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Tag: birmingham historic homes

Avondale: Front Porch Railing Inspiration Lives Here

front porch railing inspiration

front porch railing inspiration

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.


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.


Embracing the Tudor Revival in Birmingham Design

bham design tudor revival

birmingham design tudor revival

If you’re the type who read tales of medieval England, or perhaps just embraced the romantic ideals of Anne of Green Gables, one of Birmingham’s Tudor Revival homes might be just your thing. You’ll find these homes–in varying degrees of grandeur–in many of Birmingham’s eastern neighborhoods, including Forest Park, Highland Park, and Crestwood. From the full-on manse to the tidy cottage varieties, Birmingham design has plenty of Tudor inspiration. 


Tudor Revival Style, Defined:

Early periods in American architecture sought to blend multiple European inspirations, but the Revival period–which stretched from the late 1800s to the early 1900s–focused more on embodying a single influence, according to the Pennsylvania Architectural Field Guide. Its Tudor Revival section defines the style as “an eclectic mixture of early and Medieval English building traditions to create a picturesque, traditional appearance.”

During the style’s early revival days, it was driven primarily by the work of individual architects, with elaborate results inspired by building during the reigns of Elizabeth I and James I, the guide explains. Tudor style would spread widely as mass-produced designs offered scaled-down reproductions, according to the guide, which placed its peak from the 1920s to the 1930s.

Stucco and masonry are standard Tudor exterior materials, according to the guide. Other tell-tale details include “steeply pitched roofs, often with a front facing gables or multiple gables, and half timbered wall surfaces,” it notes.


Tips for Tudor homeowners:

Trying to blend the old-world ethos of Tudor styling with modern accents may not be the most obvious fit, but Homewood homeowners Katy and Brandon Bishop worked with designer Jan Ware for just such a feel. Their design process, profiled in a 2012 Birmingham Home & Garden piece, blended more European-feeling pieces — nailhead detailing, wall sconces, even a tapestry — with modern touches like lucite accent furniture and shellacked dining chairs.

They also decided to forgo a formal living room layout in favor of a relaxed “reading room,” according to the article. The result was a modern take on the home’s original design period, but one without structural implications. Even if you can’t achieve a full open plan, Birmingham design shows Tudor homes don’t have to stay stuck in time.

There’s also good news on the exterior front: With all the architectural details many Tudors sport, less may be more for yard accents. In a round-up of style tips culled from right here in Birmingham, HGTV Magazine suggested Tudor-style homeowners stick with “simple, evergreen landscaping.”

“You could do flowers,” it said, “but you sure don’t have to!”

The Anderson House: 1924's Home of the Future

We’ve shared updates on the historic Frank Hartley Anderson House in our Instagram feed, but there are some details we just can’t ‘gram. The house’s history is one of them.

The most authoritative text on the house we could find is a 1934 article from the Birmingham Post, whose own Lucia Giddens profiled the family residence in her article, “Housekeeping On The Smallest Lot.” With some of the technological innovations the house included, Giddens fawned over Anderson’s ability to foresee 1930s conveniences in his 1924 build.

But what struck us was how on-point the home is from a modern, space-saving perspective. It’s not just a house built on what Giddens called the “tiniest spot;” it might actually be the original tiny house, at least in its philosophy. To prove it, we’ve pulled some of our favorite details from the Giddens article, paired with the tiny trends we see today.

Use vertical space

Anderson housed two adults and two children by building upwards, carving out room for his and his wife’s work from home by zoning space across multiple levels. Anderson worked on inventions — “from an adjustable chair to a cotton one-piece summer suit for men” — from his lower level studio, while his wife appears to have painted throughout the main floor, within easy reach of the kitchen. The children shared the upper story.

Be flexible with workspace 

Instead of a dedicated studio like her husband’s, Mrs. Anderson shifted her professional space around, settling “anywhere that the light and her easel and inclination happen to agree.”

Get creative with outdoor space

The home boasted a roof garden alongside “the children’s wide airy room” at the house’s peak, but Anderson also managed to carve a genteel outdoor space along the second-floor living room. Giddens described a bucolic setting with a tree swing where “nasturtiums and lillies find room to breathe.” And despite the garden’s small footprint, it was big enough to inter the children’s recently-deceased canary. It was practically a full-service backyard, in other words, despite being a “narrow strip.”

Embrace technology

The Anderson household was the first in town to connect new electric kitchen appliances, a stove and a dishwasher. Mrs. Anderson boasted that the house “practically runs itself,” suggesting they carved out space for handy appliances rather than domestic staff.

Find eco-friendly comforts

Anderson didn’t just embrace technology, though. In one instance, he leapfrogged right over it, using passive design principles to create the effect of home air conditioning. Giddens wrote her article shortly after window units made their debut, and she marveled at Anderson’s ability to predict ways of controlling air temperature. “He drew down the future out of the clouds,” she wrote, creating “hollow tiles” in the concrete walls that trapped cool air.

Remember, small footprints can hold big lives

The lot, at 30 x 50 feet, was considered the city’s smallest, but Giddens described the Anderson home as a “castle” where the “family finds real comfort.” And her takeaway description sounds like an episode of Tiny House Nation: “In fact, on the smallest lot, there’s room for the things that make life spacious for a family of four.”

Want to read more? The full Giddens article, on page 14 of the June 13, 1934 Birmingham Post, is available on microform at the Linn Henley Research Library.