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Home for the Holidays

A couple falls in love with a Mountain Brook home that’s full of old Hollywood glamour—and happens to make the perfect backdrop for a retro holiday celebration.

Written by Jane Reynolds; Photography by Edward Badham

Danielle and Bart Yancey were perfectly happy with their previous home, which they had rebuilt from the ground up on Shades Crest Road about four years ago. So it surprised them both when Bart was online one day, happened to click on a link and saw another home that intrigued him. “He said, ‘Danielle, we need to go see this house. It would be fun,’” Danielle recalls. “So we came to look at the house, and it spoke to us.”

As little as they expected to consider buying another house so soon after building one, it did feel a bit like fate. “We had always talked about how if we ever wanted to move from the house we had built, how cool it would be to have a one-level home with kind of a Palm Springs-esque look—tall ceilings, high windows, wrapping around a courtyard with a pool,” she says. That fit this house on Pump House Road in Mountain Brook to a T, and it had a pedigree to match. It was designed in 1963 by the late Fritz Woehle, a prominent mid-century modern architect, and the house was once featured in Southern Accents magazine for its unique look and stunning architectural details that mix seamlessly with the modern design and unabashed elements of glamour. The Yanceys mulled it over for a few months and then decided to take the plunge.

Part Hollywood Regency, part Palm Springs resort style, the Yanceys’ new home takes custom to another level. That begins with the exterior, which a 1960s ad for American Saint Gobain glass (which featured the home) described as the embodiment of “almost classical simplicity” with “tall, graceful arches.” That simplicity gives way, however, as you enter the door, and the tone inside is set by elegant, throwback opulence—the high ceilings and tall windows the Yanceys loved at first sight along with marble flooring throughout and antique architectural elements full of glamour borrowed from an earlier age.

The front room is an open foyer with an entry table and antique French doors from New Orleans that open out directly to the courtyard and the pool. The courtyard is a major focal point for the entire house, visible from almost every room and reflected in a variety of blue accents Danielle pulled in to mirror the water. Other accents take their cue from the Greek key motif found in the antique gates in the courtyard. “I wanted to sprinkle that in throughout the house, so you’ll see Greek key rugs or doormats or furniture,” she says.

It’s a way of paying homage to the home’s history, which exists in two parts: the original house and the addition, which the previous owners added, not only creating much more space but allowing the home to continue its graceful curve around the courtyard. (The back end of the courtyard completes the circle with a spacious pool house/guest house.) The new wing is in perfect keeping with the original footprint but demarcated by the dates etched into the marble floor—“1963” where the original house ended and “1995” leading into the newer part. Otherwise, the transition is seamless, noticeable only by slight differences in the gradation of the marble, which gradually changes to show more elements of pink, which Danielle loves.

From here, a hallway leads across to a cozy seating area/game room with a giant, stylized bar, and stairs leading down to the wine cellar. Opposite the wine cellar is a spacious workout room and storage space that becomes particularly relevant this time of year—this is where Danielle stores her extravagant collection of Christmas decorations, unofficially dubbed “Santa’s workshop.”

Danielle spends weeks drawing on this rich reserve to turn the whole home into the winter wonderland for which it feels made—funky, retro, very California, enough to bring out the holiday spirit no matter what the temperature outside might be. No space is left untouched, from a virtual forest of shiny metallic from the ‘60s trees—replete with color wheels to bounce a spectrum of light off the limbs—to an entire bathtub filled with ornaments in frosted white, clear, and various blues to look like festive bubbles. 

Danielle originally took her cue from a pair of disco balls she found last year, which, when the sun hits just right, toss bright flickers of light all over the walls. “That started my ideas and inspiration for Christmas décor,” she says. “I knew I wanted to go toward metallic versus a live trees. I love the live tree look and did that every year before, but I really felt like a more metallic look fit this home, so we have metallic artificial trees throughout the home. The silver tinsel trees in the foyer are vintage from the ’60s or ’70s. My friend Kim Chiselko came over and spent hours helping me decorate those. We used silver, gold, and antique mirrored ornaments, with pops of pink.

“It is so much fun,” she continues. “I have a very creative side, and I like to make things a little bit unique and different. I enjoy trying to come up with a new way of looking at it.” 

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