Off of Sea Cliff Drive in Fairhope, past the raised garden beds and reinvented carriage house, sits Peri and Brad Summersells’ home atop the bluff. After searching all over Fairhope for a property to renovate as empty nesters, they finally arrived at the abode that would be theirs.
“When we approached the front door and could see the Bay from that position — not even being in the house yet — we knew we were done looking,” Brad recalls.
“This is what sold us on the house,” agrees wife Peri as she looks out over the water. “Thank goodness it had good bones.”
The couple called on architect Clay Adams and architect and interior designer Abby Davis, both principals and partners at Walcott Adams Verneuille, to remodel the home and open up the floor plan so that their view of the Bay was the focal point.
“For me, the most important goal with the renovation was to create a fresh modern interior design without destroying the character of the existing cottage style,” Peri says. “I wanted it to be functional, not too formal, and maximize the Bay views from all the major living spaces.”
Clay and Abby say that the Summersells saw the potential for their house but were also passionate about preservation. “They embraced what might seem limiting to some, like the interior winder stairs, as just part of the quaintness or character of the house,” Abby says. So Clay worked in the existing architectural features while making structural changes that opened up the rooms and emphasized the stunning, panoramic view.
“His initial space-planning efforts and vision for the house resulted in some incredible transformations,” Abby says. New doors and taller windows across the bayfront side of the home made the view more accessible from the inside. A bayfront porch, outdoor kitchen and outdoor living area, complete with a fireplace, made for more places to enjoy the natural surroundings. “Overall, we appreciate Clay’s design because there’s no real wasted space for our lifestyle,” Brad says.
One of the most popular transformations among both the homeowners and architects came from enclosing two bayfront porches to create his and hers sitting rooms. Brad’s is off the living room on the north side of the home, and Peri’s is off the master bedroom on the south side. Symmetry is important to Peri, so having the two enclosed rooms with a recessed porch in between was really pleasing to her. Both of the rooms reflect their associated individual’s style and represent how they like to spend their time there.
“The sun room is my morning quiet space, my at-home office and napping room when I actually get a chance to catch a few winks,” Brad says. Peri adds that Brad also enjoys watching golf and football in there. In Peri’s serene area, she has space for reading and relaxing.
Abby led the interiors side of the project with the help of Sam Greenwald. Sam jumped in and immediately connected with the Summersells and caught their vision for the home. “The creative process on the interiors was truly collaborative and unique in that it melded a more traditional-style house with modern detailing and furnishings, while still underscoring the welcoming, unfussy feel of the home,” Abby says. They brought an organic look and feel to the inside with features such as wood floors and natural stone countertops throughout. “The majority of the furnishings were kept clean-lined and low profile so as not to detract from water views but with texture and interesting details that helped create a contemporary flair and luxe, comfortable feel,” Abby adds.
While Abby and Sam purchased many fresh, new pieces for the home, they also incorporated family heirlooms. Peri’s father was a talented and skilled craftsman, and she and her family treasure his pieces, so Abby and Sam put them on display. “They are a special part of the Summersell family’s history, and they add depth and personality to the design,” Abby says. The decorating duo mixed original paintings from local galleries and curated abstract prints to continue the blending of traditional and modern styles into the Summersells’ art collection. “They have created an elegant yet comfortable space Brad and I will be able to enjoy for the rest of our lives,” Peri says.
After remodeling and decorating for two years, the couple moved into the home in October of 2021. “We really enjoy being able to sit and watch the sunsets, stargaze, and soak in the outdoor sights and sounds. Watching lightning storms roll in on the Bay with a cocktail in hand is one of our favorite things to do,” Peri says. She also enjoys her exercise room and their vegetable garden.
The open floor plan, bayfront porches and outdoor rooms make the home ideal for entertaining, and the couple loves opening up their doors to friends and family. Brad will start up the grill and build a fire in the outdoor fireplace on chilly nights. “We understand this location is truly a gift from God, meant to be shared,” Brad says.
Peri adds, “It’s an absolute blessing being able to enjoy the water and the sunsets — it’s God’s paintbrush.”
“We really enjoy being able to sit and watch the sunsets, stargaze, and soak in the outdoor sights and sounds. watching lightning storms roll in on the bay with a cocktail in hand is one of our favorite things to do.”Peri Summersell