Color Me Uptown
Uptown Traditionalists appreciate the details. Uptown rooms are approachable, eclectic and unexpected, liberated mixes of old and new. It respects the past but lives for today. Color me Uptown. One of the first loves of my life was the interior of my step great aunt's house near downtown Birmingham. It didn't matter that the city at that time had begun to crumble around her neighborhood, her house stood as a bastion to the entrepreneurs of the early twentieth century and it seems my step great-grandfather was really good at being an entrepreneur.
The house was built in 1908 and is still there. It is situated on a hill that looks out over the city. It is a huge tutor style edifice and to my childhood eyes seemed to ramble on forever. It caught my attention early that this house was different. Grandmother and Granddaddy lived in a beautiful house that had been built in the late thirties or early forties, but Aunt Frances' house was the rock star. There were two stairways, one in the front and one in the back. Lattice panels formed a wall around the back screened in porch. The lattice was painted a dark brown and to this day I am crazy about garden fences painted black, dark green or black-brown, they are so powerful and dramatic against the lush greens of mother nature.
The entrance was dark and enormous, my first apartment would have fit inside the space with room for parking. It should have been scary because of the heavily stained wood paneling on the walls and dark hardwood floors (precisely the Edwardian look that Elsie de Wolfe triumphantly liberated from American interiors) but somehow this foyer was welcoming. Aunt Frances' house exuded charm, sophistication and a connection with an era gone by. There was a stained-glass window in the landing of the formidable stairway marking the back of the entrance hall. It always had sunlight filtering through it, creating jeweled spots of light on the dark hardwood floor. We, the children, loved that spot under the steps. Aunt Frances had coloring books and crayons there for us. When we got tired of coloring, we could go into the kitchen which was through the massive dining room complete with fireplace and beyond the butler's pantry. The huge kitchen had white cabinets with glass fronts, a black and white highly waxed linoleum floor, and a table and chairs. Janie was there too. She had real cokes for us in small green bottles. We would sit at the table, she would always stand by the sink. She wanted to know what we were doing, how was school and were we being good girls, sweet to our mother and all. We assured we were.
The house ignited my love affair with oriental rugs, chintz, floor lamps with fringed silk shades and beautiful beau front chests. It always opened its arms and said, come in and let's look at yesterday and plan for tomorrow. It said there is something you can take with you that will make your future a little brighter and a little more secure. That is what uptown traditional is all about, a gracious and timeless elegance that endures. It will stand the test of time.
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