A Remodel Revamped

Here’s a house where the outside meets the inside in a cool, modern, intercontinental space.

by Vicki Johnson Photography by Beau Gustafson

It’s a rare opportunity when the owners of a house you designed and built 25 years ago ask you to get involved in a remodel. But that’s just what happened to George Israel. It all began at a party in 1985 when the homeowners met Israel and commissioned him to build their house on what was at the time an empty lot in an empty neighborhood in Vestavia.

What I liked about George was that instead of showing me stuff that he had done, he wanted to know how we lived, and he built the house around that, one of the homeowners say.

The commission launched the beginning of Israel’s practice and his success in Birmingham as an architect. Known for thoughtful, modern design, he worked closely with the homeowners to meet their needs while creating a contemporary, livable house.

The house was rotated, not to be parallel with the street, but to fit the lot better and step its way down the site, Israel explains.  We always start with the site and work the design to it.

In the beginning, the homeowners knew that they wanted an open-plan house, placing importance on having everything radiate off the kitchen. Many years later and with three grown children, the homeowners wanted a house that felt more grown up and were adamant about updating the house so it didn’t feel old and tired after 25 years of wear and tear and daily life.

The renovation began in March 2010 and was completed by November 2010. The house, approximately 4,500 square feet, now features four bedrooms, five bathrooms (six including the outdoor pool bathroom), a spacious pool, an office, a family room den and living and dining rooms with plenty of space for entertaining and enjoying the beautiful outdoors surrounding the house.

There are elements in the house that made it dated, and so we spruced it up to make it more modern and brought it into the 21st century, Israel says. We made it more timeless.

The master bedroom and bathroom had a major overhaul, and every bathroom in the house was gutted and redone. One of the major changes took place in the kitchen. The homeowners liked the style of European cabinets and also wanted to keep a plain look. The cabinetry, all custom built and installed by SieMatic, is an oak laminate with a custom horizontal grain pattern. Large 24-inch–square gray stone tiles flow from the kitchen to the master bedroom and bathroom, and the heated tiles in the master suite give the room a welcoming touch.

The bathroom cabinets, made of Sapele wood from a tree in Western Africa, lend to the worldly feel of the space and provide a tranquil place to escape. Almost everything in the master suite is run electronically, from the controlled curtains and shades to the Sparks Fire linear two–sided gas fireplace, lighting and a custom–made steel handrail with an LED backlight in the 3Form panels.

Israel also brought in friend Barbara Thomas of Thomas and Garrison LLC to help with design consultation. Thomas worked with Israel and the homeowners on placement of furniture, selecting neutral paint colors that would highlight the outdoors (Lamb’s Wool, Berkshire Beige, Oyster Bay, Porpoise and Intellectual Grey, all by Sherwin Williams) and showcasing pieces of art and collectibles. In the living room, two paintings of one homeowner’s great-great grandparents from Demopolis hang on the wall, and many pieces of art painted by the homeowner herself can be found throughout the house.

The house is more open than compartmentalized, and large windows can be found in almost every room of the house. I would say that the outdoors is a big feature of the art in this house, Thomas says. ìIt is the art because it’s like living in a bird’s nest up here.

Travel has also had a profound impact on the homeowners’ lives, which has carried over into the contemporary, intercontinental feel of the house. They’ve collected treasures from all over the world, including a glass egg from Murano, Italy, and a didgeridoo from Australia. A throw and accent pillows in the bedroom are made from Raffia cloth, made by the Kuba people of the Congo. It is from the leaf of a raffia tree and is commonly used as ceremonial clothing and monetary exchange. On the dresser rests an antique head of a snake called Naga, a serpent deity that adorns Buddhist temples in Thailand.

Many of the places they’ve traveled have inspired them to incorporate what they’ve seen into their home. In the master bathroom, a drain for the shower runs parallel to the wall instead of in the center, which is standard fare throughout most of Europe and adds a modern feel to the space.

The space has become what the homeowners have made it. It’s a mix between contemporary and traditional.  It’s intercontinental and eclectic. It’s full of architectural charm from the large, open windows to the airy feel of each room. And it’s packed with treasures from all over the world that have interesting stories of their own.

As Israel notes, We wanted to push the envelope so that it would not only be valid now but also for years and years to come and be enjoyable to live in.


General Contractor-
Day Star Construction
Architect and Interiors- George Israel, Israel and Associates, p.c. architects
Design Consultant-
Barbara Thomas, Thomas and Garrison LLC
Landscape Architect/Design- Chuck Kelly, Kelly Landscape Architects
Kitchen Cabinetry Design-Alison Weidner, SieMatic
Bathroom Cabinetry Design- Sam Floyd, JDW Cabinet Company; Westover, AL
Bedroom Furniture-
Mel Johnson; Pensacola, FL
Kitchen/Bedroom Electronics- Jayson Berger, One Button Magic
Floral Design/Arrangements- Barbara Thomas, Thomas and Garrison LLC

Resources:General Contractor- Day Star ConstructionArchitect and Interiors- George Israel, Israel and Associates, p.c. architectsDesign Consultant- Barbara Thomas, Thomas and Garrison LLCLandscape Architect/Design- Chuck Kelly, Kelly Landscape ArchitectsKitchen Cabinetry Design-Alison Weidner, SieMaticBathroom Cabinetry Design- Sam Floyd, JDW Cabinet Company; Westover, ALBedroom Furniture- Mel Johnson; Pensacola, FLKitchen/Bedroom Electronics- Jayson Berger, One Button MagicFloral Design/Arrangements- Barbara Thomas, Thomas and Garrison LLC

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