Written by Rosalind Fournier ↓ Photography by Brendon Pinola
David and Karen Byers already loved their home on a spacious, wooded lot in the Old Brook Trail section of Mountain Brook, a neighborhood they cherish for its feeling of being off the beaten path. With four bedrooms, it had plenty of space to meet the needs of their family (David and Karen have three sons, ages 31, 28 and 17, though the older two are long out of the nest). When it came to entertaining, they had a formal dining room for sit-down dinners and a small den for watching TV or enjoying company, at least in in small numbers. Still, they felt something was missing.
“I was always thinking, ‘I wish we had a room where we could have a big party,’” Karen says. “There was just not one big place where people could really gather. We wanted to be able to host engagement parties or church functions or have more people over to enjoy watching a football game.”
Call it a den, living room, or family room, or in the Byers’ case just the missing piece of the puzzle—but the addition (which also includes a new guest bath) represents the fulfillment of that vision beautifully, as though it was always meant to be. Clint Lovette, president of Lovette Construction who served as the remodeling contractor for the project (working alongside architect Hank Long of Henry Sprott Long & Associates and Pat Hiden, owner of Pat Hiden interiors), says that was by design. “Our goal as a firm is for an addition to look like it was original to the house as much as possible,” he says.
The Byers also wanted to use this opportunity to create a space that reflected different elements of their family’s life and personality. They added giant picture windows along the back wall, bringing in as much natural light as possible and making full use of the view, which includes a small creek and reminds David of his family’s North Carolina roots. “He loves all the greenery and the vegetation up in the North Carolina mountains, and here when you look out, you almost feel like you’re up in the trees a little bit,” Karen explains. “That was definitely a consideration, and it has not disappointed.” The vaulted ceiling—which Lovette estimates reaches 16 to 17 feet at the apex—enhances the sense of spaciousness.
Designed for hospitality, the Byers wanted to make this room feel as casual or elegant as the occasion calls for, and it represents a slight departure from the rest of the house, which Karen describes as more contemporary. “We wanted to make this feel a little more family friendly and relaxed—kind of ‘elegant casual,’” she says. “And I think Pat really achieved that perfectly.”
Hiden chose an eclectic mix of fabrics and textures, including the addition of Tennessee flagstone around the fireplace, to create a look that’s inviting and warm. A modish square card table by the window provides spillover sit-down seating for large dinner parties or a place to set hors d’oeuvres platters for more casual parties. And Hiden found two antique leather stools to place in front of the fireplace for added interest. “That brings grounding into the room,” Karen says. “They bring in some history, which I love. I like the mix of having those elements.” Two other accents were introduced by pure luck. One is a portrait of the Byers’ two older sons from when they were small. It had been hanging in the foyer, but when the room called out for an additional piece of artwork, Karen thought immediately of that piece. “It gives the room a family feel and a personal connection,” she says.
Meanwhile, David and the boys have always loved to hunt, so Hiden mused that a deer head would be perfect for the space above it, given the ample room created by the heightened ceiling. It just happened that the Byers had one—relegated to a storage space, because they’d never found the right place for it. “So I went down and got that, and we had it installed up at the top,” Karen says. “That brings in a more comfortable feeling, too.”
Finally, while the new room is popular for football-watching parties, the Byers wanted to have the option of hiding the TV when it’s not in use, though “disguising” it might be a better word. It’s akin to an architectural-design magic trick, with bi-fold doors above the fireplace that open and fold to the side when they want to watch TV but also close seamlessly—artwork intact—when they don’t. There are no handles, and the doors match the paneling that exists throughout the rest of the room, so the Byers can create a completely different look for the room simply by opening or closing the TV enclosure.
The new den does wonders to make it fun and feasible for the Byers to enjoy hosting large groups, but there were still a few more small touches they wanted to make the bottom floor feel complete. One is the addition of a new powder room, easily accessible from anywhere downstairs. Another is a silver/china/linen closet off the dining room—which might sound like a small thing, but having it makes a huge difference for Karen, who lacked proper space upstairs for her larger platters and serving pieces and had to haul them up from a storage room downstairs every time she needed them. The new pantry is spacious and outfitted with ample built-in shelving.
Best of all, much like the TV enclosure in the entertainment room, when closed the pantry literally disappears from view. That’s because as badly as they wanted to add one, there was no obvious place to put a closet here—which is where a good architect comes in. “Hank said, ‘Well, we could hide the door. We could do wood panels, and you’d never know one of them opens up,’ so that’s what we did,” Karen remembers. “And sure enough, who would ever know? So we were very pleased with how that turned out.”
Finally, the Byers also added new a carport—another remodel element that might sound entirely utilitarian, but as Lovette says, “this is not your average carport. It’s located right off of the new den, and we wanted it to be a nice space for overflow if they’re having a party, or they can put a bar out there, and everything can just flow to the outdoors. It feels like part of the space.” Karen and David also enjoy the air flow of having an open space rather than a traditional garage, and they’re able to keep it clutter-free thanks to the addition of two more storage rooms—one for hunting equipment and the other for gardening supplies.
All of it together—the addition of a den that suits any size or style of party, the new amenities that make gracious entertaining easier and a lot more much-needed storage—makes the house feel complete, a place where the Byers feel they’ll be happy for a long time to come.
“It makes the house,” Karen says. “Now it has whatever you really need for whatever you want to do. If you want to have a big party, you can do that. If you want to sit quietly in a more intimate space, you can do that, too.
“We always thought this was a good house,” she adds. “But now we feel like it’s the perfect house for us.”
Behind the Scenes
Architect: Henry Sprott Long & Associates, Inc.
Construction: Clint Lovette / Lovette Construction
Interior Designer: Pat Hiden Interiors
Custom built-ins around fireplace: Lane Woodworking
Flagstone fireplace: Agricultural Services
Ceiling painting and stainwork: Betke Painting