Poised and Polished

bmetro_janbuchanan_04When opportunity knocked, Tommy and Jan Buchanan answered.

Written by Brett Levine 

Photographed by Graham Yelton


Sometimes opportunity comes knocking, but in this instance, the opportunity was not quite the one that Tommy and Jan Buchanan were expecting. “We received an email one Saturday asking if we would be interested in selling our house. The prospective buyers looked early in the afternoon, made an offer a few hours later, and we had a contract the same day,” Jan says.

Shifting from housed to homebuyer in a matter of hours was not necessarily something the Buchanans had expected, but they viewed the experience as an opportunity. They began viewing homes almost immediately, and after some discussion, they decided on new construction in the Liberty Park area. With the new location determined, they knew precisely where to turn. “We met years ago,” David Walker and Sean Beam smile, standing on the upper level of the Buchanans’ beautifully decorated home. “Before we even began working with Jan and Tommy, they would come into the showroom to look.” The showroom is Richard Tubb Interiors, where Beam and Walker are designers and have worked for many years. In fact, the duo has worked with the Buchanans many times before. “This is not simply a project,” they say. “This is a friendship that happens to involve the four of us figuring out how we can best design a comfortable and livable home.”

This approach led the Buchanans to make a number of choices that reflect a contemporary approach to living. “We traded the formal dining room for a sitting room,” Jan explains, “and in many ways, this has become one of my favorite rooms in the house.” Immediately off the entry hall, the room combines four chairs set around a low coffee table with pieces the Buchanans knew and loved. “We were not asked to use any particular pieces from their former home,” Walker says, “but we designed with the idea of incorporating as many of the existing pieces as we could, and filling in where needed.”

“We let the idea of timelessness position all of our design decisions,” Beam adds. “If we select quality pieces that are beautifully made, we know that we will be able to use them in a range of spaces, or even in a new home if the owners move.”

What unifies the home is its color palette. Walker and Beam prefer a neutral foundation with accents provided through accessories and unique works of art. “The entire home is painted ‘canvas tan,’ a Sherman William color, which is a warmer white. Then we’ve accented with a range of honey, cinnamon, and burgundy tones in both the larger pieces of furniture upstairs and in soft furnishings and fabrics ranging from throw pillows to bedspreads,” Beam explains.

bmetro_janbuchanan_77“To lamps!” Jan interjects. Beam and Walker laugh because Jan’s first purchase from Richard Tubb Interiors—a lamp—put both the friendship and the love of renovation partnerships in motion.

One of the intimate aspects of the Buchanans’ home is their love of original art. A handmade ceramic work by Juanita-Alexander Walker anchors a beautiful table in the foyer. Many rooms are filled with original paintings. In the downstairs guest room, two colorful, elegant landscapes in whitewashed frames punctuate the soft hues with a bright palette. “These are by Jane Giattina,” Jan says, “who is my sister.” This passion for the personal and the intimate is most often encountered in these small vignettes, for in the larger spaces Jan and Tommy remain incredibly open to new ideas and visual experimentation. In no place is this more evident than in the family room, with its soaring ceiling and paneled hearth. A large-scale bird print from the previous home takes pride of place over the fireplace, setting the tone for a room filled with subtle references to birds. A suite of original works by Birmingham-based artist Ben Carlisle adorns the walls, while an oversize mirror creates the illusion of an even more expansive space. One unique and unexpected touch is a new table sourced by Walker and Beam—a stool with legs carved to suggest those of a horse. Surprisingly subtle, this love of legs appears again and again throughout the home, from the scrollwork legs on the coffee table nearby to the tree-influenced legs supporting an elegant marble-top in the master bedroom.

Beam and Walker laugh at the idea of the table legs being a design trend. “We try to avoid anything in our design thinking that is driven by the notion of being on-trend,” Beam says.

“We prefer to be influenced simply by natural materials,” Walker explains. “Whether it is petrified wood, or washable linens, or rattan, we think the best approach is to simply let the materials unify the spaces and help the rooms flow together. We like to use something unexpected at times, like the cork headboard in the upstairs bedroom. But the idea is always driven by the beauty of the materials, not by the ability to do something simply because we think we can.”

The family room flows seamlessly into the kitchen, and it takes a moment to realize that there is no formal dining room in the home. Jan takes the opportunity to share how this was a conscious decision. “We had the choice of making the first room off the entry either a sitting room or a dining room,” she says. “What we knew was that we wanted to create a space where everyone could be together. With the oversize kitchen island, we knew we could have everyone in the same room without losing any seating simply by thinking about the ways we wanted to live in the home a little differently.” Now the island simply creates another spot of texture in the home. Surrounded by seating, it pulls the washable linen into the kitchen, unifying the space through color and fabric.

Fabrics appear again, unexpectedly, in the powder rooms. “This wallpaper is so unexpected I imagine people will probably want to touch it,” Walker says. He is certainly correct. The bathroom is papered with something so malleable that its color is almost indeterminate—It is as if it is silver and gold at the same time, and it is as if it is both flat and flocked as well. “Sean and I believe that wallpaper is a fantastic solution for small spaces such as these,” Walker explains. “It is difficult to decide what artwork might work. The pieces are always in jeopardy. Why not solve the problem with something that is visually exciting but without all the problems that attach to original works? We think this is something that can work, and it certainly does here.”

bmetro_janbuchanan_69Another unexpected aspect of the home is its entertaining spaces. Upstairs are three bedrooms and a large, open space filled with comfortable sofas and a flat screen television. The Buchanans and their family and friends gather here to watch football and other events. “I didn’t know we would use this space as much as we do,” Tommy says. “Even when it is just the two of us at home, we love coming upstairs and having the space to lounge.” When they are not upstairs, they have another choice. “Have you seen the outdoor pavilion yet?” Tommy asks.

Outside, the Buchanans have a cabana-style seating area that opens onto a courtyard. Here, Beam and Walker specified unique fabrics that could withstand their outdoor environment. “We used Sunbrella fabrics, so these are totally suited to being outdoors,” they explain. “We knew that Jan and Tommy wanted to enjoy the entire home, and part of that was being able to use the outdoor spaces in the best possible way. Since the home essentially has a zero lot line, it was essential to think of how these available opportunities could be well-designed for comfortable living.” Certainly the Buchanans agree. “We love living here,” Jan says. “We are probably enjoying this house as much or more as our previous home,” Tommy agrees. “Being where we are actually allows us to settle in at home. When we are finished for the day, we like to simply enjoy the house and take advantage of where we are. In part that means enjoying the community we live in, but more than that it literally means enjoying being here.”

The Buchanans credit Beam and Walker with making the home as livable and wonderful as it is. “Their designs and decisions have been a huge part of us being happy here,” Tommy says. So when faced with an unexpected opportunity, Jan and Tommy made a surprising decision. They sold their home in a day. Then they asked two friends, Sean Beam and David Walker, to help them turn what they knew could be a good house into what they wanted—a great home. Now filled with pieces they have loved their whole lives, with family treasures, and with the occasional classic with a hint of wit and whimsy, Tommy and Jan have a treasure that they love to come home to.

2 Responses to “Poised and Polished”

  1. Informative and interesting about the Buchanan’s home in Liberty Park area. It was so nice to read this article and to be a touch involved with Birmingham again. We lived in Birmingham for four years before moving to the metro St. Louis area. Your article reminded me of the pride and enjoyment residents of Birmingham take in their homes unlike anywhere we have ever lived! Tommy and Jan are wonderful representatives of what is right in our world…they are close friends and great ambassadors for the city!

  2. Jessica S says:

    Tommy and Jan are both exceptional people. Their kind and charismatic personalities are defined perfectly in the designs of this home where extravagance meets class and grace. Absolutely beautiful! Provence is lucky to have them!

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