Refined Rustic


French country meets comfortable, calm and sophisticated in this renovated home

by Vicki Johnson Photography by Beau Gustafson

When deciding on a style, Faith was leaning toward French. “I would say sort of French country is probably the best way to describe this, although it’s very much a hybrid,” Chip says.

Architect Chip Gardner and his wife, Faith, were on the market looking for homes to renovate and resell when they fell in love with one and decided to keep it for themselves.

“It was just a very nondescript little white masonry house that I drove by hundreds of times and never really noticed,” Chip says.

“The biggest draw was the lot. In Crestline, you are so on top of each other, and this gives us so much more privacy,” Faith says.

The couple sold their other house in Crestline and were able to rent the house next door to their new purchase when they started construction about 18 months later. Renovations took a full year to complete, and the family finally moved into the house in July 2011.

Although most of the lower level was part of the existing house, old portions are unrecognizable now, as the flow was reworked to convert the three bedrooms downstairs into one master bedroom suite with separate “his and her” bathrooms. A kid’s playroom plus a family den area, dining room, living room and kitchen complete the first floor. In total, the house jumped from 2400 square feet to roughly 4300 square feet after renovation and additions.

“A lot of existing house was left,” Chip says. However, a second story was added to house the kid’s bedrooms, bathrooms and Chip’s study and to give the family more separation and privacy.

“One of the decisions to leave so much of the old house was that it’s really well built, so we decided to work with it,” Chip says.

“One of the decisions to leave so much of the old house was that it’s really well built, so we decided to work with it,” Chip says. They used terra cotta tiles from an old federal building for the roof, and all the stonework around the house was salvaged from the unusually large slabs that formed the patios of the old house to create a nice feature on the new property.

“So it’s definitely a taste of sort of taking what the house gave us to decide the design of the house,” he explains.

Chip Gardner, a practicing architect for 25 years, started his own company, Gardner Architects LLC, 12 years ago. The company has done a mix of commercial and residential work, including many European (English and French style) homes in Mountain Brook. Designing and creating their own house was especially exciting and challenging for the couple.

“The biggest thing is that it had to be kid friendly,” Faith says. “We have lots of company, and we just wanted it to be an easy and fun place for the kids to hang out. I don’t think there is anything in this house that the kids can’t screw up, and that’s really one of the good things about having lots of antique pieces is that they are already dinged up.”

When deciding on a style, Faith was leaning toward French. “I would say sort of French country is probably the best way to describe this, although it’s very much a hybrid,” Chip says.

The attention to detail is what makes this house special, and although the style is mainly French, it also has a loose interpretation of English elements. Throughout the kitchen and den are beautiful pieces of painted white wood that give the house a rustic feel, and in many cases, aging techniques were applied to give some of the materials an old feel and patina. All the beams and columns in the den are hand-hewn hemlock, and several rooms contain heart pine salvaged from old homes and barns. The fireplace in the den is a custom design that Chip himself cast by hand.

In the kitchen, the floor is done in handmade French terra cotta tiles, and the backsplash is made of tumbled travertine that has small pieces of antique black terra cotta encaustic tiles from England inserted into the design.

As far as the layout, Faith wanted a more traditional floor plan as opposed to an open-concept living space. “I would say the kitchen, den and dining room are important to us,” she says. “I think those three rooms are the heart of the house for probably most families and definitely for us.”

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For interior design, Faith called on friend and designer, Beth McMillan, who has worked with Faith on their previous two houses. “Over the years I’ve just learned her style, which is beautiful, antique, timeless, classic. She does not get caught up in trends ever,” Beth says.

The white interior and exterior allows the antiques to pop from the walls, while the room is pulled together through the use of solid fabrics that feel like the English countryside and incorporate texture through pillows, rugs and other fabrics.

On the den wall is a large, striking portrait painting of a famous theater actress from Birmingham during the 1920s. The colors tie the room together, as well as showcasing a piece of history from Birmingham.

Much of the furniture was acquired during Faith’s 10 years in the antique business. “What I have comes from a variety of places, from estate sales to Tara Shaw in New Orleans, flea markets, eBay and local dealers,” she says. And a lot of the furniture was recovered, much of it to look like it belonged in an old French gîte.

“I was after a refined rustic look,” she says. “I wanted it serene and peaceful and calm, and I just did not want any big punches of color.“

“I was after a refined rustic look,” she says. “I wanted it serene and peaceful and calm"

While the interior is mostly complete, future plans include landscaping the 1.33 acre property. A tree house and kid’s play area exist, and there are plans to incorporate a kitchen garden into the yard. Landscaper Linda Johnson wanted to include many native plants, such as hydrangeas and azaleas, as well as boxwoods, magnolias and serviceberries, in order to insure year-round blooming. “I want to soften everything,” she says. “All of it should just look very native and very natural.”

For Chip and Faith, creating their own house has been a slow, steady process, but one filled with precision, expertise and attention to detail.  “We were trying to go for a look where it looks like the house has been here and would have been built in the 1920s era when so many of the houses were built around here,” Chip says. “And I think we’ve been pretty successful with that.” •


Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

Resources:

Architect – Chip Gardner, Gardner Architects LLC in

English Village •

General contractor Classic Renovations

and Contracting LLC in Birmingham

Interior design – Beth McMillan; McMillan Interiors, Inc.

beth@mcmillaninteriors.com

Furnishings – ottoman from Centuries

Accessories – Village Firefly exterior lantern – Architectural Heritage, rugs – Paige Albright Orientals

Landscape architect/design – Linda Johnson

Kitchen appliances Thermador

Styling – Jenny Reed

Paint colorsBenjamin Moore – “White Interior Room” for master bath; Benjamin Moore – “Steam” for rest of interior

Wood sourceAntique Building Materials, Inc.

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