Text: Lydia Somerville
Photos: John O’Hagan
For longtime clients, designer Liz Hand Woods envisioned a luxurious home for two that easily welcomed children and grandchildren. “The wife said she wanted a house that felt like being on vacation,” says Woods. “She also loves everything ‘white and light,’ so we used white stone, white upholstery, and white marble.” On a quiet circle in Birmingham’s Mountain Brook neighborhood, the house already felt removed from the hustle of daily life, but Woods bestowed a sense of enchantment on the secluded retreat.
One enters the house through a pair of gates into a loggia, where an outdoor seating and dining area blur the distinction between indoors and out. With Paul Bates at the architectural helm, every detail is considered, from the circular window set in a brick starburst that opens to the kitchen to the louvered panels of doors, giving the outdoor room all the polish of an interior space.
Inside, a narrow room they call the gallery welcomes the visitor with a sweeping plaster stair rail at the far end, adding sculptural interest. A large urn that resides in its curve year-round serves to display the Christmas tree above the reach of curious young hands. “The urn was one of those things I bought at an antiques market, not really knowing where it would go,” says Woods. “If I see an interesting piece I buy it, and eventually it will find its way into a project. I opened a store so that I could have an inventory of finishing touches.”
The living room and dining room proceed across the house, separated from the gallery by columns. With beamed ceilings, painted white of course, these gathering spaces have an intimacy conducive to the daily habits of two people, with a television concealed behind clever folding doors over the fireplace. The waxed oak paneling injects warmth into the room without heaviness. The dining area, adjacent to the bright and airy kitchen, takes its warmth from velvet upholstery and an oak cabinet that stores the family’s tableware. White painted brick lends a sense of weight to the room and distinguishes it from the living room, while a modern chandelier contributes a sense of fun.
The primary bedroom evokes a luxury hotel with French doors opening onto the pool. A silk rug underfoot and sheer wool draperies add refined texture to the serene space. An encaustic by K. Chesney hangs over the bed without disrupting the peaceful palette. Mirrored doors open into the luxurious bathroom centered on a freestanding tub. Bates designed the faintly Moorish architectural feature to frame the tub and window and elevate the room. In a final detail that feels like the ultimate in hospitality, Woods placed a garden seat next to the tub. “I like to use garden seats in bathrooms because they can get wet,” she says, “and it’s a nice place to put a glass of wine.”