For many families, the dining room is the figurative centerpiece of the home. It’s where we gather to share meals, special events and holidays, and it is around the dining room table that we pass along stories about our days, anecdotes of Thanksgivings past and plans for the future. In this 1960s Mountain Brook home, designed by local architect Fritz Woehle, the dining room is also the literal center of the home, and it’s the space that provides the jumping-off point for bold, fearless design. “The homeowners wanted a clean, contemporary renovation that celebrated the original house and accommodated the existing furniture and art with a new, modern, European-style kitchen,” says Design Initiative architect and co-founder Kris Nikolich.
“Fritz’s work was unique in many ways and not easy to classify,” says Kris. “His homes had a contemporary aesthetic that featured the use of simple, natural materials and an innovative expression of structure. The idea for this house was to create a house having a radial plan with the dining room at its center.” The circular dining space with exposed brick walls is undoubtedly striking. And while the room has no windows and low ceilings, it is bathed in diffused natural light from the conical dome and skylight positioned above the table in the center of the room. With such unique design elements at its core, this home requires owners with a strong sense of style and big dreams for the space, and fortunately, its current owners are in possession of just those qualities.
The home underwent an update at the capable hands of architects Kris Nikolich and Andrew Bryant, along with interior designer Patti Woods. The project encompassed an effort to renovate the kitchen and create a clean, contemporary space throughout that would accommodate the homeowners’ existing furniture and gorgeous art collection and, at the same time, celebrate the home’s original design, much of which had been compromised since its initial construction. “In the 52 years since it was built, the home has undergone a number of renovations,” Kris says. “The exterior deck was enclosed to add internal living area and the glass exterior of the bedrooms was replaced with smaller windows, darkening the rooms and obscuring the connection to the exterior. Other incidental changes of finishes further diluted Fritz’s original concept.” From there, the design team and homeowners worked to create a plan that would be functional for their daily lives and was also true to the home’s initial inspiration.
Incorporating the home’s original design into its updates while creating a functional space for the homeowners was a challenge in many regards, one welcomed by the design team. “I enjoyed the unique planning of the round house where the room walls are angled to focus views to the exterior and connect to nature,” Kris says. To allow the art in the home and the spectacular views outside to shine, many of the design features were kept simple. Clean lines are featured in the furniture throughout the home, much of which was custom made in collaboration with MDM Design, and crisp, white walls and bright flooring selections serve as a simple backdrop to the homeowners’ vibrant art collection.
Among the most impactful changes to the home was the addition of a two-story glass atrium to connect the upper and lower floors and create more practical living space for the homeowners. “The two-story space evolved from our analysis of the existing house and the owners’ desire to use the lower level rooms for an exercise space. The lower level was not originally connected to the main house and access was only possible by going outside,” Kris says. “While a primary goal of the project was to bring many of Fritz’s original design elements back, such as the exterior windows and the cedar shake roof, rather than reconstruct the former deck space, Design Initiative proposed creating a two-story glass atrium in its place, connecting both levels and creating a dynamic extension of the living areas of the house.” The large window panels also allow for ample views of the hilly, wooded estate and give a nod to the home’s innate connection to the outdoors, a theme which is incorporated in every room in the home. “I love the connection between the outside landscape and the inside living spaces,” Patti says. “Nature is ever-present.”
This unique home is the perfect blend of old and new, outside and in, comfort and style. Together with Design Initiative’s fabulous design team, the homeowners were able to create a space that is both uniquely theirs and true to the signature style of the home.
Thank you to Graham Yelton for the stunning photos of this one-of-a-kind home!
Architecture: Kris Nikolich and Marshall Anderson, Design Initiative
Contractor: Philip Woods, Philip Woods Home Builder
Structural engineer: Jeremy Deal, Barnett Jones Wilson
Mechanical engineer: Chris Golden, BBG&S
Interior design: Patti Woods, Patti Woods Interiors
A/V: Clear Solutions
Countertops: Zodiaq Quartz, DuPont
Kitchen cabinets: Loay Ali, European Kitchen of Alabama, Alno
Custom bed, millwork and steel cladding: Michael Morrow, MDM Design Studio
Windows: Van Holcombe, Holcombe Doors and Windows
Wall and floor tile: Fixtures & Finishes (formerly Kenny & Co.)
Lighting: 1stdibs, Ylighting
Appliances: Miele, Liebherr, European Kitchen of Alabama
Hardware: Eric Brandino, Brandino Brass
Drapery: Window Décor Home Store
Custom Front Door: JLP, Inc.
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