Avondale Evolution

Written by Clark Underbakke, Photographed by Graham Yelton

avondale house remodelWhen Mr. and Mrs. John F. Mummert built their Avondale home in 1950, they built it to last. Mr. Mummert, an engineer, built the house atop a foundation of concrete and steel. David Walker and I bought the house from the Mummert family. Finding ourselves living amidst Avondale’s revival, we knew it was time for our 63-year-old house to evolve. A decorator with Richard Tubb Interiors for 20 years, David had a new vision for our home. He knew we wanted to create a light-filled, clean, orderly space within which to peacefully live and casually entertain. Our house needed to better suit our modern needs.

Many people think we did a great deal to the house structurally. In fact, we did very little except remove a 1950’s-style breakfast nook, restructure the kitchen and remove half a wall. These small structural changes opened up the floor plan which now possesses a seamless flow from the front door all the way to the back door. Cohesive elements uniting the house include the same paint color throughout, unifying black porcelain tiles on the floor and light diffusing mesh shades covering each of the windows.

In the living room, the black terrazzo marble fireplace surround and mantle are original to the house. Above the mantel hangs a circular convex mirror reflecting a dramatic watercolor of a single feather by Ben Carlisle which hangs over banquette. A large mirrored coffee table appears to float above the black, porcelain tiled floor. To the left of the fireplace is a collection of vintage bleached tortoise shells housed in a shadow box. To the right, hang three spirit sticks by Xander Booker. The sticks are covered with original construction memorabilia saved by the Mummerts. The favorite resting spot of the room is the chrome and leather chair which sits alongside a Biedermeier-style chest. Above the chest hangs another Ben Carlisle watercolor of a dogwood branch in full bloom.

Avondale home remodel kitchenTwo discreet recliners sit in front of the window of our keeping room and offer us a spot to rest and relax. “These aren’t your grandparent’s recliners,” says David. “These chairs offer clean lines and blend in well with the rest of the furniture in the house. People often don’t believe us when we tell them they recline.” To the left and right of the chairs, pottery by David’s mother, Juanita Alexander-Walker is displayed. The television conveniently drops into a cabinet for safekeeping when not being watched.

The only separation between this room and the kitchen is the bar which was created when the aforementioned half a wall was removed. The bar is perfect for us. It serves as a work station, an impromptu buffet area or a dining spot for two. The kitchen has no upper cabinets, further accentuating the feeling of openness and space. At the far end of the kitchen are a painting by John Coffelt entitled, “Amber Waves” and a large white magnolia pot by David’s mother.

The hallway serves as a small gallery. On one wall, square copper plates by Doug Baulos are stacked neatly over each other. On an opposing wall from the copper plates is another series of Baulos’s work. This grouping is a series of three faces which are set against white painted board backgrounds. They are bright, whimsical and a little bit dark all at the same time. The plates are by Bing & Grondahl and belonged to my mother. Finding a place for them in the neutral palette of our home was a challenge that David solved by dramatically hanging them in meticulous rows at the end of the hallway. “Wise Old Owl” by Dan Bynum and Doug Baulos hangs prominently; the 1950’s male face seemingly keeping a watchful eye over the house. Art by Jim Burnett and Ashley Bryan complete the hallway gallery.

Our master bedroom is defined by a large upholstered headboard which is more than six-feet-tall. The nail head trimmed headboard adeptly covers a window giving us the opportunity to place the bed on the wall where it should rightfully be found. The remaining window is draped with a ripple fold drapery of lined linen. On either side of the headboard are zinc– covered chests which are decorated with pounded nail head designs. Simple glass lamps complete the scene. Across from the bed is a low rectangular shelf which houses the television, antique books and artifacts. A painting by Myrt Etheridge hangs across from the window.

The guest room is a menagerie of accumulated leftover pieces of art and furniture. All of these items work well with the metal four-poster bed by Ann Gish. An Asian chest serves as one nightstand and an antique wood table from my family serves as another. The copper light fixture is original to the house. Another family piece from my family is the pine cupboard. My grandparent’s actually used it in their basement to house their canning jars. On top of the cupboard is a panther lamp which belonged to David’s grandparents, a piece of Guatemalan pottery  and a woodland scene created by Teeny Brannon.

One peril of living in a historic home is the lack of closet space. With this in mind, we use the third bedroom as our dressing room. Outfitted with a large dresser, free standing rattan mirror and rolling racks, the closet accommodates our storage needs very well and is quite a conversation piece. Seems whenever we have guests, a small group always congregates in the dressing room. Friends of ours with houses far larger are envious of the space the dressing room offers. A pair of tortoise lamps and a framed kuba cloth from Africa finish the dresser.

Evolution is never complete. Be it an entire neighborhood or a single home, evolution is ongoing in its respect of the past and its anticipation of the future. One Sunday afternoon, I was heading to the grocery store when I heard David say with a wink in his eye, “Take a quick look around before you leave; the furniture might be rearranged by the time you get back.”  On-going indeed.

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2 Responses to “Avondale Evolution”

  1. Claire Brantley says:

    Thank you so much for publishing this article with the lovely photographs! Such an inspiration!! Everything is so tasteful and beautiful – congrats to the owners and decorators who created such a gorgeous home!!!

  2. Just purchased a piece of Alexander Walker Pottery. Just looking for Artist information. Your home is beautiful and I enjoyed looking at all of the pictures.Vilma DeMille

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