Design Inspirations in Birmingham

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“Surely God didn’t give me this much good taste and no budget to satisfy it,” laments a friend of mine who can spot a Barbara Barry side chair from 100 feet away. Both of us have a shameful habit of trolling real estate websites just to see the interiors, and we can’t even swap shelter magazines because we’ve each already torn out the best pages. This is the kind of friend I can call from a showhouse tour and mutter words like “Cashmere…ebonized… custom…” and she will get just as excited as I me.

The fascination with grand homes and furnishings has served as inspiration for many a makeover, project, or upgrade in our own houses. While she would probably prefer to buy what she wants outright, I rather like the process of creating something with disparate pieces from unconventional (read: cast-off) sources. At least in my case, I don’t have to mourn too long over an unfortunate spill or scratch, which I’ve learned to expect at every extended family gathering.

If you’re a BirminghamMom with a similar fascination for home furnishings (or just need a dose of inspiration now and then), you should have these resources on your radar:

Birmingham Home and Garden Magazine – a glimpse inside area homes that defy the conventional, off-the-shelf looks; the magazine usually hosts a showhouse featuring area builders and suppliers

Birmingham Magazine – always a section on a local home, neighborhood or nearby vacation house

Independent Presbyterian Church Holiday Home Tour – a must, usually the first weekend in December. The church building itself is trimmed out in beautiful greenery and ribbons for the holidays, and the homes are breathtaking. I never miss!

ASO Decorators’ Showhouse – every spring a decorators’ showhouse benefits the Alabama Symphony Orchestra. These are entertaining to view and always have unique features, either by virtue of the house itself or unique paint treatments and furnishings. These can lack cohesion, with every decorator seemingly outdoing the next, but there are always plenty of good ideas.

Southern Living Magazine – Need I even mention SL? It’s the holy writ of the Southern viewpoint, and most ideas are obtainable. It’s worth home delivery just to avoid all the subscription ads embedded on the website – and of course, to have your own copy to dog ear and file. (Confidential to the Editors: I volunteer my home as your laboratory.)

Southern Accents – Sooo sophisticated, and a great way to see what the fashionable homeowners in Dallas/New Orleans/Richmond are doing these days.

Atlanta Homes & Lifestyles Magazine – ‘Fess up that you’ve wandered outside our lovely hamlet to take in the arts, culture, and shopping that is to be had in our sister city. This publication lets you peek inside sleek condos and fabulous estates, and it is a wonderful guide for shopping when you crave a little road trip.

Maybe we don’t all have the budget to satisfy our tastes, but at least we can dream. As Barbar Barry herself says, “It’s not how much we have but how the things we have enhance our lives.” A good reminder about our things, whether they come out of a packing crate or from the thrift store.



  • Birmingham Mom

    Tell me it’s a bad dream! I just learned that Time, Inc. has cut Southern Accents magazine. I’m bereaved! The brand is over 30 years old. How will we get our fix of those lush interiors and impeccable holiday homes? I was so proud to have Southern Accents in Birmingham. The Christmas Tree covers are a highlight every holiday issue.
    Southern Accents staff, I salute you. Thank you for choosing the best of all that is out there and sharing your wonderful ideas. May you all find new and even better ways to share your talents and abilities going forward.