unlacquered brass

Hey, it’s Doug, I hope everyone is doing well today.  Having grown up in the 80’s, I have to admit the idea of using brass in an interior doesn’t immediately appeal to me.  It seems that every renovation project I’ve completed for the past few years we’ve removed brass fixtures and fittings and replaced them with nickel or bronze.  Lately, brass is making a comeback, though thankfully in a modified form from the shininess that defined the finish 25 years ago.

Unlacquered brass lacks the slick top layer that keeps the brass finish of the 1980’s looking bright forever.  Instead, unlacquered brass weathers over time and takes on a beautiful and warm patina.  The first time I was exposed to this finish was at a client’s suggestion a couple of years ago.  When we were designing the architectural interiors for the 11 Bonita project, our client kept insisting on “living finishes” which I was all for — until he asked for brass!  After some convincing I came around to his vision of brass faucets and door hardware that would weather naturally over time — with more tarnish in the areas that were touched the most and bits of shininess left around the edges.

The potfiller above the Lacanche Sully range in the 11 Bonita kitchen is of unlacquered brass.  I had the rivets on the custom steel rangehood we designed made from unlacquered brass as well to accentuate the detail.  Our client ordered the range with unlacquered knobs and pulls as well to complete the look.

You can see more unlacquered brass in the Pantry this same home — this time on the bridge faucet at the sink.  [photos by Colleen Duffley]

I mentioned last week in our post about Hamilton Sinkler’s return air grill that I specified for a home here in Mountain Brook we’re helping to renovate, that we were also replacing door hardware throughout the home.  The original 1920’s hardware is unlacquered brass and thankfully we’re able to replicate this finish for the replacement knobs we’ve selected.  Sometimes when the finish can’t be readily acquired, our very talented friends at Brandino Brass will have standard brass fixtures ‘dipped’ to strip the top layer of the finish away.

Speaking of unlacquered brass door hardware, check out this beautiful interior set–the Coleman from Rejuvenation.  Imagine how good it would look after a couple of years’ worth of use.

Waterworks has recently debuted a new collection called Henry and there are some wonderful unlacquered brass fixtures available in it.

Isn’t that good looking?  Besides the finish, this collection is such a great blend of tradition and clean lines.

Construction is about to begin on a bar that we designed in Chattanooga…we’ve designed an unlacquered brass shelving system which will run along the back bar and hold bottles of liquor.  It fits perfectly with the warm vintage feel we’re creating for this project — we’ll be sure to share photos of this feature when it’s installed.

So what do you think?  Are you ready to embrace brass again–albeit in a different feel from the slick look of the 80’s–or is it too soon for you to go back to the look?  We always love hearing what you think.

story of a range hood

When you have a 7 foot long, handmade French Lacanche range; a standard range hood just won’t do. This signature appliance was the jumping off point for the entire kitchen we designed for foodie and internet personality JB Hopkins and his partner when we undertook the renovation of their 1920’s Spanish Revival residence in Homewood, Alabama. Working in conjunction with architect and principal of our sister company Dungan Nequette Architects (and original co-founder of Tracery), Louis Nequette, Doug helped designed a range hood worthy of such an amazing piece of cooking equipment–and of the room at large.

When JB and his partner first bought this house, it was obvious it needed a lot of reworking to become the home they wanted. The original kitchen in the home was about three miles away (slight exaggeration) from any living space and was dark and small–definitely designed for household help in the 1920’s; and not for homeowners who love to cook and entertain. Louis imagined an entirely new space housed in an addition to the original structure.

Louis’ first vision for the space (dated 4-07), illustrated in a very early conceptual space below, was for perhaps the entire room to have a gothic-arch vaulted ceiling, with a dramatic range hood made of rustic wood planks.

Doug took Louis’ early vision for the room and began to interpret it into drawings in AutoCAD. He prepared several options–two of which are reflected below. The first is very similar to Louis’s early sketch (although the gothic vault had already been replaced with the flat ceiling and skylight that exist today). The second reflects a totally different vision, a more traditional tapered hood resting on corbeled brackets–much more European and expected.

The design that Louis, Doug and the homeowners eventually agreed upon is based upon the scalloped gothic arch version Doug drew based on Louis’ sketch, but rather than be crafted from planks of wood it’s made from sheets of blackened steel.

You can see in this construction drawing that Doug prepared, the final design for the range hood coming into shape. Once this drawing was ready (complete with dimensions verified to the actual space), we charged the execution of everyone’s vision to the very talented artist and metal worker Darren Hardman. Darren took Doug’s drawing and constructed the amazing range hood that graces the space today.

Made from sheets of blackened and clear coated steel with brass rivets, the range hood is absolutely the centerpiece of this kitchen and the perfect companion to the Lacanche range. Early on, JB Paige and Doug toyed with the idea of making the range (and also the island) a color–pale greyish purple and light green were both discussed–but in the end we all decided the black was the most classic and distinctive choice. It’s perfect with the blackened steel isn’t it?

A few details to note in the above photograph: Louis Nequette likes to add an extra stud and frame a low wall behind ranges. Here you can see this technique displayed perfectly, with a handy ledge for utensils and spices within easy reach of the cooking surface. The entire inside of the range area is covered in terra cotta bricks, layed in a herringbone pattern and stained dark. Just above the point of the arch, two Broan commercial hood inserts are installed between stainless steel trim to properly vent the massive cooksurface. Halogen pin lights light the inside of the cavernous surround. A Rohl pot filler is always handy in the wall beyond–JB requested unlaquered brass for all of the faucets in the kitchen which over time are acquiring a wonderful patina.

Want to learn even more about this amazing kitchen? Check out JB’s blog where he’s documented nearly every square inch of 11 Bonita, and be sure to read this post which discusses the Lacanche range in even more detail.

Birmingham in January’s Elle Decor

We’re so proud and excited to see Birmingham featured in the new January issue of Elle Decor!

There are photos of Henhouse Antiques and Robert Hill Antiques, two shops we frequent often.  Robert is quoted with a wonderful remark that “If you’re looking for something in Birmingham you can find it, whether in my store or another”  “We’re all friends and we know who has what — we’ll send you to the right place”

That warm and friendly attitude is exactly what we love about one of our hometowns (arent’ we lucky at Tracery to be able to call two wonderful places ‘home’ ?).  Pick up a copy and see all the great photos and recommendations–and congratulations to all of our friends who are featured!

Tracery featured in B-Metro magazine


We’re excited to have a project we helped to design featured in the inaugural issue of B-Metro — a new lifestyle magazine which profiles living in the Birmingham metro area.  Featured is the Hopkins Finley Residence in the historic Hollywood section of Homewood, Alabama.  Paige worked with architect Louis Nequette, of our sister company Dungan Nequette Architects, to help develop the early schematic concepts for the home and Doug later worked with the homeowners to design the home’s kitchen, master bath, master closet and various interior architectural details.  The Hopkins Finley Residence is an amazing home — we’ve featured parts of it several times on our blog before.


If you are in Birmingham, be sure to pick up a copy of B-Metro to see the whole feature, or click [here] to read the story online and to see an extensive online photo gallery.

[photos by Colleen Duffley, for Tracery Interiors]

get together

We’ve told you before how much we enjoy staging events in addition to our ‘day jobs’ as designers.  Doug recently styled a neighborhood get together for Jeff Dungan, one of the principals of our sister company Dungan Nequette Architects (and one of the original founders of Tracery).  Jeff and his family live in a wonderful 1930’s brick home that Jeff has slowly been converting to a more ‘Dungan Nequette-y’ looking place for the past several years.  Their home is located in Homewood, Alabama on a beautiful hillside overlooking the valley below–and with a great view of Birmingham’s famous Vulcan statue.

For this early Autumn event–a casual Thursday night get together for friends and neighbors–Doug kept the decor simple.  Doug and Jeff took the opportunity to rearrange some things and restyle and replace some art and accessories in the home.  Parties are a great excuse to spruce up and reimagine your home and the best part is that you get to enjoy the results long after the event has ended.

In the Foyer, Doug placed an antique silver tray of candles next to an arrangement of dark red sunflowers and green-tinged white hydrangea.  This vignette was the first thing guests were greeted with when arriving and set the tone for the event decor throughout the rest of the house.



Doug placed a smaller version of the entry arrangement on the ottoman in the adjacent Living Room.  We like to keep a consistent look to floral arrangements when styling an event, adding or subtracting varieties of flowers in different rooms but always starting from a common base of selections.



Above the sofa, Doug and Jeff placed a quartet of architectural etchings (this is an architect’s house after all).  Discovered at French Market Antiques in Birmingham, the etchings are matted in olive green–a choice we’d probably never make ourselves but we love the way the pieces look in this space!


The table lamp, made from fragments of antique ironwork, is also from French Market.  You can see the Dungans’ dog Sofie at her regular perch along the back of the sofa in this photo.



Doug restyled an existing bookcase next to the piano with a collection of white pottery.  He mixed in some of the Dungans’ collection of photography and etchings for variety and then added white candles on alabaster trays to create a warm glow for the early evening party.


In the adjacent Dining Room, Doug and Jeff moved a piece that originally hung over the Living Room fireplace.  In this new setting, the piece appears in a whole new light and relates beautifully with the wooded view outside the room.


The console, fashioned from a piece of antique ironwork, was originally purchased to serve as  changing table for the Dungans’ youngest daughter’s nursery–proof that a good piece can serve many purposes throughout its lifetime.  Doug placed a collection of mercury glass votives next to an iron urn filled with moss and fresh pepperberries.


Tracery’s event planning and styling services area available throughout the Southeast from both our Birmingham and Rosemary Beach offices.  With the holidays fast approaching we’d love to help you create the perfect setting — from new furniture and art to floral arrangements, if you are in the mood for a new look before your company arrives we’d love to talk!



Great lighting is key to creating dramatic spaces.  In the Inglenook of a Homewood, Alabama house pictured above, warm recessed lighting concealed in the ceiling beyond the arched opening, casts a wonderful glow onto an encaustic by Birmingham artist Maralyn Wilson.  The sculptural form of the white candlesticks is emphasized by the play between light and shadow this lighting creates.  [photo by Eric Marcus]



An orchid sitting atop a vintage metal box becomes a piece of living sculpture thanks to the dramatic lighting in this Birmingham cottage.  The pale blue background of a small abstract landscape by Atlanta artist Courtney Garrett sings against the tobacco painted wood walls.  We love how the dramatic shadow cast by the orchid’s blooms against the walls adds so much dimension to the composition.  [photo by Ryan Davis]



A dark ceiling transforms this Rosemary Beach Master Bedroom into a dramatic and cocoon like oasis.  Paige placed chocolate and white printed drapery panels against the expanse of glass to frame the view and add interest to an otherwise very refined palette in the space.  The glow from a great lamp on the chest adds an interesting element to the room — imagine how a more traditional lamp and shade would change the composition into something less unique.  [photo by Michael Granberry]



As in the last image, sometimes natural light is all that’s needed to bring drama and interest to space.  Photographer Colleen Duffley waited until just the right moment to capture this photo of a Sitting Room found in a Homewood, Alabama Spanish Colonial Revival home we helped to renovate.  Doug designed the intricately patterned paneling along the back wall to showcase the homeowners’ collection of art.  Designer and homeowner JB Hopkins furnished the room with pieces that are equally dramatic and sculptural.



We’ve mentioned before how we like to take risks and do something really interesting in small spaces like Powder Rooms.  For this gulf-front home in Rosemary Beach, Paige selected a fiery orange glass pendant fixture to hang over the sleek modern sink.  The striking contrast of the glass against the cool white walls is an unexpected and dramatic touch in this space.  [photo by Michael Granberry]

collage walls

One of our favorite ways to display a collection of photographs is to create a collage wall.  This technique is helpful when working with photos of different subject matter, sizes, color (black and white versus color) and it’s a great way to mix disparate frames together.  Here are a few examples of how we’ve used collage walls in our work:


In the stair hall of this home, located in the Hollywood neighborhood of Homewood, Alabama; a collection of photography winds up the staircase walls.  Not only is this a unique way to treat art on a staircase (think how different the space would feel if all the photos were the same size and ‘stairstepped’ up the walls), hanging the pieces this way allows you to really experience and appreciate each photo as you climb the stairs.


At the SpringHouse Restaurant at Lake Martin, we hung a collection of archival photos from the Russell Lands collection in the Waiting Hall.  Guests waiting for a table enjoy looking at the photos which depict the history of Lake Martin and the Russell Corporation–as Doug was hanging the photos the construction crew actually stopped work to come over and discuss each piece as it went up!  Hanging the art in this manner is in keeping with the casual and rustic mood of the space.


[above photos all by Eric Marcus]

In the staircase of the Southern Living Tarpon Run Idea House, Paige and Anna Kay hung photos they took themselves in Port Aransas, Texas, where the Idea House was located.  To keep with the casual feel of this coastal home, they again chose to collage the photos in a casual grouping.  The simple black frames make a bold presentation against the pale aqua wall.


[photo by Laurey W Glenn for Southern Living]