By Keysha Drexel
When Pat Hiden and Hank Long make their presentation at this year’s Antiques at The Gardens, it won’t be the first time the interior designer and architect have teamed up to showcase the classic design sensibilities they share.
Hiden, of Pat Hiden Interiors in Mountain Brook, and Long, president of Henry Sprott Long & Associates in Birmingham, will present together as two of the featured tastemakers––regionally and nationally known architects, interior designers and landscape designers–at the ninth annual event at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens Oct. 2-5.
“It’s always been easy to work with Pat because we both appreciate the timeless elements of design and architecture,” Long said. “So it’s a natural fit that we are presenting together at Antiques at The Gardens.”
Hiden and Long will curate a themed area with goods selected from Birmingham and other sources around the country at this year’s event.
“Our theme is classic design and gives us a chance to present ideas for things that aren’t going out of style and that can be enjoyed for years to come,” Hiden said.
Hiden and Long first met in the 1980s through Hiden’s husband, Billy.
“Billy and I went to high school together, and when I married Gina in 1979, he was in the wedding,” Long said. “So I first met Pat as a friend and then later, we worked together on a project.”
Hiden said their first collaboration was on a lake house Long designed at Pumpkin Hollow.
For that project, Hiden and Long used an approach that both said they think is key to great design work–whether that’s interior design work or architectural design work.
“You have to start with a plan, and by that, I mean a designer needs to help the client to find the right direction for them and the house they own,” she said.
Or the house they are building, Long said.
“There are some basic things you can do early on that will help the design team, and that includes not just the details but the big picture stuff, too,” he said. “It’s not just about having a window here or a lamp there in the beginning, it’s more about how the space will be used. It’s more about how you are changing your lifestyle through architecture and design.””
Along with function, location figures heavily in the planning stages of any home project, Hiden said.
“You need to look at the location of the house,” Hiden said. “Is it the primary home or a secondary house that is at the lake, in the mountains or at the beach?”
Those questions are important ones to consider before the first blueprint is drawn or fabric swatch selected, Long said.
“Whether it’s a custom build or a renovation, it’s important to figure out how the house or the addition will sit on the lot,” he said.
Once clients have figured out the “where” part of the puzzle, Hiden said just like Long, she finds out how the rooms she is designing will be used.
“I consider the lifestyle of the client. Do they have small children or are they empty nesters? Do they entertain often or need areas to watch TV or read?” she said.
Both Hiden and Long said the early stages of planning with their clients always includes a conversation about the clients’ style–what they like and what they don’t like.
“It’s not about us coming in and creating our dream home,” Hiden said. “It’s about really listening to people and figuring out how to bring their vision to life.”
Long said his father, Henry Sprott Long, who founded the architectural firm almost 70 years ago, taught him the importance of really listening to his clients.
In the 1991 book “The Residential Architecture of Henry Sprott Long,” his father is quoted as saying “that architecture is best which best satisfies the client.”
Like his father, Hank Long said the most rewarding part of his job is seeing his clients happy with their new spaces.
“I still get excited when a person I’ve worked with feels like the outcome was successful,” he said.
And that feeling is even better when the person you’re working with just happens to be someone who shares your design philosophy, Long said.
That’s what happened several years ago when Hiden and Long decided to team up on their first project that was not for a third party.
“When we decided to do our first major renovation and addition, I knew Hank would have to help us with it,” Hiden said.
Long said he jumped at the chance to help Hiden renovate the Dutch Colonial-style home she and her husband bought in 1994.
“I had always loved the house and loved the fact that it has good bones. I knew that Pat definitely had a vision for what she wanted, and that makes things easier,” Long said. “Sometimes, when you’re working with a client, you will take a lot of time in what I call the discovery phase. It can be time consuming when someone comes to you without any ideas at all of what they want, and the most successful projects are the ones where homeowners let their likes and dislikes be known early.”
And what Hiden didn’t like was the cramped kitchen and lack of open family areas in the house, built in 1935.
“We added the den and expanded the kitchen with that first big project because the kids–Taylor and Billy–were younger then, and we really needed an open den area,” Hiden said.
With Long’s expertise and Hiden’s vision, the cramped kitchen and breakfast nook were transformed into a space that will stand the test of time, complete with marble countertops, a stainless steel tile backsplash, stainless steel appliances and plenty of cabinet space.
“The kitchen was so small there were only two upper cabinets, so this is a lot better,” Hiden said. “It was really all about bringing the kitchen up to date without making it look like it was vastly different than the rest of the house.”
Hiden said one of her pet peeves is when the new part of a house doesn’t fit with the original house.
“I didn’t want that kind of abruptness where you can clearly see where the old part ends and the new begins,” she said. “But I knew Hank’s work, and I knew that wouldn’t be an issue for us.”
Long said he has always been committed to respecting the history of a house and that he brought that same philosophy to the project at Hiden’s house.
“I was always very respectful of the house and sensitive to the fact that it is a classic house that just needed updating to fit the family’s lifestyle,” he said.
The result of that update and addition was a kitchen and den that Hiden said she and her family and friends still enjoy.
The den features a decor that is at once comfortable and elegant. The couch is a light celery green that complements the richness of the draperies, chairs and rugs. The walls are a soft sandy color, and the ceiling’s exposed cedar beams give the room a natural and open look. Hardwood floors tie the new addition to the rest of the house.
The room gets plenty of natural light from the large French doors which afford a clear view of the lush garden and patio area behind the Randolph Road house.
The room gets pops of color from artwork by local artists like Sally Legg and Mark Singer. The John Lonergan painting over the fireplace was a gift from Hiden’s husband.
Built-in bookshelves display love-worn books and family photos. Built-in window seats invite guests–or the family’s dog, Curly–to get comfortable and enjoy the view.
After the den addition and kitchen expansion, Long also worked with Hiden to help convert a detached garage into a garage apartment with a den, full bath and bedroom.
“Hank also helped us with the laundry room and with adding the patio and carport,” Hiden said. “We’ve kept him busy.”
Long said that has suited him just fine.
“I think we make a great team. Working with Pat doesn’t seem much like work because we understand each other and we have fun,” he said.
But while the friends and colleagues share the same design philosophies, Long said their approach differs in one major way.
“Thomas Jefferson once said that Monticello would never be finished, and I think that’s the challenge when it comes to interior design work,” Long said. “As architects, at some point, you have to put the flag in the ground, so to speak, and say, ‘This is what we’ve decided. This is how it will be.'”
But with interior design, Hiden said, there’s not really a concrete ‘this is how it will be’ moment.
“I love to use antiques on my jobs–and in my house–but I also like to add new and interesting upholstery, lamps and accessories,” she said. “A house is an ever-evolving project, and just because you want it to have a classic and timeless look doesn’t mean it has to be stale and old-looking.”