Some years ago, Allen and Amanda Stringfellow were enjoying one of their meandering Sunday drives through Mountain Brook, a leafy Birmingham suburb, when they discovered a tiny, tucked-away street. Realizing it was occupied by only three residences—essentially private due to their relative seclusion—the pair got excited. “The setting was gorgeous,” recalls Allen, a former architecture student who today serves as fifth-generation owner of his family’s lumber business. “The road sits high atop a ridgeline overlooking another beautiful neighborhood, with these amazing views of the sunrise over the ridge. Mountain Brook is classified as a tree city, with lots of old-growth timber that has never been cut down.”
The couple was lucky enough to scoop up one of those three residences—a single-story, circa-1955 cedar-shingled abode—when it went on the market mere weeks later. Since their eldest son was just a toddler at the time, the Stringfellows anticipated plenty of time to tailor it to their lives. The ensuing years saw three small renovations as their brood of boys grew to three. A screened porch was enclosed to become a family room, and the couple added a garage, in-law suite and expansive pool terrace. All the while, Allen was crafting plans for a visionary two-story structure that, 12 years on, would take shape in the original home’s place. When the timing was right, “We tore it down to the foundation and started fresh,” says Allen, who, as a de facto builder and residential designer, retained the home’s original 1950s footprint, including its chimney.
Allen’s design is decidedly different from Birmingham’s prevailing brand of traditional Southern architecture: a stripped-down concept inspired by the modernist designs of architect Henry “Hank” Long, for whom Allen worked in high school. To honor the property’s old-growth oak trees, “we decided to bring the outside in; I envisioned an open space with huge floor-to-ceiling windows,” explains Allen, who directed the whole of his home’s construction. Had he been left entirely to his own devices, “we’d have an entirely concrete-and-glass house,” he admits. But that’s just the pivotal point where Amanda, who works as assistant to interior designer Shea Bryars, proved instrumental.
“Modernism, to me, can seem very cold,” Amanda chimes. “So, I would classify what I like as contemporary; something that’s a little more comfortable for my family.” Enter an aesthetic compromise: The home’s exterior would be Allen’s blank canvas, a foundational layer for his choice of commercial-grade storefront windows, rectangular fiber-cement panels and lap siding in bold black and white, paired with horizontal planks of cedar shiplap siding. The gallery-like interiors would boast tall white walls, white-oak floors, meticulous cabinetry and minimal trim. But furnishing those spaces would be a task for Amanda and Bryars, the latter of whom says the husband and wife’s friendly “battle between modern and contemporary” drove the design.
“We tried to mix the two styles,” Bryars explains. “The furnishings are fairly traditional and neutral, but we let the art and objects be more modern.” For example, in the living room, clean-lined club chairs upholstered in an ecru chenille defer to a pair of geometric iron lanterns and a grid of colorful, hand-cut linoleum prints made in the 1970s by Allen’s mother. In the dining room, bare wood floors and a quiet composition of oak dining table and klismos chairs allow the eye to drift up toward a sculptural chandelier made of ribbon-like curls of wood veneer.
Two colors—deep charcoal and warm olive green—forge connections between the home’s public and private spaces. The nearly black shade, which appears on velvet sofas and linen-upholstered dining chairs, “feels very neutral; comfortable but still contemporary,” Bryars says. In turn, green accents give nods to the property’s neat grounds by landscape architect Stuart Trowbridge, who enhanced the lush lawn via fastigiate hornbeams and linear grasses—Heavy Metal Blue Switchgrass and Little Bluestem grass, to name a couple—for verticality.
Throughout the residence, warm woods provide a secondary theme that extends from the staircase’s reclaimed heart-pine treads to rift-sawn, white-oak cabinetry, plus patinated antiques that have been in the family for generations. But just as importantly, it’s a house that celebrates what’s beyond its walls: “views,” Amanda says, “that stretch to the next mountain.” And even for a place nicknamed The Magic City, that’s pretty darn magical.