By Sharon Smith
Five festively decorated houses will be open for visitors during Samford Legacy League’s 11th annual Christmas Home Tour on Dec. 9.
This annual community event raises funds to provide transformational scholarships for students with significant financial need and challenging circumstances.
Since its inception, the tour has featured 43 homes and raised more than $275,000 to help students who have endured obstacles such as homelessness, inner-city violence, the disability or death of a parent or sibling, foster care, parental job loss, abandonment, parental incarceration and the sacrifices of full-time ministry.
Presented by ARC Realty, the 2021 tour includes three homes in Mountain Brook and two in Vestavia Hills. The featured homes range from a year to decades old, encompassing a wide variety of architecture, interior styles and holiday décor.
Tour guests will find lots of new on this year’s tour. The Samford President’s Home has new occupants, the Taylors. The Sinks live on a new cul-de-sac they developed; their home was completed less than a year ago. The Smiths’ recently built Vestavia Hills home features lots of new décor. The Davises undertook a major renovation just a few years ago. And the Culps recently renovated their kitchen and added a butler’s pantry.
The Culp Home
Nestled in a quiet cul-de-sac in Glencoe off Montevallo Road, Jenny and Sonny Culp’s Mountain Brook home, at 5 Glenview Circle, was custom built in 2001. Though the stately English Tudor is just 20 years old, its exterior brick is much older, having come from the old Stockham Value building near the airport. A limestone-trimmed archway marks the entry to the front porch while an arched wooden front door and arched windows continue this design element.
Just through the foyer sits a double staircase that also is accessible from behind the kitchen. The stairs provide easy access to the recently redecorated upstairs bedrooms, where the Culps’ three children lived.
After two decades in their home and entering a different life stage, the Culps decided it was time for some updates. They recently completed a major kitchen renovation, adding a butler’s pantry where an office had been and a large steel window overlooking the backyard. Since their three kids are grown and their family’s needs have changed, they removed the well-used lockers, using the area for entertaining, instead.
The Culps value family, and many of their rooms are filled with reminders of those they love.
“Much of the artwork and many of the antiques were from Sonny’s late mother, who had an amazing art collection and fabulous knack for decorating,” Jenny said.
A treasured nativity was a gift from Jenny’s sister, Marnie, whose family spent many years serving in Central Asia. Jenny credits “a village” of people, including Marnie, with helping ready the home for the tour.
The decorations include a 10-foot fresh tree and fresh greenery and festive touches throughout the house.
The Davis Home
When Julia and Tim Davis bought their house, at 3212 Brookwood Road in Mountain Brook, they freshened it up a bit before moving in, knowing one day they may opt to take on a bigger project.
A decade later, they enlisted Robert Wilkes Construction to complete a major renovation, raising the roof and adding numerous rooms. Their goal, Julia explained, was to gain a main level garage and expand the living spaces “like when you use your fingers to enlarge a picture on your phone.” While many around them were tearing down their homes, the Davises “wanted to enhance the house we had, not start over.”
With the renovation came the addition of a dining room, along with a new master bedroom, screen porch and an extension to the den.
“The den is one of the showpieces of the home,” Wilkes said. “The reclaimed timbers came from an old Amish barn in Pennsylvania.”
The large yet cozy room opens to a screen porch with a peaked roof and large wood-burning fireplace. With space for dining and lounging and a view of the yard, the porch is used year-round.
Since all four Davis family members have Samford degrees, agreeing to be part of the tour gave them a way to support their alma mater and the Legacy League’s mission.
To prepare for the event, they’ve added festive holiday touches, including magnolia garland and multiple fresh wreaths. A tall, flocked tree, viewable from the foyer, the sunken living room and the new dining room, fills the front picture window. A variety of art is on display, some of it collected locally and some purchased while traveling.
The Sink Home
Andy and Laura Sink are a dream team when it comes to building and flipping houses. They moved nine times in 10 years before settling in their last home for 17 years. A desire for one-level living and space suitable for their young adult children motivated the Sinks to move.
Building their current house, at 3058 Lewis Circle in Mountain Brook, was a complex project that involved subdividing the lot of the old Lewis homestead and constructing a new road they named for the previous owner. A commercial real estate developer, Andy is “really good structurally,” described Laura, who focuses on functionality.
Visitors to the Sinks’ new Acadian French Country home will find a mixture of old southern Louisiana style, a nod to Laura’s Shreveport roots, with new modern amenities.
“One of the really interesting things is how we incorporated reclaimed Birmingham old town brick from the early to mid-1900s,” project manager Keith Taub of Slate Barganier Building said.
The wood trusses in the family room were built from wood that came from an old Pennsylvania barn, while the old doors came from Southern Accents Architectural Antiques in Cullman. The house also features materials re-used from the Lewis house, including the limestone steps, bluestone on the front lower porch and chandelier in the dining room.
The house includes a plethora of notable design elements, from old doors, curved openings and handrails to unusual lighting and plumbing fixtures. The enormous marble Cristallo backsplash in the kitchen required four men and significant bracing during installation. The expansive screen porch features ceiling heaters, which are efficient as well as attractive. Behind the house is a small putting green offering entertainment adjacent to the grilling area.
The Smith Home
For Alison and Martin Smith and their three children, proximity to schools and convenience were the keys to the decision to build their home at 2012 Southwood Road in Vestavia Hills. The challenge was getting the living space they wanted on the footprint of the original home.
Alison, an interior designer, knew she could “describe perfect living conditions for our family” to aid Long and Long Design in creating a plan. The result was a brick home with unusual features, clean lines, lots of natural light and functional spaces conducive to their lifestyle.
The main level of the new home includes a dining room Allison describes as “casual formal,” a large open kitchen with an island to seat five, a spacious living area and a downstairs master bed and bath.
The screen porch off the living room has a wood-burning fireplace and comfortable furniture, making it usable nearly every day of the year.
To accommodate out-of-town family, the Smiths’ kids’ rooms double as guest rooms, and their upstairs living area includes four built-in bunk beds, reminiscent of berths on a train.
“It’s always a house where people can pop in to spend the night,” Allison said.
At Christmas, the Smiths put up live trees and lots of fresh greenery in their home. Their downstairs tree includes a collection of ornaments procured from trips and an annual ornament swap. It’s topped with an angel, a gift from a college friend to Allison after she was hit head-on by a drunk driver. Upstairs is a second tree, adorned with handmade ornaments created by the Smith’s children.
Samford President’s Home
This Christmas is the first in the president’s home for the Taylor family.
Made up of Beck A. Taylor, new president of Samford; his wife, Julie, Samford’s first lady and executive director of the Legacy League; their youngest daughter, Chloe; and dog, Peanut, the family took up residence this past summer in the house at 1994 Shades Crest Road in Vestavia Hills.
The Taylors brought some of their personal furniture to add to recently reupholstered university furnishings and artwork.
Sallie Aman of Ruby Ansley Interiors, Inc. led redecorating projects, which include new draperies, wallpaper, rugs and paint.
The Taylors have enjoyed preparing for the holidays in a new place, using decorations they’ve collected through the years and adding new seasonal items.
A vibrant red wreath and garland on the front door greet guests as they arrive. Inside, a collection of Dickens Village Department 56 pieces depict classic sights of Victorian England along with scenes from Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Yards of greenery and intricate bows adorn the home’s two grand staircases. Not to be outdone, the three fireplace mantels are festively dressed with garlands of their own.
Adding to the home’s holiday décor are mesmerizing gold and white orbs in the library and four trees outfitted in angelic gold and white by Rita Daffison of RD Designs.
In addition to seeing the residence bedecked in seasonal splendor, tour guests at the Samford President’s Home will be treated to live holiday music.
Tickets on Sale
Advance tickets are required for the tour and may be purchased at samford.edu/legacyleague for $35 through Dec. 7. There will be no ticket sales at the door.
Purchasers of the first 500 tickets will receive a special take-home box of Christmas treats during their stop at the president’s home.
Guests will select their start times and first house to be toured during ticket purchase. Houses will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Premium sponsors of the tour are Community Bank, Slate Barganier Building and Wilkes Construction Co.
The Legacy League is a service organization with nearly 800 members ranging in age from 22 to 100. The 2021 Christmas Home Tour Committee, chaired by Tricia Naro, planned this year’s event, which is one of the organization’s largest fundraisers. The annual tour draws hundreds of people every year, attracting visitors from across Alabama and multiple other states.
Sharon Smith is director of development, Samford University Legacy League