtown design process.


Allocating Space

We worked with Nequette to acquire the two former Harold’s furniture buildings, which are more or less across the street from his current rented space. It’ll be a classic loft district mixed-use project — ground-floor retail topped with loft living — with a twist: the firm will be the building’s penthouse resident.

“Our plan was not to put that floor on there until we climbed up on the roof and got a load of the 360-degree amazing views,” Nequette said. “After seeing that we were inspired and wanted to create a place where we could do what we do every day with as much inspiration as possible.”

The building’s thick industrial walls have enough heft to support an addition, and the one the firm has planned should be stunning. “There’ll be a lot of glass,” Nequette said, to optimize the views.


Weighing Value

The building dates from 1889, according to documents Nequette found, which adds a layer of history to the design consideration. Still, Nequette said the process isn’t far off from any kind of major renovation: “It’s about walking through and finding the redeeming qualities of, ‘Where’s the magic? What’s special about the existing building?’

“Sometimes there’s nothing, and it gets demolished completely. Sometimes there’s so much that it really warrants it being a historical preservation kind of project. And then most cases it’s kind of in the middle, and that’s how this one was,” he said.

Residential units were a natural next step, since the minimal interior framing of a warehouse “makes for a great loft kind of situation.” As for the penthouse addition, Nequette bucked the trend of adding “a modern box on a traditional building.” (He says it’s often a good approach, though, that “creates a lot of interest to clash those two styles together.”)

The deciding factor was the addition’s footprint. “We felt because we wanted to pull the top floor up to the front elevation, that that would look more strange and out of place and not in keeping with the character of 2nd Avenue,” he said. “As opposed to doing what we’re doing, which is take a much more traditionally-inspired approach to that design.


Modernizing Character

“We’ve done both at different times, but in this case, it calls for trying to keep the whole building in character.”

What does that character look like? Neatly-framed windows that emerge naturally from the building’s existing roofline, with a bay window bumping out over the second building. A hint of modern tension in its asymmetry, but nothing that would give you pause.

Looking at the drawings, we were struck by how natural the addition seemed. Which is how we feel about most Nequette Architecture & Design projects. That middle ground we mentioned? It’s a way of designing that feels like it’s always been there, and a result we always love.

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016: A Year in Posts

One of the big questions we ask ourselves for each blog post is “What does this say about the neighborhood?” It’s the guiding editorial principle we use on the spots everyone’s talking about as well as the ones sometimes overlooked. As we round out the year, it seemed fitting to look through our posts by neighborhood and pick the single most representative one. These are the posts we think tell you most about eight major Birmingham neighborhoods in 2016 and, just maybe, where they’re headed in the new year.

From game-changing openings to quieter expressions of community, here are the highlights.


Avondale’s Live/Work Expansion

birmingham neighborhoods in 2016 avondale

“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.”


Crestwood’s Community Character

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Crestwood

“It’s that community atmosphere that stands out most in Crestwood’s neighborhood branding. Crestwood is less associated with hip amenities than places like Avondale, or downtown’s Loft District. Instead, it’s a great community with close access to other great parts of the city.”


Crestline’s Choice Location

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Crestline

Crestline is a best-of-both worlds kind of area, and that’s what we’ve tried to capture in siting our newest community development. The Gladstone location — 4447 Montevallo Road — lies between the neat single-family streets of Crestline Park and the everyday essentials available in the neighboring Crestwood/Irondale corridor. It’s convenient to the big-box resources of the Montclair Road Publix and the independent gems of Dunston Avenue.”


Downtown Loft District’s Landmark Re-Openings

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Downtown Loft District

Commentary on the Redmont suggests this renovation is more than just an exciting commercial project in the city center. It’s a clue to the city Birmingham once was and, we hope, an omen for what it’s becoming again.’The Redmont Hotel is important because it tells us what a particular era, the ’20s, was like in our city,’ Patricia King, then serving as a preservation consultant and as development coordinator for Operation New Birmingham, told the Birmingham Business Journal in 2000. ‘We know it was a boom time, and the richness of the hotel supports that.’ ”


Five Points’s Easy Patio Vibe

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Five Points South

With its casual vibe and blues soundtrack, Delta Blues seems destined to be a neighborhood hangout, like the ultra-Southern version of everything we love about neighboring J. Clyde. We can imagine more than a few warm evenings spent on their patio, catching up with friends over baskets of hot tamales and bottles of cold beer. ”


Lakeview’s Retro Future

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Lakeview

“The restaurant describes itself as a place “giving a nod to the past while shaping the future,” and we’re inclined to agree. With its throwback name and place in Lakeview’s premiere mixed-use development — 29 Seven — it has feet firmly planted in both local lore and present progress.”


Parkside’s Public Symbols

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016

In so many ways the Parkside area defines Birmingham right now, from its new construction to its existing transformation, its corporate conveniences and Smallbox startups. Baseball season at Regions Field is the epitome of Birmingham in the summer, and now Railroad Park is offering a quintessential winter balance.”


Woodlawn’s Modest Transformation

Birmingham Neighborhoods in 2016 Woodlawn

There’s also something very European about the idea of a modest cafe offering truly interesting food. That’s what we see as the cafe’s real strength. And it feels at home in the artsy, up-and-coming area around REV Birmingham’s office. There’s something a little under-the-radar about Woodlawn, where truly exciting things — mixed-income housing, musical hubs, an urban farm — are quietly boosting the area.”

Our Top 3 Birmingham Development Trends for 2016

“Birmingham’s housing market has been on a hot streak in 2016,” reported the Birmingham Business Journal earlier this month. And Alabama Center for Real Estate graph shows just how dramatically the market has picked up, with home sales staying relatively flat after 2011 until a big jump in the past year. But there’s more to the marketplace than macro growth patterns, and today we’re looking at Birmingham development trends that affect the market.

We’ve narrowed it down to three top trends that are impacting our city’s real estate climate:


National Buzz

Birmingham has made headlines–in a good way–over the last several years. From Avondale’s anointing as the state’s Brooklyn in 2015 to Birmingham’s spot on the Travel Channel’s list of “The Next Great Destinations” for 2016. Just recently, we earned the number 14 spot on Zagat’s list of “The 26 Hottest Food Cities of 2016.” In fact, the piece named Lakeview’s Ovenbird “one of the biggest openings in all of the South.” And of the eight restaurants name-checked in the piece, all but one–Real & Rosemary–was within Birmingham proper. Like us, the Zagat folks love El Barrio, Fancy’s on Fifth, and Saigon Noodle House.


Historic redevelopment

One of our biggest achievements as a revitalizing city is the adaptive reuse of historic spaces. In cases like Railroad Park and this year’s addition of Rotary Trail, we’ve successfully turned a forgotten landscape into an enchanting urban greenspace. In those of the Redmont Hotel or the nearly-finished Pizitz Building and Thomas Jefferson Tower, we’ve taken a storied past and reinterpreted it for a modern city. This phenomenon isn’t new to 2016, but the year has boasted some high-profile progress.


Cosmopolitan living

Birmingham has long featured some trappings of a thriving city scene–culinary and cultural resources among them–but less glamorous resources have often lagged behind. Besides the many mixed-use projects opening this year and next, we’re witnessing complementary features that make full city living possible. Besides entertainment and green spaces, we’re seeing transit options like Uber and Zyp, and we can nearly boast of a downtown Publix.


From style to convenience, there’s really never been a better time to #liveinBham. If you’re ready to make the move, contact us today.


2016 in Review: Why Realtors Still Matter

why realtors still matter

As we wind up 2016, we’ll be focusing our final posts on lessons the past year has taught us, about our city and, in this case, our industry. Check back Wednesday and Saturday afternoon for our roundups on the state of our Birmingham real estate.

why realtors still matter

In an age of digital everything–including house hunts–it’s tempting to think the realtor is obsolete. There are all sorts of automated settings you can program, after all, that send you an alert when a property matching your specifications hits the market. But there end up being two big arguments for why realtors still matter:

  1. Mass market sites don’t know everything, and
  2. Buying or selling property is a full-time job.

Consider the time you can wile away browsing your favorite real estate aggregating site. You’ll plug in the things you really need–like that extra powder room–and try different combinations of things you like to see what’s available. Or, as a seller, your bare-bones selling points versus the current competition. And that’s all before you start touring homes or planning your essential pre-listing upgrades.

Now imagine you’ve put in all that time, and you’re still not getting a complete picture. Because that’s the reality you’re facing. “Realtors are able to pull accurate information from the Multiple Listing Service that your typical buyer does not have access to,” explains our own Lynlee Real Hughes. “I think Zillow is great for just looking at pictures of homes and all, but it is just not accurate information.”

And even if it were, it still couldn’t factor in the many nuances of place that make one location more desirable than the next. The ones that tell you not just what’s there but what soon will be. “I think the biggest advantage that comes with having a realtor is market knowledge,” Lynlee says. Realtors can give you a better sense of an area’s lifestyle, including how it varies a bit by street.

Then there’s the negotiation process, where minute details matter. How accurate is the pricing? What’s coming on the market soon? Those things help hone in on (and communicate) a fair price. (If you’ve ever watched the beginning of HGTV’s Property Brothers, you’ve seen this in action.)

It’s fair to worry about the price tag associated with a realtor’s services, but it’s worth looking at the broader picture. “I feel that agents end up saving their clients a lot of money in the grand scheme of things,” Hughes says. And that goes for both buying and selling.

Are there people who can quickly and successfully DIY a property transaction? Absolutely. But they also tend to be the ardent DIY types with flexible schedules. Not total unicorns, in other words, but not most of us.

Need help with your Birmingham real estate? Give our team a shout.

Big Spoon Creamery Storefront to Round Out Avondale Palate

big spoon creamery storefront

big spoon creamery storefront

We fell for Big Spoon Creamery over scoops of green tea ice cream, and our feelings deepened over pints of Rocky Ridge Road. We catch their truck, Bessie Blue, around town from UAB to Pepper Place, but it’s nice to know that they’ve finally found a non-mobile home. The Big Spoon Creamery storefront will hit our beloved MAKEbhm complex in Avondale this spring, in a just-right real estate fit.

Big Spoon’s ice cream is everything we love about Birmingham right now, in a pint-size package. Or sandwich, depending on your preferences. Its flavors capture the essence of local food seasons plus the more adventurous palate of Birmingham’s urban foodie culture.

The same could be said of Avondale, which encapsulates the blend of urban ideas and Southern charm that helps define this Birmingham moment. It’s a new guard with a long heritage, much the way Big Spoon owners Ryan and Geri-Martha O’Hara cut their teeth under Frank Stitt.

The Stitt lineage is something Avondale has in common with Birmingham’s downtown food scene, and we often ponder how best to differentiate the two. What we’ve settled on before–and what we’ll turn back to now–is Avondale’s food truck spirit. Ice cream trucks are some of the original food trucks, after all.

But Big Spoon’s new digs are more than just an extension of Avondale’s restaurant scene. An October Weld piece talked about MAKEbhm’s contribution to Birmingham’s “maker movement,” and we’ve talked about how its spanking-new space may be defining Avondale’s trajectory. Having Big Spoon in house is the perfect confluence of “maker” and foodie culture, the neighborhood in a nutshell. Or cone. (We couldn’t resist.)

And on the off chance you’re still in need of a last-minute Christmas gift, we humbly suggest Big Spoon. Gift cards are sold in person, which makes it too late for that. But an online order for mini ice cream sandwiches is cheer that lasts throughout the year. At least what’s left of it.

Happy holidays, all!

Yellowhammer Creative Draws Avondale’s modern heritage

yellowhammer creative

yellowhammer creative

Remember that time Keith Richards wore a Heart of Dixie t-shirt? Avondale’s Yellowhammer Creative was responsible, at least originally, for that moment of Alabama love and certainly fittingly. The design/print shop articulates a modern heritage vibe fitting for a new Birmingham.

Their deceptively simple designs feature bright colors and bold graphics, bringing a modern eye to classic Birmingham symbols. But the letterpress and screen printing methods keeps their work honest. Instead of crisp digital lines, it gives their work an endearing imperfection.

Full of nostalgic inspiration, their work explores what we were to help define who we are now. There are the vintage-inspired posters for the Alabama Theatre’s film series–quite possibly the best local brand collaboration–and the Vulcan items in its museum gift shop.

That emphasis on local landmarks makes Yellowhammer Creative our go-to for gifts to out-of-towners. Our recent visitor from the other Birmingham even showed off her own Yellowhammer tote on Instagram.

It’s fitting that Yellowhammer is in Avondale, which went from no one’s radar to “Birmingham’s Brooklyn.” It’s at the heart of the indie scene that’s charming a nation with a Southern-fried hipsterism that reads more laid back. Avondale’s bearded and letterpressed, sure, but less precious than your Williamsburgs or Portlandias. It’s low-profile but earning plenty of press.

After all, Yellowhammer Creative is only part of Avondale’s modern heritage vibe. Post Office Pies, Rowe’s Service Station, and Fancy’s on Fifth all tip their hats at the Birmingham that once was, refusing to relegate the past to forgotten history.

Its independent storefront is small, but that’s also fitting for a neighborhood to host Box Row. The space is simple stacks, a rolling rack or two, and lots of poster wall art in a plain mid-century building on what will surely be Avondale’s next big push.

But these guys are all over the city, and we’re glad to have them. In fact, we’ll soon have them as neighbors at a grandly renovated Pizitz Building downtown.

Small-Town Charm with Urban Access at Sheppard’s Pet Supply

sheppard's pet supply
Image via Sheppard’s Pet Supply

Natural pet food and spoil-your-pet treats are among the many things that used to require an over-the-mountain trip. Then Sheppard’s Pet Supply came along, combining east side convenience and small business charm. Its new Avondale location still has those things, plus easier access and, says owner Will Sheppard, room for twice the stock.

A mere half-mile west of its old Crestwood North location, Shepherd’s Pet Supply is the first new tenant at the Family Dollar shopping center now owned by the same trio as the Shoppes of Crestwood. He’ll be joined by others, including Tropicaleo and an aerial pilates studio, owner Will Sheppard told us. He’s already been joined by a rescue shop cat named Declan.

We have a soft spot for small businesses with resident pets, and Sheppard’s Pet Supply is no exception. Declan is beautiful and friendly and inclined to spread out across entire patches of sunny floor. He’s also been known to use the store’s shelves and open storage lofts as what one Instagram user called “the world’s largest cat condo.”

Sheppard himself is just as charming, combining social media and pop culture references with old-fashioned most-hours customer service. If he doesn’t stock what you’re looking for, may be able to order it for you. And if changes in hours threaten your pet’s food supply, he’ll work out a delivery arrangement. He’s the guy you’d happily have a beer with. And you can–this is the only pet store we know of with an in-house kegerator.

It’s worth following the shop’s Instagram feed for a reminder of how much small-town community our urban neighborhoods can offer. Sheppard’s new location, at the crossroads between Avondale and Crestwood, is one more sign of how those areas are beginning to overlap. And what a charming, better-than-suburban area Birmingham’s east side is turning out to be.

Creative Essentials at Woodlawn’s Club Duquette

woodlawn's club duquette

woodlawn's club duquette

What do you get when you put a musician-plus-artist, husband-and-wife team Duquette and Morgan Johnston together creating a small boutique in Woodlawn? Club Duquette brings you creatives’ essentials for everyday living.

There have been a series of slick new offerings in Woodlawn, from the food and drink at Woodlawn Cycle Cafe to the unexpected combination of hair care and coffee products at Public Office. Club Duquette is in that latter vein, crafting a business model out of an owner’s unique set of product interests. And that just might be Woodlawn’s genius development.

Sample the Ursa Major products at Club Duquette, for instance, and you’ll get first-hand advice on how to use them. Not to mention Duquette’s urban minimalist tip that the product line is wholly unisex. (That makes for handy lightweight travel when a couple can share all liquids, he noted.)

With Duquette’s background as a touring musician, it’s no surprise that store clothes lean toward classic casual Americana. There are tee shirts and denim, field jackets and plaid, in hues that work onstage and in real life. And at Club Duquette, a basic tee shirt has a bigger story: Duquette said part of the proceeds from their Woodlawn High tees support the school’s music program.

Our favorite part of the experience, though, was the scents. Whether it’s the unexpected but light fragrance of Ursa Major skin care or the comforting clove scent of Great Bear Wax Co beard oil, these are smells we want to come back to.

The Dragon’s Blood candle was a particular favorite, and Duquette described the scent as a combination of patchouli and blood orange and some other things we can’t remember. But the smell continues to haunt us in a good way. We’re usually quick to write off patchouli, but this version is deeply hippie chic. Not unlike the shop’s “supplies and vibes” tagline.

Avondale’s been lauded as “Birmingham’s Brooklyn“–and we’re inclined to agree–but that makes us wonder what the pop culture avatar is for Woodlawn. With its combination of historic charm, new ideas, and thoughtful development, it may be its own changemaking symbol.

Luxury with History at Levy’s Fine Jewelry Downtown

levy's fine jewelry downtown


levy's fine jewelry downtown

Levy’s Fine Jewelry downtown stands alone. Literally. It stands not in a neat commercial row but as the only store on its block of 2nd Avenue North. That’s fitting for a store that’s been a longtime fixture of downtown Birmingham and offers pieces from many of its eras.

We’re quick to celebrate the grand repurposing of our city’s past, particularly in this downtown Loft District. But it’s also nice to celebrate a place like Levy’s that’s weathered the last century more or less intact.

And should you be contemplating a very special holiday purchase, we recommend thinking of Levy’s long history as a wonderful metaphor. This shop is a place that has lasted, after all. Not impervious to change, but strong enough to adapt with it.

Not that you need metaphors to appreciate the global antiques or rows of jewelry sparkling in its window displays. The baubles speak plainly enough for themselves. But if your special person is the kind who loves living in a neighborhood with a past, with the crafted details now rarely produced, Levy’s is the best possible source.

Even the relative simplicity of a large 1940s solitaire (sold, unfortunately) has an unexpected depth. In a 1950s setting, a ruffle of diamonds hugs an emerald set in platinum with a serpent motif. Both as interesting as they are lovely.

And if a very big gift isn’t on your shopping list, there are plenty of charming everyday options with a nice patina. Cufflinks, say, or a delicate pendant.

Perhaps our very favorite thing about this store–besides the fact that it has a matriarchis its business strategy. As described in this BMetro feature, the shop has managed to blend its lovable storefront retail with lucrative trade show sales. One foot in local tradition and one in the wider world, which is basically the model for our reviving downtown district.