Moonshine Manor

A dream home in Montrose is naturally welcoming and environmentally efficient.

The exterior of the home is sleek and simple, with open, unadorned doors and windows to let in maximum natural light. Photo by Ted Miles
Homeowner Jessica Deese perches playfully on her kitchen island countertop by Coastal Stone & Cabinetry. Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

A known moonshiner in dry Washington County, the Dees matriarch spurred a post-Prohibition family move to Fairhope in the 1930s. With a new residence and an “e” tacked on to the end of their surname, her trade could continue away from the eagle-eyed purview of dry county officials.

Fast-forward to modern times when Jessica Deese and her husband, Dees’s great-grandson and Fairhope dentist Danny Deese, purchased a property beautifully nestled on Mobile Bay. The moonlight that shone on the water and Danny’s family history pointed to one inevitable name for the home they would build — Moonshine.

The details of their home are durably industrial and environmentally conscious. The architectural craftsmanship of Watershed’s Rebecca Bryant also produced a place that is nature-centric, both in orientation and implementation, in accordance with Watershed’s mission to conserve energy and foster natural connections with the world.

“Biophilia, our innate attraction to nature, definitely guides my work, ” says Bryant. “Sometimes that’s literal, like using light and views to bring nature indoors or including great porches and terraces to invite people outdoors. And sometimes it’s more subtle, for instance, showcasing great wood floors, wood walls and brick — honest materials that clearly show their natural origin.”

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The efficiency of the home is evident around the entire property. It received Fortified Gold certification for its resilience against hurricanes and high winds, is heavily insulated to prevent heat from seeping indoors during summer months and, because of a well-sealed building envelope, is approximately 50 percent more energy-saving than a home built just to meet current building codes. Additionally, rather than diverting away from the property toward the Bay, rainwater infiltrates through the landscape so it filters naturally rather than bombarding the coastline with runoff.

For owner Jessica, “One very clear reference point was old train stations. I knew I wanted a deep porch without railing, columns or anything to obstruct the view. The deep overhangs found on old train stations supported by oversized corbel-like supports were always so beautiful to me.”

The high ceilings, deep overhangs and metal ornamentation were implemented from the front of the home all the way through. The design mimics the welcoming nature of old train stations; the simplicity feels inviting rather than obtruding. It’s an approachable abode with nothing standing in the way. “Hop onboard, ” it almost whistles out, “and make yourself comfortable.”

Architect Rebecca Bryant, left, and Jessica Deese, right, joyfully catch up months after finishing the Deeses’ custom home. Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

Sinks First

Another detail essential to the design of the home was the plethora of salvaged sinks Jessica and Danny collected over years of scouting. Some rooms were created specifically to integrate the sinks while others utilized them as accents for other pieces or patterns.

“The first purchase was the vintage double drain board kitchen sink that is in my boys’ bathroom. We purchased it in Louisiana on our 10th wedding anniversary in April 2014, ” says Jessica. “Our triple trough sink in the bunk bath and the sink hanging on the wall in our powder room were bought online from someone on Etsy. These three sinks sat on a pallet in our yard until they were finally installed!”


ABOVE LEFT A reclaimed baptismal font serves as the sink in the powder room, surrounded by salvaged brick.

ABOVE RIGHT The triple trough bunkroom sink was one of the many sinks purchased way before the home’s construction.

“It was great fun to design kids’ baths around these huge industrial sinks and look for light fixtures that could hold their own with the sinks, ” Bryant says.

“We identified the light fixtures two years before we broke ground, ” Jessica adds. “I would purchase them one at a time and store them above my husband’s office.”

Some other elements of design were found so close to home, they were right under the Deeses’ feet.

“We lived in the mid-century ranch house that was originally on the property for five years before we started to build, ” Jessica says. “It was constructed of old Mobile brick, and we discovered a treasure trove of these bricks all over the property. My husband began the tedious and toilsome process of uncovering them, one by one. Now these beautiful bricks adorn our home, adding remarkable beauty. But it is the reminder of his hard work, and the home we started in, that make them so special to me.”

The chic bunkroom is decorated with blue shelving and accents, industrial pipes, a TV, a piano and books galore. Photo by Ted Miles

Family Matters

With four children ranging from ages 2 to 11, the Deeses required lots of fun and family-centric spaces. The bedrooms reflect each child’s personality along with the Deeses’ style and Rebecca’s conservation techniques. Pops of color and industrial vintage accents embellish kid-friendly atmospheres throughout the second floor. No room is more reflective of playful youth, though, than the family-favorite bunkroom.

“Jessica and Danny started talking about all these cousins who would visit, and we needed places for everyone to sleep, ” says Bryant. “I stopped by one day, and there was just a pack of kids in the bunkroom, reading, drawing, playing the piano, climbing up the ladders. It made me so happy to see that room just alive with children!”

2-year-old Henry watches as Greta, 8, climbs up the bunks to the loft space that hides above the play and rest area. Photo by Ted Miles

Other favorite features of the home include the kitchen, the mudroom and the direct view of the Bay from the open center of the house. All of these elements were strategically planned and unhurriedly executed to bring the house from a dreamy vision to a tangible reality. Working slowly gave the family time to find the perfect pieces, establish the perfect structure and transform the space into the perfect dwelling.

“By going so slowly, we were able to mitigate a lot of the stress that can be involved in the building process. We took the long view the entire time and actually wanted to go slowly, in the planning and building, because it is our hope that this home will be our last, ” says Jessica. “To have a space that reflects your taste and preferences completely is incredible. I don’t think I will ever stop pinching myself.”

Interior Designer: Suzanne Winston; Builder: Scott Norman • 251-370-8109

The bedroom, which serves as a guest suite when visitors stay, is embellished with soft and comfortable pieces, like sheepskin and linen. The bold floral wallpaper makes a modern statement, while an iron-frame bed, pink plywood floors and modern accessories finish the look. Photo by Ted Miles
Pink walls and cabinetry create a soft and sweet atmosphere for the girls’ bathroom, decorated with industrial globe lights and bronze accents. Photo by Ted Miles
The salvaged cast-iron clawfooted tub was painted black to stand out against the white tile and bright blue shower curtain that surrounds it, bringing the whole room together with a vintage feel and feminine flair.
The master bathroom is decorated with monochromatic accents, from a black and white patterned backsplash to stark white sinks and black mirrors. Photos by Ted Miles
Local cement tiles adorn the floor of the master bath, complete with a walk-in shower and gold appliances.
The green mudroom provides a colorful entryway for the home, as well as office space for Jessica. A row of brass hooks brightens the storage space for the kids’ backpacks.
A textured cabinet, metallic faucet and decorative glass pieces adorn the cocktail bar.
A colorful Lucy Hunnicutt painting, which was Jessica’s 30th birthday gift from Danny, decorates the entryway under an industrial wall sconce. Photo by Elizabeth Gelineau

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