Sometimes spaghetti sauce splatters the banquette. J.C. and Amy Conlin understand it’s part of the spills and thrills of raising two little girls. They refuse, however, to let their taste be commandeered by Chef Boyardee.
Sophistication had to be part of the fabric of their new house in Birmingham, Alabama. “J.C. and I,” Amy says, “wanted our home to be super functional for our family but to look adult.”
Designer Dana Wolter took that mandate to heart, creating rooms that are warm, inviting, and sophisticated—yet incredibly, indelibly kid-friendly. “I was strategic with fabrics,” Wolter says. “Everything is treated for durability. The Conlins can live in their house and enjoy it—with no worries.”
The tone is evident from the first step inside. Pleated draperies soften one wall of the foyer, a layered space outfitted with a functional bench for putting on shoes and with custom art to amplify the draperies’ drama. “It’s elegant but livable,” Wolter says. “You walk in and instantly feel comfortable.”
Shades of gray and silver begin here, then thread throughout the home, including the adjacent living room, a grand space with a soaring 21-foot ceiling.
“My goal was to tone down the vastness and make the room warm and livable,” Wolter says. “The solution was 21-foot draperies.” Their soft pleats hug French doors and soften the look of the limestone blocks that form the fireplace wall.
Draperies also frame the adjacent wall, a textural, color-rich stunner that elevates the idea of an accent wall. Wolter custom-designed the dramatic installation, a screen covered in deep blue upholstery spiked with brass nailheads.
“A wall of fabric? When Dana first suggested it, J.C. and I couldn’t envision it,” Amy says. “But it turned out so incredible. It’s the thing everyone who visits our home talks about.”
Long gab sessions are encouraged in this space, where pairs of inviting club chairs and sofas snuggle next to the fireplace. Leather chairs and a tufted ottoman pull out to easily accommodate extra guests. “A room should feel welcoming,” Wolter says. “The more the merrier.”
The dark and dramatic hues that Wolter used in selective bursts in the living room intensify in the library, a masculine space that J.C. uses for both business and relaxation.
“J.C. isn’t afraid to push the envelope with color and daring in his wardrobe,” Wolter says. “I wanted his office to reflect that. It’s a moody space where he can enjoy a cocktail with a friend. But the cranberry settee provides a nice pop against the dark backdrop.”
Deep colors—the grays, blues, and black in Wolter’s palette—return to a supporting role in the kitchen and breakfast nook, the family’s primary hangout spot.
“Amy and J.C. wanted a lot of white—a light and airy mood,” Wolter says.
White paint covers the arched ceiling, the equally graceful plaster range hood, and the shiplap that pairs with elegant Calacatta Gold marble on the range wall and island. “I love the movement of the marble,” Amy says. “It really gives a neutral kitchen life.”
White even covers the spacious banquette in the eating nook—a choice that Amy initially wasn’t so in love with. “Dana wanted to do a white bench, and I said, ‘No! No!’” Amy recalls with a laugh. “But it’s vinyl. You can just wipe off the spills.”
When the Conlins entertain, though, it’s all about elegance. Wolter wrapped the dining room walls in a dark gray suede that cocoons the space in soft, subtle texture. Nailhead trim accents blue upholstered spool chairs, their stained-wood frames meshing with a classic turned-leg table.
“I like the drama of the suede,” Amy says. “It’s unexpected—great in a space made for entertaining.”
Her favorite place, though, is the master bedroom. “It’s a true retreat,” Amy says.
Wolter called on a soft palette of cream with rich, soft grays to create a soothing, tailored room layered in soft fabrics. Its calm vibe continues into the master bath, a serene room filled with classic finishes that will stand the test of time.
“I dipped the bathroom in marble,” Wolter says with a laugh. Calacatta Gold marble blocks cover the walls, while the same luxe material in mosaic form spills across the floor. A large Roman shade layers in softness and provides privacy.
“Everything turned out beautiful,” Amy says. “I would have never come up with the ideas that have made our home so special. It’s a true testament to trusting your decorator.”