On a coastline dotted with homes that pay homage to the water, the 2019 Mobile Bay Inspiration Home stands apart, turning its focus instead to the golden, leafy woods that stretch up from the shore. Like the pines that surround it, the home lifts toward the sky, its three stories containing a trove of cozy nooks, adventurous details and sophisticated finishes.
Despite its willowy stature, the home is very much a cottage, with compact rooms that burst out into spectacular views of the surrounding woodland. Warm wood paneling on the main floor, paired with rich earthen colors throughout, draw the outdoors inside. A winding trunk of a stairway anchors each floor, rooting up from the ground and branching out into the spaces above.
This is the first of 15 homes that will grace Fairhope’s 11-acre Van Antwerp Park, a neighborhood tucked alongside an arboretum just steps from the Bay, between Montrose and Downtown. Eight interior designers lent their eye and expertise to the home, with Gina Walcott and Abby Davis of architectural firm Walcott Adams Verneuille at the helm, coordinating their efforts.
The main entrance is on the second floor, which means visitors must span a bridge that stretches out over the sloping lot in order to make their way to the front door. Guests find themselves aloft from the outset, perched among the trees before they ever cross the threshold.
“I hope that as people enter the Inspiration Home, they immediately feel the pulse of the rest of the house,” says Liz Bell of Aqua Décor and Design. Bell’s work greets visitors on their arrival, as they step into the foyer and through to a tableau of dining room to the left and petite living room — which the team dubbed the talking room — to the right.
“The living room and dining room come across as one room, so they needed to complement each other,” Bell says. “I wanted the space to feel masculine without being too severe and open to the beauty of the trees outside.” Bell added a narrative to her spaces by conjuring up a homeowner in her imagination, an intrepid National Geographic journalist who has traveled to some of the most beautiful places on Earth and brought home pieces from memorable destinations.
Bell layered textures and details from these imagined travels to create a space that feels collected, rather than decorated. In the talking room, a John James Audubon lithograph of a heron takes pride of place above an antique mirrored chest, alluding to the home’s proximity to the water. The lithograph served as a jumping-off point for Bell’s color choices, which she accentuated with bronzes, wood tones and blacks.
A clear line of sight draws visitors irresistibly deeper into the house, where soft gray walls and pickled pine give way to warm oak paneling. But first: a detour down a short corridor, where a jewel box awaits in the form of a powder room adorned in green, leafy wallpaper by Annie Moran. Suzanne Winston and Associates brought this space to life, with Winston advocating for the bold hue that adorns the walls and complementing it with a handful of fresh accents.
“I love color, and I love a bit of theatrics and a good production,” Winston says. “I asked the artist to boost up the colors entirely for effect. I thought it would help keep the smaller space from appearing too dark.”
Farther on, the home softens into easy livability, opening up into the larger living room and kitchen. The Walcott Adams Verneuille team clad the entire area in oak paneling to create a seamless space.
“Here, you want the wood walls to sing,” says WAV’s Davis. To accomplish this, Stock & Trade Design Co.’s Christopher Rankin furnished the living room in light, homey pieces that allow the walls to dominate. Rankin added draperies to soften the space and add an extra layer of snug comfort.
Opposite the living room, the kitchen acts as a counterpoint, with weighted black metal accents contrasting against white marble countertops, punctuated by warm golden metallic fixtures and accessories by Stock & Trade.
The living room opens out onto a generous porch, which picks up the same natural hues as the home’s exterior stone columns. Designers at Malouf Furniture positioned the seating arrangements here so that no one sits with their back to the view. “We felt it was important to not overwhelm the space but to complement the exterior colors of the home while carrying the feeling of the indoors outside,” says Malouf’s Ashley Huffmaster.
“The teak frame on the sofa and lounge chairs, paired with a light fabric, create a serene retreat, while the woven textures on the dining chairs and cocktail table provide the perfect amount of woodland feel,” Huffmaster says.
Back inside, guests climb the stairs (or take the elevator) to reach the bedrooms on the third floor. Here, the journey is an end unto itself, as the landings feature little nooks with tall, generously proportioned windows and bench seats, ideal for stowing oneself away with a novel on a quiet day.
“I definitely wanted to play up the tree house theme here,” Winston says. “That’s why we selected the incredible botanical etchings by internationally acclaimed artist and Fairhope resident Nall. The entire collection is featured throughout the landings and around the reading nooks.”
She continues, “The abstract painting at the bottom of the stairs, by Louisiana artist Jennifer Poe, picks up the Brute-inspired colors seen elsewhere in the home.”
On the third floor, the master bedroom marks a tonal shift. Designer Melanie Martin, of Melanie Martin Interiors, has created a light, airy retreat that accentuates the room’s high ceilings and gracious dormer window. As ever, in this room the views reign supreme. A pair of large stylized mirrors reflect the window on the opposite wall, creating the effect that, wherever you stand within the room, you can always see the canopy of trees outside.
The master bedroom features its own porch, outfitted with a custom suspended swing by Luke Phillips Furniture. Since the third floor also features a galley kitchen, inhabitants of the master suite can pop around the corner to make their morning coffee and bring it outside without having to venture downstairs.
The galley is another colorful gem, with teal cabinets and sunny art adorning the wall. “I like things to be lighthearted and fun where appropriate,” Winston says. “Since the space will be used as a kitchenette and laundry, I wanted it to be cheerful. The colorful dishes and glasses are hand-painted, recently sourced in person in Morocco.”
Rounding out the third floor, a cozy second bedroom alludes to the rich adventurousness of the main floor. Here, Cindy Meador, of Cindy Meador Interiors, plays off of green foliage and golden sunsets with her color palette.
“I wanted my room to surround you with luxurious comfort but with modern restraint. I wanted the warmth of antique wood grounding all the modern touches,” she says. Meador chose the darkest of the home’s paint colors for the walls, to create an impression of being wrapped up.
Meador notes that while this space could work equally well as a guest room, an office or a child’s room, she wanted to showcase its versatility by styling it as a combination bedroom and study. “The dormer is perfect for a desk area, and a slim marble console provides another surface to show off some well-edited accessories and artwork,” she says. “A reading nook nestled at the hallway window is a welcome perch to read a book or have morning coffee.”
Back down the stairs to the first floor, the third and fourth bedrooms await guests in a suite joined by a Jack and Jill bathroom and a single, long porch. Though the bedrooms form a nearly symmetrical pair, each has its own distinct flair. One features a dramatic black and white color palette with industrial accents. Katie Kirby, of Katie Kirby Interiors, styled this sophisticated space. She found inspiration in the black fixtures and gray tiling in the shared bath, which she also styled.
“My goal was to create an inviting bedroom that could either serve as an adult’s or children’s room, while still maintaining functionality,” Kirby says. Accent layers of leather drawers, contemporary art, metal and antique wood contrast against the classic color palette, and window treatments relax and soften the space. A pair of seats fashioned from wine barrels, from Charles Phillips Antiques, adds a delightful off-beat touch.
“I love mixing light and dark, old and new, and a little ‘edge’ to add interest,” says Kirby.
In the opposite room, a bright splash of color awaits: Custom-designed citron headboards over the twin beds evoke sunrise over the Bay. Designer Savannah Starring, of Vellum and Velvet, exaggerated the height of the headboards to play into the long lines found throughout the home.
“This room is truly custom in terms of textiles,” Starring says. “No shortcuts were taken in tailoring this room to be fully functional, yet intriguing.”
Here, again, the room is styled with references to far-flung journeys, including mud cloth prints of African animals, a globe and suitcases standing ready for the next adventure. “This space started off as a textural curation full of natural fibers, but as it started to come full circle, the room decided to take me on a journey around the world,” says Starring. “It seemed as though I ended up in a place of wonder and exploration, with a childlike imagination.”
Even here, on the ground floor, the porch hovers in midair. In this shared outdoor space, Winston has installed a pair of hanging seats that seem to float among the trees, paired with a console table, rattan lanterns and accent plants.
Down the hallway and through to the porte-cochère, guests at last reach terra firma. Liz Bell, of Aqua Décor and Design, styled this area as an outdoor living space with ample mixed seating, furnished by Seasonal Living. Secluded from the rest of the home and sheltered from the elements, it’s an ideal space to host a boisterous group without disturbing anyone else’s tranquility.
Stepping away from the house and viewing it in its entirety, it stands as a cohesive vision of wooded retreat, full of warmth and texture and unexpected pops of color.
“It’s not every day that you can put together a team of designers from all over the area and have such an outstanding finished product,” says Malouf’s Ashley Huffmaster. “The house seems to flow very well from space to space, especially considering so many different design tastes and styles were incorporated.”
Meador adds, “The elevated taste level of all of the designers really shows. It was a pleasure to be able to mix it up and see it all come together just right.”
Mobile Bay Inspiration Home 2019
618 Pensacola Ave., Fairhope, AL 36532
Open for tours Dec. 12 – Jan. 5 (Thursdays – Sundays)
Tickets: $10, Proceeds benefit USA Children’s and Women’s Hospital
Click here to purchase your tickets!