By Emily Williams
For the past few years, downsizing has been the big trend in home building in the Over the Mountain area.
Builders who have been lucky enough to secure the smaller pockets of undeveloped property nestled in the Homewood, Mountain Brook and Vestavia Hills areas organize their space wisely, fitting in homes that are on the smaller side.
Though the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders has found one of those few open areas of Vestavia Hills, the 2018 Ideal Home, located at 871 Southbend Circle, is showcasing something different.
“I would almost call it the Idea Home rather than the Ideal Home,” said the builder, Alicia Huey of AGH Homes Inc.
The five bedroom, 4 1/2 bath home boasts just less than 3,500 square feet and is nestled in the developing community Southbend, located on the corner of Wisteria Drive and Rocky Ridge Road. With multiple builders working on houses in the community, the houses will, for the most part, be starkly different from each other.
Huey said Southbend’s Lot 2 house has been a work in progress since the beginning, with Huey allowing the space to guide her creativity.
“Whenever one of my workers asks me what I want, my answer is usually, ‘First, make it look pretty,’” Huey said. “The homes I make are custom homes, so there aren’t any stock plans.
“Some people might be intimidated by that process. But once you get started, it’s really an easy process,” she said. “It gives you a chance to really put personal touches in. Even after the framing of the house is done, I still want to make changes and it’s easy to do that when you don’t have a set plan.”
Though the home is still under construction, it’s well on its way to accommodating guests for the Parade of Homes tour beginning April 27. Many of Huey’s details already are present.
Guests enter the house in a small foyer with brick walls, which leads to an open living space that incorporates living, dining and kitchen space.
To the left of the foyer is the first bedroom. With nothing built above that room, the bedroom/study has high vaulted ceilings.
The bathroom, which still is being tiled, features taupe and muted light blue tiles in the shower area.
Back in the living space, a linear wood-burning fireplace made of brick makes a statement against the right wall.
Huey said the floors will be hardwood throughout, and the furnishings her interior designer will bring in are planned to create a look that emulates “a comfortable feel with a modern edge.”
The kitchen will feature white cabinetry, neutral countertops and a central island for plenty of prep space and seating.
Embracing the trend of having pops of color, and using the trendiest color of the year – blue – the commanding piece in the kitchen will be a cobalt blue Viking stove and 48-inch gas range.
“Everything can be easily changed to suit different tastes,” Huey said. “Viking is making different colored panels for these ranges now. So, if someone doesn’t like the cobalt blue, they can just change out the panels instead of having to replace the whole thing.”
All of the kitchen appliances will be Viking, including a refrigerator as well as an ice maker and wine refrigerator in a wet bar on the kitchen’s right-hand wall, next to a walk-in pantry.
At the back of the home is a sliding glass door that covers nearly the entire wall and leads out to a covered porch. The patio will be covered in a slate-colored reclaimed tile that is long and horizontal with grooves that mimic hardwood flooring.
With the right and left sides of the backyard flanked by outer walls of the home, a large, custom-built, brick outdoor fireplace makes a statement against the back edge of the yard.
“We’re going to drop in some pavers as a path to the fireplace, and off to the left we’ll have a little area where the owner can string up lights,” Huey said.
To create the feeling of a private courtyard, Huey is planning to install iron fencing around the back of the property with landscaping to fill in the gaps, creating a natural barrier from Wisteria Drive.
Master of the House
Approaching the first-level master bedroom at the back left portion of the house, guests will pass a powder room with a toilet and sink. To give the small space a bit of an edge, Huey’s team installed bricks against the back wall in a herringbone pattern.
Then comes the laundry room, which is filled with natural light from two windows. The floor tile is one of Huey’s favorite finds. It’s sizeable square tiles with a muted blue damask pattern imprinted on them.
“My thought was, if you have to be in here anyways, might as well make it pretty,” Huey said.
To keep the space as functional as possible, the galley-style set up along the right wall includes the washer/dryer units at the back and a large counter top with deep sink and large drawers that Huey had custom-made to fit laundry baskets.
Secluded down a short hallway, the master bedroom immediately makes a statement. The ceilings, which Huey has dubbed a “barreled, vaulted ceiling,” are the focal point. A central square juts upward and has been lined with richly colored reclaimed wood, with the pattern resembling that of a wooden barrel.
With a set of small French doors, the master bathroom feels like an open space. To the left is a large master closet with vaulted ceilings and two large pendant light fixtures that have a central bulb encased by a globe of vertical strands of oversized taupe beads.
The master bath also feels like an enormous open space, with nearly half of the back section of the room sectioned off by a glass wall and a slightly raised and tiled shower space. To the right of the door is a vanity and sink, with a section of the glass wall becoming a mirror for the section of vanity that faces it.
Bathroom fixtures in the master bath, as well as all of the other bathrooms are Kohler.
The large bathing area offers three ways to bathe. On the right side of the area, a large white porcelain tub is positioned on the back wall. A standard shower head is fixed on the right side toward the front.
The left section of the shower features Kohler’s new Real Rain shower head fixed to the ceiling, with an accompanying hand-held sprayer on the back wall.
“Originally, the shower didn’t take up half of the room,” Huey said. “But as we were working, there was all of this wasted space. So, I thought, why not make it bigger.”
After seeing TV commercials for the Real Rain shower head a number of times, Huey said she fell in love with the feature and felt it was the perfect way to fill in the extra shower space and maintain the clean lines that had been created in the room.
“If you look around, you don’t see any knobs for the fixtures,” Huey said. “We’ve got two touch keypads on either wall and you can use those to turn on any of the fixtures and set the temperature that you want.”
The second floor of the home, which includes three bedrooms, is where Huey has included some of her favorite creative touches.
Stairs to the second floor are positioned on the right side of the home in a small hallway between the living area and a three-car garage. Iron handrails crafted by Red Mountain Ironworks grace the stairwell.
The first bedroom is what Huey has named the “Little Girl’s Room.”
On the wall beside the door, a wooden ladder leads to a small loft with a picket-fence safety rail and two teal metal sconces.
“We’re going to use chalkboard paint on the walls, so you’ll be able to draw on them,” Huey said.
A Jack-n-Jill bathroom with separate sink and counter spaces and a shared toilet and shower leads to Huey’s “Little Boy’s Room.”
The back wall and vaulted ceiling in the room are paneled with tongue-and-groove wood and will feature a basketball goal.
“We named it the little boy’s room, but it’s really for anyone. I call it the basketball room,” Huey said. “It’s over the garage, so they can dribble and shoot hoops all they want and they won’t bother anyone below,” Huey said.
On the opposite wall, Huey built two square niches of shelving into the wall, imagining that they could be used to display medals and trophies.
When decorated, the space will be devoted to the UAB Blazers, Huey’s favorite team.
The third bedroom will be set up as a guest bedroom. To add character to what could have been a plain white box, Huey vaulted a portion of the ceiling, taking over a small section of attic space. She then paneled it in tongue-and groove wood and installed a couple of small windows, creating a flood of light from the ceiling and the windowed wall of the room.
“Our decorator said she has this big painting she wants to put on this back wall of the room, so all of this natural light from these windows will really draw attention to that,” she said.
The room has its own bathroom, which could be in the running for the room with the most character.
The floor is outfitted with hexagonal white tiles with black patterns in a variety of designs, which complement the stark white oversized tiles that flank the shower. To top it off, the countertop is a neutral color with sparkling flecks throughout.
The variety of tile in the home is something Huey attributes to supply and demand.
“Tile has come a long way,” she said. “It’s not just for the bathroom anymore and there are so many styles.”
With tile being on trend, the mar- ket is flushed with every style imaginable.
“I tend to just fall in love with something and then I’ll find a place for it,” Huey said.
“With the tiles, I’ll usually go to the brick company and ask them what is most popular and get suggestions. I find it better to see what is happening and what is available, then I’ll find a place for it.”
Keeping it Unique
Those details and pops of character throughout the home are Huey’s way of adding a little extra to the home to make it stand out, rather than settling for anything stark or cookie cutter.
“My goal when I build is functionality of family,” Huey said.
“Being female in this industry – which there aren’t very many of us – it’s natural for me to envision and keep in mind how this family will use the space every day. They’ll be cook- ing breakfast, doing homework at the table and the business of the day, dropping things off and grabbing things as you run in and out of the door.”
Apart from character, the house incorporates modern features that many homeowners have come to expect. It’s outfitted with the increasingly popular tankless water heater and both a Bluetooth-compatible Carrier air-conditioning system and security system.
According to Huey, what makes the home “ideal” is that it has enough living space for a family but is small enough to bring the family together.
“Floor plans changed a lot after 9/11. Floor plans started to trend more towards bringing the family together rather than room to spread out,” she said.
The only open living space is on the main floor. As it combines all of the communal living spaces in one room, Huey noted that it draws the family out of their bedrooms to one central space.
“There are enough bedrooms for a family of five and you have one space to be together and eat dinner, watch TV, cook s’mores outside in the fireplace. And that space is big and open enough to entertain others,” she said.
Huey shares ownership of the Ideal Home with her suppliers and crew, being born not only of her creativity, but those she works with.
Because Huey likes to leave the plans for custom builds such as this loose, allowing for changes and sparks of inspiration to work their way into the home, she relies on her suppliers to lend their own ideas and expertise to create a better product.
“It has been such a pleasure to work with all of my suppliers,” she said. “I think that is because they take ownership of it as well, because they know their work is being showcased.” ❖