It’s a common problem, particularly in older homes: the need to update a tired kitchen space with the constraints of a post-purchase budget. Or, the desire to maintain some original features at war with the need for a better functioning kitchen. We’ve found inspiration for your kitchen refresh with simple, crafted tweaks à la Avondale’s Winslet & Rhys.
The store’s kitchenette is a lesson in modern ideas coexisting with older ones. It’s Avondale’s last-century charm filtered through a spare design eye. And it absolutely works.
Here’s how, in just three steps:
Paint. Paint. Paint.
Winslet & Rhys’s cabinets are new and streamlined, but what really makes them special is the color. The lovely deep, true blue of the shop’s base cabinets would spruce up existing cabinetry — either of the too-worn original or the used-to-be updated variety. A good paint job truly goes a long way.
It may seem counterintuitive, especially since we just suggested paint, but hear us out. If you’re facing sad laminate countertops or tile that’s seen better days, consider replacing it with wood. This Old House has a whole feature on the practical considerations. Short of marble, though, wood is probably your best blending of modern tastes and classic materials. And with its lower price point, you may have enough budget left for a modern waterfall edge à la Winslet & Rhys. Just bear in mind that deeper wood stains will look more old school, and pale woods err more Scandinavian modern.
Flex your storage space.
Open shelving is a trend with staying power, but Winslet & Rhys uses large-scale pegboard for a clever twist. Replace uppers with open pegboard shelving for a solution that feels charmingly crafted, not to mention flexible. As an added bonus, the pegboard anchor is also a stylish substitute for a standard tile backsplash.
There are lots of ways to personalize your home with big renovations, or even custom installation work. But what if you want big style, no professionals required? For that, we suggest interesting accessories that stand out in streamlined spaces. One key example for urban style: bar stools with big impact.
The sheer power of repetition makes it an effective style trick. When you have three or four of something, after all, it tends to command notice. Be warned that a great bar stool rarely comes cheap, but it is an easy and portable style choice.
And you need not look through decor magazines or even the rabbit hole of Pinterest. We’ve simplified matters by drawing on our own local inspiration. We’ve looked at ideas around town and found these bar stool examples for your kitchen style game.
Satellite plays up its space age styling with the stool version of a modern molded plastic chair. Long wooden legs angle out from the base with simple black supports. It’s a dose of nostalgia that still feels fresh, much like its 41st Street scene.
With a big brother like Saturn, the Satellite coffee bar side is bound to get overlooked. It’s bright but not flashy, a lounge rather than a party. But Satellite has built its own quirky atmosphere beyond its bar and coffee shop components. It offers something no place in Avondale does, blending the area’s nostalgic bent with a futuristic spirit.
Satellite is not your average Avondale joint. Its finishes lean smooth and its only exposed brick is exterior. It resides in a foodie neighborhood yet sells foodstuffs like gourmet doughnuts prepared by outside vendors. On the surface, it shouldn’t work, but it respects the one most important Avondale essence: a sense of fun.
From its rocket trash cans to its video games, its Tang-based frozen cocktail to its Sunday cereal brunch, it satisfies your inner child and the adult you’ve become. That’s the basis of hipster culture, after all, whether in handmade pop tarts or Moscow Mule mugs. And Satellite is one more example of why Avondale won the statewide “Brooklyn” title.
Satellite also fills a pretty practical entertainment need, in the end: a place with fun cocktails that more than accommodates the non-drinker. Your pregnant best friend may want to hang out after hours, after all. Or you may want to get your kid a craft soda while you enjoy something more adult. Satellite is just the place.
Its more traditional coffee shop function–fueling the side-hustle–may become less important as the MAKEbhm co-working space evolves, but it’s equipped nevertheless. The shop’s website boasts a bar with integrated charging stations. More important is the air of gleeful creativity, from space-age decor to shared Saturn ethos. It’s a place waiting for your next big idea to land.
In the meantime, we love the Stumptown coffee, and we’ve heard great things about that Tang cocktail. It’s a Steva Casey creation, after all.
There’s a lot happening around Avondale Park. Besides the gothic grandeur of Avondale United Methodist Church, there’s Parkside, the public library, and the slew of hip new options around Fancy’s on Fifth. So you’d be forgiven if you’ve failed to really track the residential architecture nearby. But you really should. Besides the cottage charm along this stretch, the area is also rife with front porch railing inspiration.
We get that that may not seem like a thing. After all, we’re used to seeing two styles: classic vertical balusters or the modern architecture influence of horizontal railings. What becomes clear from older homes in Avondale is the wealth of options that’s really available, not to mention the amount of pop some humble wood can produce. For instance:
There’s the alternating ladder style–almost like a brickwork pattern but with negative space–that on its own almost seems too mod for a historic home. Paired with some simpler, classic trim along the porch roof, though, it makes perfect, charming sense. And if you’re trying to marry classic architecture with mod furniture influences, it would be a nice way to carry the theme outdoors.
Then there’s the Victorian feel of a neighboring porch. Instead of Stickley simplicity, it has a hint of prim gingerbread. The result is a lovely balance of sturdy bungalow scale and almost lacy delicacy. Fish scale shakes along the front gable tie in to the curvier texture without creating a look that’s overblown.
Another classic, tailored look is the wide “X” design down the street, which gives the porch a nice open feel. It’s less practical for the safety of kids and pets, but it’s a lovely look for the right lifestyle.
There are even lessons in adjusting the scale of a classic balustrade design for added interest. Extra-wide intervals make a deep porch feel more sunny and open. Extra-narrow intervals add to the petite appeal of the tidy cottage next door.
Choose your own porch adventure, in other words, and know you have more options than you may have realized.
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 Stittlineage 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.
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-suburbanarea Birmingham’s east side is turning out to be.
There are some great gifts to celebrate collective Birmingham pride–in fact, we rounded some up in our very first guide. But what of those who’ve cultivated their own corner of the city? They might like a more specific option. So we’ve put together a list of locally-inspired gifts we think are most emblematic of some hot neighborhoods right now: A Birmingham gift guide for the urban dweller.
The season’s big entertainment option is ice skating in Railroad Park. And with a run that extends through mid-January, December gifting is still feasible. But the most bated-breath stretch of this year has been watching the downtown Publix take shape. Its opening has been delayed until sometime in January, reported AL.com. But there’s nothing to celebrate the neighborhood’s practical convenience like a Publix gift card.
Redmont Vodka appeared in ABC stores this spring and served as Sloss Fest’s “official spirit,” reported AL.com. Lakeview’s entertainment options have grown leaps and bounds this year–Sky Castle, Ghost Train, Scene among them–and Redmont’s branding strikes the perfect balance between the area’s understated exteriors and its party potential. They’ve also released a Cotton Gin, which we can’t help but love.
Between the Lyric Theatre and the Redmont Hotel, it’s been a restorative year downtown. There’s more on the way, of course, with the Pizitz Building and the Thomas Jefferson Tower, but why not celebrate what we’ve achieved so far? Tickets to one of the Lyric’s varied shows–Russian ballet and Ben Folds are both on the calendar for 2017–are a thoughtful way to experience this now-functioning beauty. Or commit to treating your giftee to drinks at the Redmont’s rooftop bar, appropriately named The Roof, as another experience-over-stuff option. And tickets to New Year’s Eve at the Redmont make for easy wrapping.
Taking up an entire rear wall, it’s Saigon Noodle House’s defining artwork. In more ways than one.
It features a bubble tea stall and a cart called “Saigon Noodle House” surrounded by iconic Birmingham structures. AL.com describes the cart’s presence in this “mash-up of the old and the new,” that the restaurant’s Vietnamese heritage remains in the foreground.
We say it’s also a declaration of intent: that Saigon Noodle House will make its mark on the Birmingham scene. And it should, blending Vietnamese flavors with the slim menu and high style of Birmingham’s urban food scene. It is a grand balance, indeed.
As in so many Avondale hot spots–Saw’s, for instance, and Post Office Pies–pork is a standout at Saigon Noodle House. It’s tender but not moist, which sounds odd but highlights the marinade flavor. There are also plenty of plays on texture: the crunch of fresh cucumbers, the brittle crispness of fried wrappers, the crackle of crunchy French bread.
Cocktails are a new addition to Saigon Noodle House offerings, AL.com noted. A delightful one, in our opinion. We’re fans of the Tet-a-Tet, with its sweet citrus profile plans and charming umbrella topper. There have also been Jack and Coke slushies. Both appeal to the kid at heart who enjoys a grown-up libation. The drinks are “playful,” which is exactly how AL.com described that mural.
It’s also how we think of the Avondale scene.
Perhaps more than anywhere else in Birmingham, Avondale tends to be a family-friendly evening out. It’s charming and creative and fun. And the fast casual setup at Saigon Noodle House is no exception. The right blend of style and substance, both neighborhood and restaurant are a delight.
“Curated” is a word you hear often these days. Sometimes it’s the default for any collection that feels thoughtful. Other times, it’s the only word that works. It implies art, not just in the objects available but in the way they’re offered. It implies Winslet & Rhys.
Located at the MAKEbhm complex, Winslet & Rhys is one of Avondale’s few retail spaces. That’s likely to change as Box Row opens, but we like to think it’s set the stage for the neighborhood’s unique shopping perspective.
You’ll enter a world of gallery white, accented with natural materials like light wood and leather. It feels somewhere between the MOMA shop and the Vintage Revivals blog, calmed by the soothingly delicate scent of the Winslet & Rhys house candle. It’s a source for your own investment shopping and the most perfect gifts.
There are cheeky letterpress cards and gold-printed glassware. Mint green pottery mugs and a wide Baggu selection. Local honey and Senegalese baskets. Cotton baby rompers and cocoon shift dresses.
Tags detail not just the price but also the product story. Small white placards describe furniture and art work. It’s like shopping an art museum, the store owners as your very own docents.
The results is a unique kind of lifestyle experience. It’s a style that’s aspirational but cozy. Price points that are attainable, even if they’re not exactly cheap. The store, like its neighborhood, is very much drawn to craft.
On our visit, the store collection looked roughly 50 percent local and 50 percent outside products, of which many are still American-designed and made. And that feels like a good thing for Avondale’s future. The neighborhood produces beautiful things, sure, but also a broader design conversation. Call it the next move in local pride: crafting not just products but an aesthetic.
As months get warmer, it’s tempting to reinvent your look toward something that feels beachy, like a permanent vacation. But a truly interesting beach vibe can be hard to pull off when you’re landlocked, and it’s not the most obvious fit for urban living. Eating at Fancy’s on Fifth, though, made us realize how to make it work.
It’s no surprise, really, that an example of Avondale’s rustic minimalism was the perfect inspiration. Where billowy linen curtains and seagrass rugs speak of classic beach looks, a fancy-ful beach style is fundamentally a reclaimed look. Instead of stately Hamptons-inspired interiors or cottage chic, it starts with high ceilings and exposed brick work or other original textures, keeping drywall to a minimum.
From that base, add in washed colors and seafaring accents, with spareness and whimsy as your guiding principles. Be broad in your interpretation of beach: Pirates and cartoon sea images count, too. After all, this look is as just as much Pirates of the Caribbean as it is Coastal Living. Use plenty of clean white, but leave room for a darker sense of humor. Keep deeper palettes sympathetic to the coastal theme by flooding them with natural light.