Blending In

A Crestline home fits nicely in the neighborhood but holds a surprising mix of stand–out style inside.

by Mary Ellen Stancill   Photos by Beau Gustafson

Driving down one of the main streets of Crestline, you might not notice the unassuming brick home shared by Elyse and Brooks Wallace and Elyse’s 10-year-old daughter, Ella Grace McConnell. But walk through the front door, and you’re in for a real treat.
Elyse has a voracious love for interior design. Traveling often for work, she constantly seeks out new shops and art galleries, scours home magazines in airports and enjoys searching for specific pieces. “My sister is super into clothes. I’m into homes,” she says. As she gathers inspiration and patiently waits to find the perfect piece to complete a space, Elyse is also unafraid to take a few risks. The result is a home with a cohesive look that is uniquely hers, even as it evolves from crisp and neutral in the formal spaces, to bold strokes in the breakfast room and den, and finally to colorful and funky in the bedrooms.
Five years ago, Elyse purchased the “newer” home in Crestline. Built in the mid 1990s, she was sold on the livable floor plan with entertaining space and family rooms on the first floor, bedrooms on the second level, and a huge playroom up top. She decided to stick to the existing floor plan but made a few initial cosmetic changes—painting walls and trim white, adding recessed lighting, and refinishing the wood floors. “But when I put my furniture in here, it felt like Alice in Wonderland when [Alice] shrinks,” explains Elyse. “My last house was so much smaller than this one that none of my furniture really fit. The scale was completely off.” So she purged most of her furnishings and slowly started adding new pieces over time.
Elyse laughs as she recalls her first date with her now husband, Brooks. “He came and picked me up and asked how long I had lived here. I had lived in this house for six or seven months but it was still basically empty.” That’s when she knew it was time to get to work. So, beginning with the first floor, Elyse worked with local designer Betsy Brown to achieve the calm, clean feel she craved for the living spaces of her home.
The focal point of the living room is a baby grand piano given to Elyse by her mother. A recently commissioned piece, a portrait of an unnamed girl by Arthur Price, hangs to one side. A large, wooden orb purchased through Betsy Brown Interiors rests beneath the piano. All of these elements work together to create a soothing, yet interesting, display in the mostly white room. “I just love the way this house makes me feel when I come in,” says Elyse.
In the dining room, a series of photographs by Vicki Hunt and purchased at Jennifer Hunt Gallery create a modern foil to the antique lantern found at Southern Accents, located just down the road in Cullman.
The majority of Elyse’s furnishings and art were purchased locally. “I travel with my job all over the Southeast,” says Elyse. “But I’ve really found that Birmingham just has so many great stores, so many great resources. I love supporting local artists and stores.”
The breakfast room and den punch up the neutral color palette with strong sweeps of brown and orange. A brown velvet sofa wraps around the room and easily seats large gatherings of friends, especially during football season. The orange S chairs provide additional seating, and a series of sketches mimics the lines of the sofa and keeps the room from feeling too contemporary.
Upstairs, Elyse worked with Lisa Flake to design the bedrooms. Each room retains the same all white walls as the rest of home, but an unexpected mix of patterns and fabrics—gray and yellow in the master suite, green and turquoise with pink accents in Ella Grace’s room, and white and silver in the guest bedroom—offers a more lighthearted feel.
Now the home is a happy blend of Elyse’s various styles and influences. But as with any person who loves design, the process is ongoing. Next up? The third story playroom is getting a makeover. And since she’s culled through stacks and stacks of home design magazines stored on the top floor retreat, Elyse has the ideas and the space to get started.

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