By Donna Cornelius
The young couple recently completed an extensive renovation of a house on Homewood’s Hollywood Boulevard – and “extensive” might be a bit of an understatement.
Before their wedding last summer, the Dills had tentative plans to live in Maggy’s condo. Then Maggy’s parents, Alan and Suzanne Pizzitola, convinced her to take a look at a 1930s-era cottage in the city’s historic Hollywood neighborhood.
“The house had been vacant for about a year,” Maggy said. “We walked the premises and peeped in the windows. My mom called the real estate agent so we could go inside. We did a walk-through, and I brought my camera.
“I fell head over heels in love with the house,” Maggy said.
It wasn’t quite love at first sight for Brandon, who was at the time living and working in Columbus, Miss. His first reaction to the house was that it would need lots of work, he said.
“There was water damage, and I knew it would need new electrical and plumbing,” he said.
Maggy and Brandon, however, were able to see past the negatives and envision the house as the home of their dreams.
“We saw it would give us room to grow, and we loved the neighborhood,” Maggy said.
Maggy said she loved growing up in Homewood, and the thought of staying in her hometown appealed to her. Living near her parents, whose house is a short distance away on English Circle, was another draw, she said.
While the original footprint of the house was maintained, except for addition of the master bathroom, major changes inside and outside gave the cottage a new lease on life.
One of the keys to a successful renovation, Maggy and Brandon said, is having the right people on your team.
Recruited almost right away to help the couple carry out their vision for the house was architect Cherri Pitts of Studio C Architects and Interiors in Birmingham.
Maggy and Brandon had planned to finish the house’s basement to add usable space, but Cherri suggested going in another direction: up.
“Cherri came to us and said, ‘Don’t freak out, but what about adding a second story?’” Maggy said. “That hadn’t even crossed our minds, but it turned out to be a great alternative to finishing the basement right away.”
Cherri’s plan maintained the house’s charming Tudor style while adding curb appeal and extra space. While the upper floor isn’t completely finished, the Dills wisely prepared for the day when they will need more room.
“Everything’s plumbed in with the electrical panel, framing, air conditioning – it just needs finishing,” Brandon said. The top floor, which already holds Maggy’s workroom, is all set for two bedrooms, a Jack and Jill bathroom, a spacious TV and playroom plus plenty of storage space.
Brandon said he thought it was important to do as much work as possible during the renovation process. To that end, the sheetrock was torn out and replaced, as were the unusable existing hardwood floors. A new driveway was added, and new electrical and plumbing systems were installed.
“It would have been stupid not to do as much as we could” while the major work was going on, Brandon said.
The couple had high praise for their contractor, George Kurttts of Kurtts Construction. Maggy was familiar with his work on the Pizzitola family’s lake house but soon got to know him even better.
“He became almost like my grandfather,” Maggy said. “He’d say, ‘This is what you need to do to get the look you want.’”
Brandon is the owner of Southern Fireplaces Homewood and thus has worked with many contractors, he said.
“George is one of the best,” Brandon said. “He was here for every stage of the job and very hands-on.”
During the construction process, Brandon would come to Homewood on the weekends to check out the progress as well as to spend time with his fiancée.
“When I’d come in on Fridays, George was always here,” he said.
With their contractor’s help, Maggy and Brandon focused on transforming the house’s main level into a space that combines traditional elements appropriate to the historic neighborhood with contemporary flair.
Archways were added or enlarged to create a smooth flow from room to room and to add architectural interest. The most striking arch is between the hallway and the kitchen – which is Maggy’s favorite room.
“I love to cook. I cook every meal,” she said. In keeping with the house’s eclectic flavor, the kitchen combines sleek stainless steel appliances with a copper sink, glazed cabinets, two different hard-surface countertops and distinctive tiling.
“I wanted a place for everything – a drawer for this or that, a spice rack here,” Maggy said.
“I got to pick the microwave,” Brandon said with a smile.
Michelle Cone of Kenny and Company, a Birmingham kitchen, bath, tile and plumbing showroom, helped the Dills find just the right touches.
“I could print out photos of several bathrooms and tell Michelle that I liked this particular tile in one photo and the fixtures in another,” Maggy said. “She’d find almost identical things – and all were within our budget.
“If we needed to change things, she was really good about making time for us.”
Maggy and Brandon said they were also very pleased with their custom cabinets, made by Randy Burnham of Burnham Cabinetry.
When the couple bought the house, the main level had three bedrooms, a small master bath and another bathroom shared by the two guest bedrooms. The renovation reduced the number of bedrooms on the main floor to two. But since more bedrooms can easily be added upstairs or in the basement, the change was worth it, the Dills said – especially since it provided room for a luxurious master bathroom and large walk-in closet with a vanity area.
Brandon wired the entire house for the speaker system and TVs. Unsurprisingly, he also added three handsome gas fireplaces in the living room, master bedroom and even the master bath. Easily operated by remote control, the fireplaces aren’t just cosmetically beautiful but also practical, producing more warmth than many older gas models.
“We haven’t even had to turn on our central heat this year,” Maggy said.
Maggy said her parents were instrumental in helping the young couple with their renovation. The Pizzitolas had expert guidance to offer through their years in the furniture business.
“My mom is known as the ‘decorating guru’ among her friends,” Maggy said. “She and I worked together every step of the way. And my dad helped us with financial advice.
“I’m so grateful to both my parents for helping us achieve our dream.”
The Dills said they love coming home to their old-but-new house every night. Maggy, a nanny, was introduced to Brandon by a mutual friend after the two had graduated from college. Maggy studied interior design at the University of Alabama, where her father was an All-SEC defensive back, and Brandon played baseball on scholarship at the University of West Alabama in Livingston.
Demolition on their house started in November 2011, and re-framing began the following February.
“Everything started coming into form during the summer,” Maggy said.
Planning a wedding and overseeing a home renovation might have sent some young women into a tizzy – but not Maggy.
“I had a white binder for the house with everything from photos to paint colors and receipts,” she said. “And I had a pink binder for all the wedding stuff.”
Thanks to their own clear vision of transforming the house and to the team they assembled – family members and professionals alike – Maggy and Brandon were able to achieve another goal. They spent their first night as a married couple in their new home.