By Keysha Drexel
Although Margaret Shuttlesworth and her family moved into their house almost 12 years ago, the Mountain Brook woman said the decor of the Salisbury Road home is still not set in stone.
Instead of quickly filling her house with furniture and art and objects just to have it look “done,” Shuttlesworth has spent years discovering just the right look to reflect the developing story of her family.
“I’m not a decorate-in-a-day kind of person. I’ve never been interested in having my home look like something out of a generic catalog,” she said. “To me, it’s more important that every room evolve with our family.”
Shuttlesworth lives in the two-story brick Colonial Revival-style home with her husband of 15 years, Perry, and their daughters–14-year-old Tate and 13-year-old Maggie.
A lifelong member of Independent Presbyterian Church, Shuttlesworth is the chairman of the 65th IPC Holiday House Tour, which will take place this December.
The Shuttlesworths’ house was built by the Jemison Companies in 1929–the same year Robert Jemison developed Mountain Brook as an extensive residential subdivision.
In the living room, Shuttlesworth keeps a copy of a book published by the Birmingham Historical Society which includes a reprint of an article from the April 1929 issue of The Jemison Magazine.
In the article, it says that “the house contains a large living room with Colonial mantels, a delightful sunroom, dining room, breakfast room, with two Colonial corner china cabinets, tile wainscoted kitchen, an enclosed rear service-porch, two closets, and a tile wainscoted lavatory. There is a main entrance hall from which a Colonial stairway leads to the second floor where we find four nice bedrooms, and a sleeping porch.”
And while much of the house has changed since that article was written 85 years ago, Shuttlesworth said it was the home’s integrity that first attracted her to it.
“I used to live on Diaper Row, and I would stroll my babies past this house,” she said. “I loved the bones of this old house. I loved that the materials they used back then were solid.”
Shuttlesworth said the home’s location was another bonus.
“We just love English Village and being able to walk pretty much anywhere,” she said. “It’s a great neighborhood.”
And while Shuttlesworth said she loves the convenience of living on Salisbury Road, what really sold her on the house was its balance of public and private areas.
“It has this wonderful, private backyard that allows you to just relax and unwind and feel like you’re in your own little oasis,” she said.
A few years ago, the family installed a bocce ball court in the yard. It’s where they spend a lot of time on summer evenings, Shuttlesworth said.
In the front yard, guests are greeted by a manicured lawn with mature boxwoods and trees, including a huge magnolia offering plenty of shade along with its sweetly-scented blooms.
“It’s pretty funny that even way back in 1929 in that article on the house they mention something about ‘a flagstone walk leading from the street to the terrace through the beautiful lawn of Bermuda grass,'” Shuttlesworth said. “I guess a great yard has always been a selling point.”
While Shuttlesworth said she has loved learning about the house’s history, she said she has tried to make sure her family’s story is also told there.
“There’s a story behind pretty much every single thing in this house, and when you take all those stories and put them together, it’s the story of our lives,” she said.
And in the Shuttlesworths’ living room, which is bathed in natural light from an abundance of large windows, there are stories aplenty.
A pair of wingback chairs sitting around a small table near the front window reminds Shuttlesworth of the thrill of finding something for a good price, she said.
“I got the chairs at an antique shop near the airport for $100 and recovered them. I love those funky chairs,” Shuttlesworth said.
An owl sculpture on the table is a Frank Fleming piece her husband gave her. A bronze wreath hanging above the fireplace is also a Frank Fleming creation.
A large gravestone rubbing that was done by Shuttlesworth’s mother from Westminster Abbey hangs on the other side of the living room.
“My family is actually related to the woman depicted on the gravestone, so it’s a neat piece to have,” she said.
The metal coffee table in the living room came from a flea market in Paris. Shuttlesworth bought it from a local antique shop several years ago.
“I bought these little chairs that sit at the coffee table at a Junior League sale years ago, and I’ve used them in a lot of different ways,” she said.
Using things in different ways is something of a trend with Shuttlesworth.
An antique leather floor screen has been repurposed from a room divider to an accent piece above the sofa in the living room.
“A friend, local designer Marcia Unger, actually gave me that idea and I didn’t know how it would work at first, but now I think it is where it’s supposed to be–for now,” Shuttlesworth said. “I’m always moving things around as our children grow up and we use the rooms of the house in different ways.”
The room that has evolved the most in how it is used is probably the library on the main level just off the living room, Shuttlesworth said.
“The library area has changed dramatically over the years. It used to be a TV room when the kids were younger, but now it’s been claimed for a new purpose,” Shuttlesworth. “It’s a great place to read or watch the birds out the window.”
A black and white cowhide rug and a fireplace give the spacious room a cozy feel.
“We use our fireplaces a lot, I mean a lot, ” Shuttlesworth said. “There are even some nights into May where we’ll have a fire going. It’s just a nice way to really feel at home after a long day.”
Along with a unique statuette depicting the Mistral wind that Shuttlesworth picked up while living in France as a college student, guests can’t help but notice several geodes and rocks artfully arranged around the library.
“I love rocks and their different shapes and textures,” Shuttlesworth said. “It’s about bringing nature inside, and you will see them all over the house.”
A large chunk of amethyst–Shuttlesworth’s birthstone–sits on an antique sideboard in the formal dining room.
“I found that a few years ago at an outdoor rock show in North Carolina, and I never get tired of looking at it,” she said.
A butler’s pantry connecting the dining room and kitchen offers Shuttlesworth another place to display the treasures she’s found in antique shops and at art festivals over the years and things that have been handed down to her from her family.
“The portrait in the butler’s pantry is of a man who used to work for my family, and I like that it is very personal,” she said. “I also have these great plates that I found at the Magic City Art Connection one year. I love that they are one-of-a-kind, like the portrait handed down to me from my family.”
The gourmet kitchen, which features professional-grade appliances, is her husband’s realm, Shuttlesworth said.
“My husband is a fabulous cook, and he whips up some incredible dishes in here,” she said.
When they moved in, the couple ripped away layers of linoleum in the kitchen to reveal pine floors.
“We painted the entire kitchen and the cabinets, and we also replaced the old countertops with concrete countertops,” Shuttlesworth said. “Our friend Geoff Golden did such a great job on those.”
Just off the kitchen is a study that is another example of how Shuttlesworth has adjusted the way spaces in her home are used over the years.
“When the girls were little, we used this room more as a place to eat. It was all about highchairs and sippy cups at that point,” she said. “Then when they started school, it became the homework room and the place where they dumped their backpacks, but now I’m reclaiming it as my office, my own little personal space.”
The house offers plenty of personal space for everyone in the family, Shuttlesworth said.
“We have a garage apartment that used to be the servant’s quarters back when the house was first built,” she said. “Now, Maggie uses that as her sewing room. She’s been taking classes at Smocking Bird, so that gives her a quiet little retreat where she can work on her sewing.”
Shuttlesworth said she’s sure her home and how her family uses it will continue to change in the future–and she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I don’t want everything to be perfect,” Shuttlesworth said. “I like that there’s always the chance to reinvent a space by adding some new treasure I find.”
IPC Holiday Tour Benefits Children’s Program
The Independent Presbyterian Church’s Holiday House Tour is always a fun way to get Christmas decorating ideas, said Margaret Shuttlesworth, chairman for the 2014 event.
But the tour, now in its 65th year, has a purpose other than showcasing striking houses and providing holiday inspiration.
The tour supports the church’s Children’s Fresh Air Farm Summer Learning Program. The six-week summer program is for rising third, fourth and fifth-graders from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Certified teachers give the campers academic instruction and supervise enrichment activities. The children are served breakfast, lunch and snacks and go on field trips, too.
The Children’s Fresh Air Farm has been a church mission for more than 90 years, Shuttlesworth said.
Independent Presbyterian Church was founded in 1915 when members from South Highland Presbyterian Church withdrew to form a new church.
During the next seven years, the new congregation was led by Dr. Henry M. Edmonds and worshiped in Temple Emanu-El for morning services, with evening services held at the Lyric Theatre.
In those years, IPC was among the first social service agencies to initiate programs for community services in public health, child welfare and legal aid.
In 1922, the congregation established the Children’s Fresh Air Farm on Shades Mountain in the Bluff Park area.
In 1949, a group of women at the church approached the church leaders with the idea of raising money for the programs at the Children’s Fresh Air Farm.
“The women came up with the idea of holding a home tour during the holidays as a way to raise funds for the program,” said Jennifer Cope, publicity chairman for the tour this year. “I read something in the (Holiday House Tour) scrapbook that said in the beginning, some thought it was a far-fetched idea. They didn’t think people would pay to go on a tour of other people’s homes.”
But now, more than half a century later, the IPC Holiday House Tour is still going strong and still helping provide disadvantaged children with new opportunities.
“It’s a big effort from so many people each year,” Cope said. “But I think it’s something the community looks forward to every year, and it’s a wonderful way to help support the missions of our church.”
This year’s IPC Holiday House Tour is set for Dec. 13-14.
For more information, visit www.ipc-usa.org.