Story by Donna Cornelius • Photos by Lee Walls
Paige Albright is truly putting her all into this year’s Independent Presbyterian Church Holiday House Tour. She’s the tour chairman, and her house is one of four that will open its doors – virtually speaking – for the 71st annual event.
“I’ve been on the tour committee for a long time, but this is the first time our house has been part of it,” she said.
Paige said it was a tough decision for the committee to opt for a virtual tour instead of the usual in-person format. But the uncertainty of COVID-19 restrictions led to that choice.
“We thought it was important to keep the tour going,” she said. “This is such a wonderful tradition, but the main reason is that the tour is our major fundraiser for several charities. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to support them as we have in the past.”
While going virtual means the tour will venture down a new path, Paige thinks the change has some benefits.
“We should be able to attract more people, especially those from out of town,” she said. “Also, we’re able to include some houses that couldn’t have been on the regular tour due to parking issues.”
Paige said Hector Sanchez will photograph the houses and help put together a video.
“It will be like a real visit,” she said. “Someone will answer the door and welcome you in. It will be very relaxed and informal.”
Once you buy a tour ticket on the IPC website, you can download the video to watch more than once. Paige thinks tickets will make thoughtful holiday gifts; there’s an option to send tickets to friends as well as to buy your own on the IPC website, ipc-usa.org.
An extra treat is Holiday House Tea in a Bag, a package of the goodies customarily served in the church’s Great Hall on tour days. Kim Martin, IPC’s director of food services, is in charge of putting the bags together. The $50 price includes a tour ticket.
“Everyone loves the in-person tours, but this way, you can stop the video and focus on the details,” Paige said. “It’s going to be a fun tour.”
She said Cyndy Cantley, Stephanie Lynton and Sybil Sylvester, whose houses are on the tour along with her own, “are all such interesting, creative people.” And although she’s too modest to say it, Paige fits that description as well.
The Albright House
The owner of Paige Albright Orientals in Mountain Brook Village, she’s filled her Canterbury Road home with family heirlooms, mementos she’s brought home from her extensive travels, and, of course, beautiful rugs and textiles.
The Albrights’ Colonial wood-clad, two-story house was built in 1946. Paige and her husband, Carl, became the fourth owners when they bought the house in 2006.
She and her family are longtime IPC members. Oldest son Carl IV attends Birmingham-Southern College, and her other sons, David and Bibb, are students at Mountain Brook High School.
Virtual tourgoers likely will be fascinated with the tasteful way Paige has given her house impact and interest. In the living room, for example, a large colorful painting by Alabama artist Judy Ritter catches your eye immediately. But you’ll want a closer look at pieces from her Staffordshire collection, her family Bibles and some tiny Russian Easter eggs painstakingly hand-painted with crosses and flowers.
“I found them in Santa Fe,” Paige said. “They’re called pysanka.”
The kitchen recently got a new look as part of Better Homes & Gardens’ One Room Challenge. For this biannual event, participants make changes to a particular room and then document what they’ve done with before-and-after photos.
“We put in new countertops, pulls, rugs and updated appliances,” Paige said, adding that she enlisted the help of Will Casey from Cottage Supply and Brandino Brass Co. for the project.
The den, a few steps down from the kitchen, is an inviting, spacious room with a lofty ceiling. Among the many fascinating objects here are a tall Swedish clock and, close by, a smaller folk art clock.
“They’re both from the same time period,” Paige said. “Neither works – but it’s neat that they’re both set to the same time.”
The family will gather for Christmas dinner at the long wooden table in the den and in the dining room, where a Moorish lantern Paige found in Santa Fe hangs.
“I used to have a zebra rug here, but now I have a Tibetan rug with fresh colors,” she said.
The centerpiece of the master bedroom, added about two years before the Albrights bought the house, is a rug that belonged to Carl’s grandmother. Paige said its lovely blue and green colors were the impetus behind the room’s design. The master bathroom has a clawfoot tub that’s original to the house.
Upstairs are the boys’ room, a brightly decorated guest room, and a gallery of family portraits.
Paige said that for Christmas, the house will have an outside tree as well as two indoor ones. “Mark Thompson and Jay Draper of SHOPPE in Forest Park will help us with greenery,” she said.
During the holidays, tables will be set with heirloom pieces. Paige’s nutcracker collection will be upstairs in the boys’ rooms. Greenery will work in and around her Staffordshire collection.
One thing Paige loves most about her home is that its design doesn’t stay the same.
“My house is always evolving,” she said. “I’m constantly treasure hunting on my travels.”