Building Their Dreams


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Leaving no detail to chance, a couple builds a home their growing family will enjoy for years to come.

Written by Jane Reynolds; Photography by Edward Badham

_ebv5219Alan and Allison Cease both have strong Birmingham ties—Alan grew up here; Allison is a graduate of Samford University—and the young couple always planned on making this their home. But their plans to settle down here were deferred early in their marriage, because Alan’s job took them to Jackson, Miss. for four years. That gave them a lot of time to consider what they really wanted in a house and strengthened their resolve to find a home that would meet their needs for years to come.

“Pretty much the whole time we were in Jackson we would look for houses on the market here,” Allison says. “And as we looked, we realized that we wanted to find a house we could stay in forever and not have to move again and again. We knew we wanted to have at least two kids, so we kept looking and thinking, ‘Oh, we love this house—but we’d probably outgrow it in five or six years.’”

On one visit back to Birmingham, Allison found herself driving again through Homewood to see what was on the market and spotted one of the owners of Twin Construction outside a house the company had purchased for a tear-down/rebuild. “I pulled over and said, ‘Wait! Tell me about this,’” she remembers. “‘Is it for sale?’”

It was—with the condition that Twin would build the house for the new owner—and it all felt right to Allison. She asked Twin to hold the property until she could reach her husband, who was back in Jackson. Alan’s response was quick: “If you think it’s the best thing, go for it.” When Allison called Twin back to tell them they wanted the house, they’d already fielded 20 other calls from potential buyers, but the Ceases had been the first. It was theirs.

_ebv4953Building from scratch meant a lot of meetings with the builders at Twin; their architect, Joe Ellis; and others to go over their wish list for the house and determine feasibility. Knowing they planned to have children, space was critical—at least four bedrooms, and ideally a playroom upstairs. Having looked at a lot of other homes to see what she liked and didn’t, Allison also knew she wanted spacious 10-foot ceilings on the main level, a distinct foyer, a sizable butler’s pantry for entertaining, as much natural light as possible, and a lot of wide open spaces—especially in the kitchen/living area, so the family could be together even if everyone was doing their own thing. For Alan, having a garage, basement and workroom were critical. Both wanted nice-sized lawns in front and back, and a front porch perfect for sitting back and watch the kids play.

“I also wanted to set it apart from other houses with the architectural style,” Allison says, “like the wood texture in the kitchen ceiling and the vaulted ceilings with beams in the living room. I wanted the house to be dressy and elegant, but with a sense of hominess at the same time. I didn’t want it so stiff you felt you couldn’t live in it.”

With a few minor compromises, the Ceases got almost everything they wanted written into the plans. Then there were the details—seemingly infinite, but Allison trusted a lot of her own instincts and also had help from Laurie Fulkerson, a designer for Twin, as well as her mother-in-law, who has interior design experience as well.

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The kitchen is light and airy—just as Allison envisioned—starting with marble counter tops in Alabama White. Twin Cabinets, an affiliate of Twin Construction, made the cabinets throughout the house, with Fulkerson helping to choose details like cabinet knobs and drawer handles. “Allison’s style was classic and not trendy at all,” Fulkerson says. “So the hardware is classic and beautiful but does not take over the space. For example, the first thing I wanted people to notice when they walked in was her beautiful cabinets and marble counter tops—but as people begin to start looking around, they do notice the cabinet hardware and their details.”

The kitchen cabinetry includes a large wall cabinet that holds the microwave, toaster oven and other appliances—replete with access to electric plugs inside, so they can be used without ever taking them out and disappear with the close of a door. They also made room for a sizable kitchen table, so when their kids, now ages two and 15 months, are older they can sit down and eat as a family.

For the dining room, they decided to keep the table and chairs Alan had in his previous home but switched out the end chairs to provide a lighter contrast to the dark wood. This room is also flooded with natural light, while one of Allison’s favorite features is the coffered ceiling. “I had seen that in other houses and just think it gives the room a dressiness that I think a formal dining room deserves.”

_ebv5079Another crowing jewel of the Cease home is the master bedroom, designed as a luxurious escape. “When we started building the house, I had a seven-month-old, and I’d just found out I was pregnant,” Allison says. “I knew that for the next five years my life was going to be crazy. So I knew when the kids were in bed at night, I wanted to be able to close the master bedroom door and have time just to wind down for the night…a little vacation away from life.” She looked at pictures and found the ones that evoked that feeling, then made it happen—including a sizable master bath with marble countertops and a closet big enough for its own washer and dryer. (There’s a separate laundry room upstairs, but Allison loves being able to throw in a load down here and then fold clothes on the bed while watching TV after the kids are asleep.)

Construction took about six months, and the Cease family moved in about a year ago. Already Allison has thrown several parties, hosted family events, and says the family has enjoyed the space to its fullest—including the part that was already there, the neighborhood itself, which was the very first choice they made.

“We love the closeness of the Homewood,” Allison says. “We walk to Taco Mama once or twice a week, go to Edgewood Creamery for ice cream, or we go to the park or stroll to the pool in the summer. We just love being here. It’s great.” •

BEHIND THE SCENES

General Contractor: Twin Construction, Inc.

Architect: Joe Ellis / DWELL ING Architecture

Construction Design: Laurie Fulkerson / Twin Interiors

Cabinetry: Crystal Tucker / Twin Cabinets (Cabinet hardware from Brandino Brass)

Plumbing / Appliances: Ferguson

Countertops: Surface One

Limestone Fireplace: Tracery Stone

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