By Donna Cornelius
You’ll find a houseful of bright ideas when a new cottage in Homewood rolls out the welcome mat as Birmingham Home & Garden’s Inspiration Home.
The house, at 3025 Firefighter Lane, opens its doors to the public for tours Nov. 5, but Cathy Still McGowin, BHG editor, said the planning process for the annual event started well in advance.
“We pick out a builder who will be compatible with what we want in the design, and they come up with a plan,” she said. “It’s a partnership with our builder, designers, vendors and sponsors.”
Willow Homes was tapped to construct the 2020 house.
“We haven’t used Willow Homes before for the Inspiration Home, but we’ve featured several of their projects in the magazine and knew their style,” McGowin said.
Jason Hale, president of Willow Homes, said his crew thought the project sounded like fun when they met with the BHG team to discuss the Inspiration Home.
“We showed our plan to them, got feedback and talked about how the plan made sense for a show house,” Hale said. “It’s truly a collaboration.”
He said Barry DeLozier, a Birmingham-based residential designer, collaborated with Willow to sketch and create the concept.
The newest Inspiration Home combines Southern charm with British flair.
“This house has an English cottage look, and we’re excited to be using Alabama natural materials like stone,” Hale said. “Blended style is popular today.”
He said the cottage is a good fit for Homewood’s Mayfair neighborhood and harmonizes well with Tudor-style houses in nearby Hollywood.
With quite a few designers participating in the Inspiration Home, it was important to coordinate a compatible as well as a creative look for the interior. Allison Hallman of Willow Interiors, a full-service design firm and Willow Homes’ sister company, spearheaded the design to make sure it was cohesive throughout the house.
Hale said those who tour the house can look for vibrant colors, elegant accents such as classic beams and trim elements, and a “library foyer,” with built-in bookcases and a handsome staircase with iron railings.
“The kitchen has tall, vaulted ceilings with beams, and the appliance package there is the latest technology,” he said. “It was really important to us to be a little bit cutting-edge, a little different. It’s been fun to be creative. We really went for it.”
He’s proud of the house’s landscaping, which includes a private courtyard with a fireplace and dining porch. Lorberbaum McNair & Associates came up with the outdoor plan.
McGowin said that the Inspiration Home is always a new house and not a renovation. One reason is that the house is meant to inspire, and constructing the house from the ground up means the team can provide those who visit it with a lengthy, up-to-date list of building materials and sources.
“You get a super-comprehensive resource guide when you tour the house,” McGowin said. “Also, the people working at the house have a notebook that they can refer to if you want specifics.”
She said everything in the house is for sale – and so is the house itself. It will be put on the market after it closes for tours.
This is the second time the Inspiration Home has been built in Homewood.
“Willow Homes is in Homewood and so is our new office, so it’s home to both of us,” McGowin said. “Homewood is such a pedestrian-friendly area, and it’s booming.”
Proceeds from Inspiration Home ticket sales benefit a charity chosen by the builder. Hale and his crew picked Birmingham’s Ronald McDonald House, a place that provides housing and support for families of children who are receiving medical care at Children’s of Alabama and UAB Hospital. The facility cares for up to 73 families every night.
“We have worked with the Ronald McDonald House here over the years through volunteering,” Hale said.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, that kind of help is now needed more than ever, he said.
Restrictions because of the coronavirus pandemic meant even more careful planning than usual for the project. McGowin said those involved “went on faith” that the Inspiration Home could open this year.
“Of course, we’re taking precautions,” she said. “We’ll have people walking through the house in one direction, wearing masks and using hand sanitizers.”
While virtual tours of houses have increased due to coronavirus restrictions, McGowin thinks there is a benefit to actually visiting the Inspiration Home.
“It’s like walking through the pages of our magazine,” she said.
Hale said he hopes people will be ready to get out and tour the house.
“The coronavirus situation has been a challenge for companies like ours,” he said. “Early on, we had to figure out how to work and be safe. Now you’re seeing some delays in manufacturing. But it motivated us. It’s been a tough year for everybody, and we think the Inspiration Home will provide some entertainment for people.”
McGowin said one of the most enjoyable parts of the project has been the process itself.
“When I do articles for the magazine, I see beautiful homes that are completely finished,” she said. “With this, I see the brainstorming, the planning, the moving in – everything from conception to completion. It makes you appreciate how much work and thought goes into the finished product.”
About the 2020 Inspiration Home
This year’s Birmingham Home & Garden Inspiration Home, dubbed “A Southern Cottage,” will be open to the public four days a week from Nov. 5 to Nov. 29.
Tour hours for the house at 3025 Firefighter Lane in Homewood are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and 1-5 p.m. Sundays.
Willow Homes, a Homewood-based company that handles new construction and renovations, is the builder. The company has won Best of Houzz awards from the popular design website as well as Greater Birmingham Parade of Homes honors and the Alabama Remodelers Excellence Award. The Willow Homes team includes project managers, plan designers and home designers.
The Inspiration Home has five bedrooms, 4½ bathrooms, two fireplaces, an open concept dining room and kitchen, vaulted ceilings, a private courtyard with a fireplace and dining porch, and a three-car garage with a guest suite above it.
The house has 1,884 square feet on the main level, 808 square feet on the upper level and 616 square feet on the bonus level.
Landscape design is by Lorberbaum McNair & Associates.
For more information about the Inspiration Home, visit birminghamhomeandgarden.com. You can buy tickets on the website or at the door. Proceeds from ticket sales benefit Birmingham’s Ronald McDonald House.