For husbands David Lee Walker and Clark Underbakke, art is a shared language. It goes beyond David’s talent for interior design and Clark’s lifelong catalog of artistic friends, and it encompasses elements of their shared experiences, family histories, travels together, friends made through art and art made by friends — visual suggestions of themes threaded throughout their relationship. It is quite literally the intersection of where their souls meet, with art even appearing as a central component of their wedding day. The couple tied the knot in the Islesford, Maine, cottage of their dear friend and renowned American folk artist, Ashley Bryan, whose work is proudly displayed in their home.
To put it plainly, for David and Clark, art is more about relationships. “My love of art is a result of my work, being exposed to beautiful things over the years,” says David, an interior designer at Richard Tubb Interiors. “I’ve built a collection from meeting these local artists and falling in love with their art, but also the artists themselves.”
Clark agrees, saying that creative people have always been a part of his life, adding, “Then, when I met David — it is something that he and I share and enjoy. We really enjoy supporting artists’ work, especially local artists, and then getting to know them as people.”
David, a longtime Avondale resident, discovered the house on a Sunday walk about 13 years ago, when the original owners were holding an open house. “I loved the lines of the house and was impressed with how simple it was. I felt like I could do a lot with that,” says David. The home was designed and built in 1950 by Chicago Bridge & Iron engineer John Mummert, and it embodies straightforward functionality with high-quality elements meant to stand the test of time, such as the commercial-grade concrete-and-steel foundation — a foundation that happens to offer a top-of-the-line storm shelter. David promptly purchased the home from the Mummert’s estate and moved in from his home down the street, becoming the second owner of the home.
After a couple of years, when Clark moved in with David, the duo set about completely renovating the home. They modernized the master bathroom, then gutted the kitchen, where they took out a wall with a ’50s-style swinging door in order to create an airy, open floor plan with a simple, functional, clean kitchen. The space from the new kitchen flows into the keeping room, where a hidden flat-screen TV emerges from a gorgeous vintage cabinet, for when the couple is in the mood for news or entertainment.
“I like the integrity of how the house is built,” says Clark, who collected historical documents to gain the home’s status as a Historical Birmingham Landmark. “We tried very hard to keep things as historically accurate as possible. I feel that we are the current stewards of the home, and with that, comes responsibility.” Last year, when they were repainting the exterior of the home, they needed to replace a window pane. So, putting their proverbial money where their mouth is, they worked to find glass that was the thickness of 1950s glass in order to maintain the home’s historical accuracy.
As the renovation of the home evolved, so did the couple’s art collection. Pottery by David’s mother, Juanita Alexander-Walker, is sprinkled throughout the home, an ode to her journey as an artist. A grandfather clock built by Clark’s grandfather chimes on the hour in the long hallway beside a striking display of Clark’s mother’s blue-and-white Royal Copenhagen collectible porcelain Christmas plates. She bought her first of the traditional plates while on a trip to Denmark with her parents, and collected them every year following. The plate collection, installed by David, had two extras which offset the display from being a perfect rectangle: the year of Clark’s birth in 1969, which was the year she began collecting the plates, and the year of his mother’s death in 2002. “It’s a perfect representation of me and my mother,” says Clark. “Everything in here has meaning. It’s part of the good karma and good energy.”
The Avondale neighborhood has a vibrant energy — and a rich history with longtime resident David — that makes the home even more lovely to the couple. “It’s very close to work, and I’ve always loved the neighborhood, the tree-lined sidewalks and the proximity to everything,” says David. “And it’s not just the character of the historical homes, it’s the character of the people. We have such a wide range of interesting, fabulous neighbors — older people, children, people of different socioeconomic backgrounds, different ethnicities and different beliefs.” David and Clark have enjoyed seeing Avondale experience its own renaissance and evolve into a hip cultural center of downtown Birmingham.
“You have to let things happen over time. There’s a delicate line between tastefully placing collected items versus having so much stuff that it looks like a garage sale,” says David of thoughtfully editing a space.“Beautiful homes are an evolution. You can have a home that really represents you and speaks to you, but it is something that organically happens.” Clark agrees, adding, “It’s layers of our lives. As our lives evolve, the layers of our home also come together.”
As the hip Avondale neighborhood has evolved, so has this beautiful historic home filled with meaningful art, elegant style and unique personality. In a beautiful display of interior design at its best, David and Clark have filled their home with beautiful, personal items that also fill their souls.
Thank you to Beth Hontzas for today’s beautiful photography!
Thank you to David Lee Walker of Richard Tubb Interiors and his husband, Clark Underbakke, for sharing their gorgeous home with us!