One House – Three Designs





Architect Bobby McAlpine’s former house in Montgomery, Alabama was modeled after Edwin Lutyens’ Homewood. 




Homewood was built in 1901 for Dowager Lady Lytton, who was to soon become his mother-in-law.  The Luytens children spent summer holidays at Homewood, so it truly was a family house – held by the Luytens until 1973 when it was sold.  Today it is a bed and breakfast inn.  In this picture of the back side of Homewood, you can see the three large windows which McAlpine used as inspiration.   Also notice the two wings that flank the windows, another feature that McAlpine incorporated along with the lilting silhouette.



The three large doors that McAlpine used to emulate Homewood’s three large windows.  Like Homewood, there are two small wings that flank these windows. 



imageAn early picture of the Montgomery house showing the side entrance before the vines covered the pergola over the entrance.  The carriage house is seen at the very left.    





The front of Homewood.   Notice how McAlpine’s roof mimics the left side of Lutyens’ house.




Montgomery, Alabama.  Notice the shadow of the huge tree!   The photographer probably waited all day for this shot!    Above the doors is the window of one of the bedrooms.  Another matching bedroom is on the other side’s window above the pergola. 




image View that shows the small wing that flanks the three windows/doors on the side.  One wing holds the kitchen, another holds a bedroom.   (Is that a headless ghost running there?  What IS that?!!!)


Bobby McAlpine, a recent guest on The Skirted Roundtable, started out early.   He began drawing floor plans at age five.  When he was 12, he designed an addition to his house that his parents ultimately had built.    McAlpine was to oversee the contractor when he got home from school.   The contractor balked at taking instructions from the precocious 12 year old but McAlpine’s father told him to do so, or they would find another contractor who would.    His first commission came a year later when he was 13 and he designed a ranch house for a woman, complete with floor plans, all for under $100.   At 16, he designed a new house for his parents which they built – an experience that bonded the two men forever.   All amazing stories, but not really surprising, given the genius that is the man.   A gift from God like he possesses isn’t something one learns at college,   you are either born with it or not.   And Bobby McAlpine was born with his talent, in spades. 

The first house that McAlpine built for himself is located in Montgomery, Alabama.   Receiving much press, this house is usually the one that most first took notice of McAlpine, and it remains a favorite among the legions of his devotees.  Built in 1995, McAlpine was 36 and single at the time - he took inspiration (one of the few times he ever did so) from Edwin Lutyens’ Homewood.   McAlpine revealed on The Skirted Roundtable that he has visited the original Homewood and his house  is “so much better!”    Of course it is.   Though the Montgomery house resembles the English Cotswold style, McAlpine calls it “Monastery Modern.”   The floors are concrete tiles of irregular shapes.   There is no molding and no window trim., details left out to make the house feel “permanent and resonant.”

Although McAlpine had remodeled the house three times, the house was still missing something – a happiness that can only come when its shared with someone else.   He eventually sold the house to a “beautiful” young architect who works for his firm.   Today that architect, his wife and two children happily live in the 3 bedroom house which Bobby admits was designed for a bachelor.  There is true love in the house now, something that was lacking at the time for McAlpine.   It’s fascinating to follow the three decors that McAlpine installed – each is completely different from the other.   This story is about those three different stages of the same house.   Enjoy!


NOTE:    Bobby’s last name  is not pronounced Mc-AL-Pine, accent on the Pine.   Instead he pronounces it Ma-CAL-pen – accent on the CAL, so much harder to say it that way!!!!  And, Edwin Lutyens is a name I have also always mispronounced!   Ma-CAL-pen called him Lutch-ins.  Don’t even ask how I always pronounced Lutyens.



STAGE I:   A Self Portrait in Warm Greens



Stage One:   Here how the house first looked when McAlpine moved in.  A mixture of beautiful antiques chairs and tables, the main living area is colorful in many shades of green.  The salon is two stories high, with a 70’ aisle or  landing that connects the two bedrooms upstairs.     The bottom of the front door is seen on the very upper left.    McAlpine calls this first stage his “self portrait.”     During this self portrait phase, he filled the house with things he loved and had collected:  An antique Flemish tapestry, a Dutch chandelier, a collection of corner chairs.    The dining room doubles as a work area:  the table is behind the sofa.  Alas, this decor was not to remain.  He states that he cycles every 3 years when he must either move or redecorate.



 image  Looking the other direction towards the antique limestone fireplace dating from the 16th century.   The house was built without moldings or window trims.   The landing or bridge runs between two identical staircases.   The floor is made of concrete pavers of irregular sizes. McAlpine says he loves chairs and his collection of antique Os de Mouton chairs is gorgeous.     





A view from the upstairs bridge overlooking the tapestry in the main living area below.   Notice how the huge column does not reach the ceiling!





Behind the fireplace is a small sitting room.   The cypress paneling here is on a grid, and is repeated throughout several other rooms.   You can see a bedroom through the paneling that opens like a door.



image  One of the three bedrooms (this one is downstairs in the wing) with its gorgeous twin beds and the long table between.   A modern bench is the surprise here.  Notice the beautiful trio of windows here that give the house its English Cotswold feel.   These windows are repeated in the kitchen which fills the opposite wing.



image The kitchen with its long row of windows.  This might be the kitchen that inspired all the farm sinks and no overhead cabinets!   (sorry for the bad picture splice!)


Stage II:   The White Interior


A few years after moving in, McAlpine decided to completely change his interiors.  All the greens, yellows and oranges are now gone, replaced with white.    Stage II is what Bobby calls his “white phase.”    He was celebrating, he had lots of parties, and he became the owner of a white greyhound that he wanted to match to his house.  I can really relate to that feeling!!!  Notice the beautiful column made into a side table. 




image  Looking towards the fireplace, Bobby added a very tall screen to play with proportions.   I LOVE the antique French barometer he has placed hanging on the screen.  And notice the side table – one piece of concrete atop two small sawhorses!!!  Upstairs, the window of one of the bedrooms is open to below.   



A long concrete table with logs underneath and candles above is settled in front of the wall of windows. 





A beautiful concrete urns sits before the grid patterned wall.   Here, McAlpine mixes stools with chairs and a settee around the dining table – an early trademark of his.  Notice how the door to the bedroom is hidden in the paneling.





The upstairs bedroom where the bed, placed between two large pier mirrors, sits in front of the large side window. 




Reflection in the mirror shows the bridge upstairs between the two bedrooms. 





image The view again of the upstairs bridge and staircase.  I love all the concrete items he has in the house – like this orb in the corner on a pedestal.




STAGE III:   Dark and Serious



It’s difficult to realize that this is the exact same space as the White Phase, yet it is!  The third makeover goes completely dark.  For the first time a large dark striped rug covers the concrete floor.  This third phase which followed McAlpine’s white celebratory phase is called his introspective phase.  Here he wanted to “dim the houselights and contemplate all that had just happened and what was going to be.”   The walls were darkened with linseed oil and pigment.   Notice how beautiful and structural the rafters are that hold up the bridge.        Interior designer Susan Ferrier worked with McAlpine on this phase.   She is a partner with McAlpine Booth and Ferrier Interiors




A close up of the fireplace.  What a beautiful rug!   And the desk and chairs are all so beautiful.    I particularly love the map on the mantel.  During Phase III, the house became more decidedly masculine - a sanctuary, McAlpine states.    He was feeling vulnerable at this stage in his life and he darkened the walls so that they would envelop him and warm him, like a blanket.    The map of Bohemia allowed Bobby to pretend the house was in another country, where he could hide out until he could figure out where he needed to go next.   Actually, he ended up buying an old house in Nashville where he now lives with his partner, although his company remains in Montgomery.   



Close up of the small McAlpine sofas side by side, which give more people arm rests, he says.   Notice the windows on this side are grids, like the others throughout. 





The stunning desk floats in front of the three doors that lead to the side courtyard.   The white curtains have been replaced with these darker ones made of chocolate brown mohair. 



 image A Saladino shelter sofa sits in front of the entry.   Interestingly on The Skirted Roundtable, McAlpine mentions John Saladino as the only “living” designer he admired.  




Behind the fireplace, the space is filled with another shelter sofa and chairs.  


 image   Beautiful statue of a greyhound. 



imageThe kitchen is so gorgeous – I love the rafters, the bank of windows and the sconces flanking them.  







In the upstairs bedroom, this bed was designed by McAlpine, who has a line of furniture he designs for LEE Industries HERE.    I wish I could see the map!





The other side of the bedroom, seen above.  




The modern and the antique - this juxtaposition is seen throughout this house.


After studying all three stages this house went through, I am not sure which version I prefer.  I might like the white version most.   There are things in the first version I liked too.  The third version, the dark one, is probably my least personal favorite simply because it is so dark – but I do love the furniture and the interior design of the third version.  So, it’s difficult to say which version I like best.  I’m going to say which one I would probably like to live in the most –  the white version, or Stage II, but include in that the bedroom from Stage I and the antiques from Stage III.   What about you?   What is your favorite of the three styles? 


Be sure to listen to the Skirted Roundtable with Bobby McAlpine HERE

And to order his book, The Home Within Us, go HERE.

Gray is the New Turquoise?




Everywhere I turn I see gray.   Or, should I be chic for once and say gris or greige or griege?   I actually never knew you could spell greige – griege, both ways are correct.  But, let’s get back to just plain gray.   It’s everywhere.    I know it is in my house.   A few months ago, I painted my yellow walls gray.  Couldn’t do it fast enough.  Every time I show something gray on the blog, I get tons of emails  wanting to know the paint color.  I can’t tell you how times I’ve been asked exactly what GRAY did Sally Wheat use in her kitchen   (Benjamin Moore Fieldstone.)     Has everyone gone nuts over gray?  A lot of bloggers it seems are currently going gray:   Visual Vamp, Velvet and Linen, and Trouvais, to name four, including moi.    I even wrote a blog story on a shop filled with gray Swedish antiques called The Gray Door.  If you are planning to repaint your house gray,    be forewarned!    Painting gray is serious business.  I went through 15, yes, 15 gray paint samples before I settled on one.  Gray paint can suddenly go either purple, lilac, blue, yellow,  taupe or just plain Lady Blah Blah before it even dries.    Carefully choose your gray and always, always, test it before you go out and buy 50 gallons of one color.    Whether you are on the band wagon or not, gray is everywhere these days.  Check out these two blogs that write exclusively about the color:   Greige (or griege) HERE and The Perfect Gray HERE.  

Now, I am perfectly aware that gray was declared the new black  last year, and Pantone declared turquoise as THE color of 2010, so I was somewhat surprised at this month’s Elle Decor magazine.    While reading it last week, I had to stop – every single ad was GRAY!!!  I swear!  You don’t believe me?  Well, almost every ad was gray, as you will see below.   



This is the gray I love.   Rustic, worn, antique – not the contemporary dark bluish gray. 




This light gray with a hint of lilac is so pretty mixed with Swedish antiques.  This beauty comes from Splendid Willow’s house!!!  Gorgeous.




Gray with a hint of yellow in it.  Light gray mixed with darker gray.  


 image Beautiful cool grays and blue mixed together – Cabbages and Roses. 







Chilly, cold gray.  Gray that makes you want to grab a sweater and light a fire and warm it up with gilt mirrors.  And then move to Belgium. 


 image Gerrie Bremermann bragged to Southern Accents that she always uses the same palette of creams, whites, ivories.   Well, here she went with gray.  



 image  I’ve always loved this dining room by Barbara Westbrook.   It’s painted Tobacco by Pratt and Lambert, yet it looks gray to me! 



 image From Belgian Pearls, gah!   Too gorgeous for words.  Gray paneled walls, crystal chandelier, French doors, the ceiling, the vanishing threshold  (thanks to Tara Dillard) !!!!! 




Belgian gray mixed with taupe and cream linens. 



imageI always thought Sally Wheat lived in a gray house.  We ALL know her kitchen is gray, but last Friday she repainted her house a Farrow and Ball gray that went blue.  Her husband walked in and said  “Are the walls blue?”   No, but your black eye will be blue in about five minutes!!!  Here are her walls before she painted then – the shutters are definitely gray.






In Houston my favorites decor stores are gray  - like Indulge, filled with furniture from France’s Blanc d’Ivoire (she just got in a whole new shipment of their gorgeous gray furniture BTW.)



 imageTwenty Six Twenty on Joanel is filled with gray antiques.   Always.  





 At M. Naeve, even the floors are painted white and gray checkerboard.   




image   Last year Tami Owen did a beautiful showhouse in West University filled with grays and whites, like the Master Bedroom. 




My own paint dilemma started after I put down white marble in my kitchen.   The yellow walls had to go, ASAP.  It looked terrible with the new marble.




The Pratt And Lambert Feathered Gray looks so much better in my house.    It’s a very light gray, bordering on the taupish side.   Not for someone who wants a deep, bluish gray. 





The dining room shown here in yellow.


   image I like it so much better in gray, but the yellow drapes and table cloth will probably be changed out soon.  



The Visual Vamp’s dining room was bright red and peacock blue.   She really went crazy with gray paint.



The same dining room today – all in grays and whites!   I love this change. 



Brooke Giannetti from Velvet and Linen has been updating her house.  Here, her sunroom is all Shabby Chic in pinks and greens, before.



Now:  it is her gorgeous study in Swedish grays.   Beautiful!!!!



Recently, Brooke and her husband took their children’s all white study here……



And went all industrial grays.   What a great space for their 3 teenagers!!!




Trish from the blog Trouvais has gone just a little crazy painting her room gray.    Here are some of her choices.   In the end, I think she mixed the feathered gray (my gray) with a Benjamin Moore white.   But who knows what she ended up with?  She’s probably in some asylum, straight jacketed to keep her away from gray paint and brushes!!!!



A peek at the project – the gray is light and subtle, but so pretty!!! 



BEFORE:    The Yellow House HERE:  This picture cracks me up!  Boy, can I relate!  



AFTER:   She ended up with Coventry Gray by Benjamin Moore, which she said “went a little blue.”  Ah, yes.  I know that problem.  But I think the paint job looks wonderful! 




xJavierx showed these popular designer gray colors on his Flickr tour. HERE.


The September issue of Elle Decor was FILLED with ads featuring gray.   I was just dumbfounded.  Ad after ad after ad was gray.    Gray  must really be the hottest color out there.   But wasn’t the color of the year supposed to be raspberry or mauve?   That’s what everyone who went to the European decor shows said – mauve was everywhere.  And those who have attended decor shows in the U.S. say purple is THE color.   But, didn’t Pantone declare that turquoise was THE color of 2010.    This shade exactly:




So, I ask  you, if Turquoise is the color of 2010,   why are all the advertisers pushing gray so heavily?  Here are all the ads in this month’s Elle Decor featuring gray.  Let me tell you – most of the ads in the magazines are here, few did not feature gray.  




image Kravet went with a big spread on golds and grays from Thom Filicia.  



image Plantation went with gray sofa, blue-gray walls and even the zebra rug is gray.  



image Baker used a very light silvery gray on their sofas and walls mixed with the golds again.  


image Even the rugs are all gray.


Ugh.  Yards and yards of contemporary gray, my least favorite.    This is SO not me!!!



imageimage For their leathers, Larsen brought in a gray and brown pillow.  It could have been any color, but they went with this. 



image Arhaus chose gray and cream stripes and grayish taupish upholstery.   Love this!!!!



imageMacy’s got hip with contemporary gray bedding and walls.



image Even LEVELOR blinds got into the act!!!!   Looks like my old yellow walls.



image Travers dark grays with yellow.   Sally Wheat keeps telling me she loves that combination and maybe she has a point!?!!   Love this ad!



image Bernhardt mixed grays, light and dark with two blue chairs.  Pretty.



imageSeriously, what is going here?   Have you ever seen so many ads featuring gray????



image Gray walls, white bedding, brown wood. 


image OK OK OK, I get the point already!  Gray is hot!



image Seriously, did American Leather HAVE to feature gray?   Why not the color of the year, turquoise? 



image The final ad features my favorite gray – Swedish gray furniture, soft grayish taupe on the wood work, grayish white painted floors.  


With all this gray in the advertising, you would think the September Elle Decor featured houses with a lot of gray, but no.   Not a one.  Which was a huge relief after the sea of gray ads.   I can’t remember another color that has so dominated like this.  Can you?    Gray is the new black again, I guess.  Personally, I like to wear turquoise, not decorate with it!





AND – IN OTHER NEWS,  Beadboard Upcountry in Brenham, Texas is having  a trunk show featuring their wonderful line of winter capes and gloves, shown above.   The show runs through this Wednesday – so HURRY!!!!   Go HERE to get all the details.   I have one of these capes myself, and it is truly beautiful!