Friday, December 19, 2008

Welcome to Magic City Modern

We had a perfectly gorgeous Mediterranean Revival bungalow, ca. 1925. All gleaming hardwoods, tile roof, 8' butler's pantry and four sets of French doors opening onto the terrace. It was our third wonderful home from the 1920s, and we felt we had found our era when it came to architecture. But while we loved our urban homes, we realized we really wanted more space, trees, and privacy for us and the dogs. So I started the search.

What I learned was that it was difficult to find that type of 1920's neighborhood architecture in a more rural setting. I found a lot of plantation-, farmhouse- and cottage-inspired homes, but they seemed to just miss out on what they even pretended to be. There were also a lot of modest 1960s-'70s ranch homes, but there was nothing inspired about them. And the newer neighborhoods of many gables? I was enough of an architecture fan to know I could never be happy in one of those.

And then, there it was. In a glossy real estate magazine in June of 2007. "Frank Lloyd Wright would be proud" it said. Well, I was a fan of Wright (I'd been to Fallingwater twice, and to some Usonian homes), and this didn't look like Wright to me. It looked more like something that had been transported from California and dropped into the woods in central Alabama. I was intrigued.

O'Hill east

Not a bungalow. Definitely not from the 1920s. Something altogether different. But it was in the middle of three acres of trees, glorious trees. And it had a driveway that wound through said trees. (That was something I always wanted, a driveway that winds through the trees). So I called. "It's under contract," he said, "due to close the end of the week." (sigh). Well, it was a little far out, and maybe it was too much of a change, anyway . . . Back to the drawing board.

After a week or two of a continued fruitless search (the current leading candidate was next door to a water tower) I noticed that the cool house was still on the MLS. I had my realtor call. Miracle of miracles, the previous deal had fallen through. We got out there the next day.


Did I say wow? Wow.

O'hill DR

All glass and wood, protypical mid-century modern. The house brought the outside in through the windows of glass. And just in case you missed that, there is a garden right in the middle of the house, complete with zen stepping stones through the center. Of course 90% of our furniture wouldn't work in the house, but somehow I just didn't care. Oh, and it didn't hurt that the husband also thought the place was pretty darn cool. Somehow, in the course of about 20 minutes, I had transformed from Bungalow Gal to Mid-Century Maven. The adventure had begun.


  1. Hi Jen:
    Am totally enamored of mid mod everything. I am an occupational therapist (masters) with an undergrad degree from UAB in art history and studio art. I live on Highland Ave in an apt but am looking to purchase first mid-mod home! Am looking at one right now in Vestavia. Stick built/post and beam gem with untapped potential. Read fixer-upper. Recently vacated by 90 something year old original owner. Anyway,enough about me. Am looking to connect with others with similar interests. Came across you via web search for mid-mod birmingham. I subscribe to Atomic Ranch mag and am familiar with several of your links. Have been collecting mid-mod stuff for years. The guy from nashvillemodern is really cool; have communicated with him several times via email. Really like what he's done on a limited budget with his home. Would even love to come see your home one day if that's a possibility. Please call me if you want at 205-903-1186. Was thinking of starting a "B'ham modern" site myself but found yours!

  2. therav -
    I'm glad you found my little blog. I need to get out and get some more photos, but summer is upon us and all things home-improvement have taken over the weekends. I hope you get your Vestavia place -- I'll give you a call when our house is reassembled -- we had the carpets ripped out and cork floors put in and it is still a wreck.

    I'd love to get a community together if only to visit one another's homes and complain about maintaining skylights and flat roofs.

  3. That's not a nice home. It's a gorgeously beautiful home.

    Now, how can I find one like it?!