Di­vine DE­SIGN

A love of ec­cle­si­as­ti­cal an­tiques and Euro­pean ar­chi­tec­ture in­spired Jan and Stan’s unique home in Amer­ica’s Deep South

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - LIFESTYLE - FEA­TURE SO­PHIE HAN­NAM PHO­TO­GRAPHS TRIA GIOVAN

With its steep pitched roof, ex­posed tim­ber frame and mel­low flag­stone walls, Jan Cash’s Arts and Crafts-style house is an un­ex­pected slice of English ar­chi­tec­ture, trans­planted to south­ern Amer­ica. Visi­tors are of­ten for­given for think­ing that the house is a cen­tury old, and Jan – an in­te­rior de­signer – takes the mis­take as a great com­pli­ment.

She had al­ways wanted to build her own home, and has long been an ad­mirer of ‘the old-world feel of Bri­tish ver­nac­u­lar ar­chi­tec­ture.’ Jan and her hus­band Stan took the first step to­wards re­al­is­ing this dream in the early 1980s when they bought a 1920s Tu­dor-style prop­erty in the his­toric Red­mont area of Birm­ing­ham, Alabama. The house came with gen­er­ous grounds on which they hoped to build some­thing in their own de­sign. How­ever, the land be­side the house was empty for a rea­son. ‘ We’d been pic­tur­ing the per­fect house for so long that we were obliv­i­ous to the fact that the plot was vir­tu­ally a ravine! It took 18 years be­fore build­ing could be­gin,’ says Jan. ‘But it gave me plenty of time to gather my ideas to­gether.’

The neigh­bour­hood is on the USA’s Na­tional Reg­is­ter of His­toric Places, and so the house had to be sym­pa­thetic to the sur­round­ing ar­chi­tec­ture, most of which dates back to the early 20th cen­tury. The cou­ple hired McAlpine Tanker­s­ley, a firm

of ar­chi­tects who spe­cialise in build­ing his­toric and tra­di­tional-look­ing houses, and Jan pre­sented them with a raft of ideas that had a very def­i­nite fairy-tale qual­ity to them. ‘A kind of ro­man­tic folly,’ re­calls Greg Tanker­s­ley, who was happy to work to Jan’s brief. ‘In e ect she sup­plied the ‘once upon a time’, and it was our job to de­liver the ‘hap­pily ever af­ter’.’

Jan was de­lighted with the re­sult and threw her­self into dec­o­rat­ing the in­te­ri­ors in an ‘eclec­tic Euro­pean’ style. ‘Our rooms are firmly an­chored with pe­riod pieces and an­tiques from a life­time of col­lect­ing both here and abroad. In fact, our love of travel was a ma­jor in­flu­ence on all of our choices.’

While the ex­te­rior of the house is a tes­ta­ment to the cou­ple’s fond­ness for ‘that coun­try, just over the pond’, the in­te­ri­ors scheme that Jan has de­vised is a cel­e­bra­tion of all things Euro­pean. ‘I pre­fer a time­less look, which is best achieved with an­tiques, his­tor­i­cal colours and per­sonal ob­jects,’ she ex­plains, adding that she first be­gan amass­ing re­li­gious an­tiques af­ter a hol­i­day spent trav­el­ling around Eu­rope with her hus­band. ‘It was the ex­quis­ite carv­ings and dec­o­ra­tion in French and Ital­ian churches that really in­spired us.’ And in the years it took for the cou­ple to fi­nalise the plans for their new home, Jan gath­ered to­gether dec­o­ra­tive an­tiques and ar­chi­tec­tural sal­vage, such as fonts and or­nate sculp­tures, in a lo­cal stor­age unit.

Jan’s favourite piece is an or­nate Ger­man an­gel from the 18th- cen­tury, which she found in a tiny an­tiques shop in Mu­nich. ‘It was our first day in Ger­many, and we were both se­ri­ously jet-lagged,’ she laughs, re­mem­ber­ing how they spot­ted the gilded fig­ure half-hid­den in a shop win­dow. ‘As it was a Sun­day, all of the stores were closed, so I begged Stan to take me back the next day.’ Although orig­i­nally

It was the ex­quis­ite carv­ings and dec­o­ra­tion in French and Ital­ian churches that really in­spired us

An­tique ta­pes­tries are an­other pas­sion and Jan has used them all over the house as hang­ings and up­hol­stery

pur­chased as a Christ­mas dec­o­ra­tion, Jan loves the an­gel so much that it stays on dis­play all year round.

An­tique ta­pes­tries are an­other pas­sion and Jan has used them all over the house, either in the form of hang­ings, up­hol­stery or cush­ions. ‘I love the way ta­pes­try frag­ments look when framed, and I also like to make them into cush­ions.’ A 16th- cen­tury Bel­gian piece in the din­ing room is her best buy to date: an el­e­gant tan­gle of gold and blue that de­picts Pomona, the god­dess of fruit­ful abun­dance. It is a fit­ting sub­ject in a house that was clearly built with en­ter­tain­ing in mind.

Never is this more strik­ing than at Christ­mas, when ta­ble tops and man­tel­pieces are adorned with swags of fresh green­ery, lengths of silk rib­bon and an­tique glass baubles. As well as on the front door, each of the win­dows is hung with a large wreath stud­ded with un­usual ber­ries and suc­cu­lents. In the din­ing room, an enor­mous spray of flow­ers, fruits and fo­liage is rem­i­nis­cent of an 18th- cen­tury Dutch paint­ing. A fo­cal point in the liv­ing room, the Christ­mas tree was cus­tom-made with swathes of rus­tic grapevine. ‘I’ve never seen an­other tree like it!’ says Jan.

Tra­di­tion­ally, Christ­mas Eve is spent with friends and Christ­mas Day with fam­ily. ‘I make sure that there’s plenty of soft can­dle­light and fresh green­ery and we fol­low the same menu ev­ery year.’ Stan serves fes­tive drinks from a bar built from an or­nately carved English church al­tar topped with sal­vaged lime­stone. But, dec­o­ra­tions aside, Jan’s Christ­mas cel­e­bra­tions wouldn’t be com­plete with­out her mother’s ‘fresh co­conut cake with a pineap­ple-and- or­ange fill­ing and di­vin­ity frosting’. A far cry from the heavy fruit cakes favoured in Jan’s beloved Eu­rope but, as she says, ‘it just wouldn’t be Christ­mas in our house with­out it!’

The liv­ing room is Jan’s favourite part of the house. The ceil­ing is 17ft high – the beams came from the 125-year- old oaks that were felled to clear the plot be­fore build­ing work be­gan. The shut­ters are made from pecky cy­press, which has a dis­tinc­tive ‘aged’ pat­tern

ABOVE In the sit­ting room, a 17th- cen­tury book­case is lled with an­tique books and carv­ings. The chair in front has its orig­i­nal needle­point and dates from around 1890. Op­po­site is a Wil­liam-and- Mary chair with caned back. An Ital­ian book from the mid 1700s rests on the round ta­ble FAC­ING PAGE TOP Jan’s col­lec­tion of an­gels can be found dot­ted around her home. This ex­am­ple was found in Mu­nich. It came from an 18th­cen­tury church that was due to be de­mol­ished

ABOVE LEFT The kitchen bal­ances mod­ern con­ve­nience with old- world charm. The work­tops, splash­back and the canopy above the Vik­ing Range cooker, are lime­stone, as are the oor tiles ABOVE RIGHT Jan bought the gilded Ital­ian con­sole ta­ble at auc­tion in Lon­don. The lambs in­side the cab­i­net are 19th- cen­tury Stafford­shire pot­tery

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