By Donna Cornelius
Journal features writer
You can’t blame Bill Ingram if he hates to see 2013 come to an end.
Although the Birmingham architect’s work has earned him a high profile and a reputation for stand-out design, this year has been especially productive. Ingram won two prestigious awards—and he’s been able to enjoy them in a brand new place.
In the spring, the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center and Veranda magazine named Ingram the Southeast Architect of the Year. He accepted the award May 13 at a posh awards ceremony in Atlanta.
“I didn’t officially know about the ADAC award, but because they wanted to announce the award at the gala, they made sure I’d be there,” he said.
Late summer brought another honor. The August issue of Southern Living featured an Ingram design as the magazine’s 2013 New House of the Year.
The house, in Lake Martin’s Trillium neighborhood, “takes advantage of the views,” Ingram said. “The main focus is the water.”
In between the awards, Bill Ingram Architect relocated to Mountain Brook Village. The firm moved in June from Birmingham’s Southside to its new home at 2913 Cahaba Road.
“I was on Southside for 13 years and had an office at my home in Redmont before that,” Ingram said. “Our other office served us well, but after that long, it was getting tired. We needed to clean up, clear out—it was time.”
The Mountain Brook Village location, Ingram said, puts him closer to his clients.
“People are drawn to this place. We’re on our clients’ paths,” he said. “It’s funny what moving has done for us. Our old office was in a building over a parking area, and we were separated from the street. Here, people on the sidewalk will stop to look in.”
The 1,500-square-foot building has housed antique and dress shops, he said—and a restaurant.
“A book put out by a historical society says it was Mountain Brook Steakhouse in the 1940s,” Ingram said.
The building was “one big open space, so it suited us well,” he said.
The new floor plan includes a table and comfortable seating area up front near a large window. In the middle is a workspace, while storage is in the back.
Passersby need only to look at the 8-feet-tall front door to get a sense of Ingram’s style.
“I drew the door and detailed it. It has somewhat of a Chippendale style and is over-scaled,” he said. “It has a presence to it. It’s a signature piece. The scale was important, because we have high ceilings and the big plate-glass front window.”
On the office walls are drawings of some of Ingram’s recent projects in places like Mountain Brook and Homewood and at Lake Martin.
“I chose popular houses,” he said. “These drawings are so graphic. I was at the red light the other day and could see them from the street.”
Ingram, an Auburn University graduate, has had houses spotlighted in major design magazines like House Beautiful, Veranda, Southern Living, Cottage Living and Atlanta Homes and Lifestyles. But a project with Southern Accents, a Birmingham-based magazine published until 2009, particularly stands out in his memory.
“We did a Southern Accents Idea House, the first one that was a renovation, about 2000,” he said. “It was a blowout of an English cottage.”
Another first with the Idea House was that Ingram handled more than just the architecture. Mark Mayfield, Southern Accents’ editor at the time, said that when Ingram asked to also do the Idea House’s interior design and gardens, “I had no problem saying yes.”
“I knew what we would get,” Mayfield said. “Bill’s one of the rare people who can do it all.
“When I think of great architects, I think of Bill. But when I think of great designers, I think of Bill, too.”
Mayfield said he welcomed the chance to work with Ingram on the Idea House.
“I knew of Bill but didn’t meet him until the mid-1990s when I became editor of Southern Accents,” said Mayfield, who’s now associate director of the University of Alabama’s Office of Student Media. “He did a wonderful job with that Idea House. That was probably the best experience I ever had with a showhouse.”
The renovation included a dramatic expansion of the house, Mayfield said.
“The beauty of Bill is that he increased the size, but the house still settled into its lot perfectly,” he said. “It was beautiful but accessible. It looked like someone actually lived there.”
Mayfield said that Ingram and Montgomery-based architect Bobby McAlpine “came up together, and they transformed the way Southern interiors and architecture are done.”
“They design the ‘anti-McMansions,’” Mayfield said. “They’re the good taste and good style people.”
Ingram said people tell him that they can see “overriding things that connect my work—the approach and the sensibility.”
“I think my houses are comfortable where they are and that they reflect the owners,” he said. “They use natural materials. That’s the only thing that ages properly and stands the test of time.”
Mayfield said Ingram’s use of natural materials is one element that helps him recognize the architect’s work when he sees it.
“He’ll find things like antique oak planks and use them,” Mayfield said. “He uses natural colors. He knows how to take earth tones and bring them to life. His proportions are great, and he uses lots of light, big windows.
“You walk into one of his houses, and it’s indoors-out and outdoors-in.”
While Ingram said he appreciates the awards he’s earned, he’s gratified his houses make their owners happy.
“I had a client, who’s a lovely person, tell me, ‘I just love my house. I think about you every morning when I wake up in my pretty bedroom and go out on my screened-in porch,’” he said, smiling.
His career has pretty much gone the way he envisioned it when he started out, Ingram said.
“You always want to do more and better. You can get too comfortable,” he said. “I’ve always liked to draw. I always loved houses and wanted to do houses. I like their scale and detail.”