The Casements are no strangers to owning an old house or the challenges of seeing a home through extensive renovations. Elizabeth, a Birmingham native, and Mike, who hails from the central coast of California, have renovated and restored several homes in the Birmingham area. Mike, who works as a project manager with Creature, brings knowledge and expertise in building that is beautifully complemented by Elizabeth’s love for interior design and frugal home décor.
In 2020, the Casements began looking for a new-to-them home in Birmingham’s Southside neighborhood, near historic Glen Iris Park. Their wish list included a neighborhood situated close to their church and friends in Homewood within the city limits of revitalized Birmingham, with walkability to stores and restaurants and a big flat yard for their four young children and dog. They identified several homes that fit the bill and employed a non-traditional approach to moving into the area.
“We started driving streets to see which homes we liked the look of, which had a good view of downtown and a good location," says Elizabeth. "We narrowed it down to three houses and sent letters to those owners asking if they might be willing to sell their home. One got back to us and, as it turned out, we have a lot of mutual friends, so the sale was very easy. We didn’t need to use an agent and it went off without a hitch like it was meant to be.”
The Casements purchased a stately neoclassical two-story home with large columns and a wrap-around front porch that dates back to the early 1900s. They estimate the house was likely built between 1905 and 1910, based on its architectural elements and recorded ages of other homes in the area. Over the years the home has had several owners and served as headquarters for the Christian Service Mission, which broadcast a radio station out of what is now the master bathroom. The Casements plan to complete the steps necessary to obtain a Jefferson County historical marker once they finish working on the house.
“When we decided we wanted to live in this area of town, we thought a lot about where we might want to move and knew we wanted somewhere walkable,” Casement explains. “So many of our friends, businesses we frequent and our church are in Homewood. So, when we decided on Southside and the Glen Iris area, we started driving around and looking for what streets we liked, locations that seemed good, places that seemed like they might have a big yard. We actually sent out letters to three homes we were interested in and this is the home where the owners got back to us and said they might be willing to sell.”
The Casements have been extremely hands-on with previous renovation projects, but between the rigors of raising and homeschooling four kids under nine and Mike’s work, they decided to call in professional contractors to see the project through completion. They put their trust in Ketcham & Company due to the team’s experience managing restoration projects on old homes around town.
“We had complete trust in the Ketchams because they know old houses. They’re not afraid of the extra work that inevitably comes up. Jama helped me do all the selections—basically anything that doesn’t move. Everything else I picked out on my own.”
The Casements worked closely with their contractors to maintain important structural elements of the home like the original woodwork and windows, restore previous changes that were not in keeping with the historical trends of the era, while updating areas like the kitchen and bathrooms that required modernization. The result is a beautiful blend of history and elegant functionality.
“My husband went through all the old pictures we could find of the home’s exterior and he was very intentional about getting it restored the way it was originally built.” Vinyl covering the facia was replaced with wood and the home’s original decorative dental molding was added back. They hope to soon find lights for the porch that emulate the fixtures pictured in early images.
Casement has decorated the home with an eclectic mix of second-hand furniture, family heirlooms and collected art and found items. “It’s hard to narrow down the list of things I love about this house, but I love the fact that there are almost endless places for knick-knacks. I’m powerless to resist an old book with an interesting or classic title, a piece of perfectly worn silver plate, or a tiny bud vase.”
She loves to search local thrift stores, antique shops and estate sales for unique elements to decorate the home. Favorite spots include Sozo Trading in Avondale, Lovelady Thrift Store in Irondale and the Goodwill and Salvation Army stores on Green Springs Highway.
“I go once or twice a week,” Casement shares. “The inventory changes so frequently that I feel like you have to go a lot. Most trips yield nothing, but every now and then they’ve just gotten a shipment in and I’ll come home with the car entirely full.”
Guests are welcomed into the home’s elegant entry that provides the perfect spot for an inherited grand piano. “The entry was big, but I didn’t really know what to do with the space,” Casement says. “The piano belonged to my friend’s grandmother. She had it in her entry and, when she was redecorating and decided to sell it, I jumped at the offer.”
The Casements invested in the expert restoration of the original wood that clads the grand front staircase, intricate molding and ceiling beams in the front hall and adjoining den. “One of the things we loved about the house when we looked at it was all the woodwork—the beams on the ceiling, the molding around the doorways, the pocket doors, the beautiful built-in benches and the staircase. In the entry and the living room, the contractor sanded the wood down and put another layer of stain and poly on it to make it look fresher, bring it back to life and keep it looking good for another 100 years.”
The spacious den exquisitely showcases the home’s dark-stained wood floors and other wood elements that blend well with the charcoal paint accenting the brick fireplace. The room is anchored by a second-hand emerald green sofa from Anthropologie and a pair of chairs Casement found at a thrift store for $15 and had recovered in a leopard print. Collections of vintage books, old cameras, a large conch shell they discovered at the beach and other unique items fill the shelves and walls.
“Most of the cameras were my grandfather’s,” Casement says. “He was an engineer and loved all things mechanical. A few were my dad’s and I’ve added one or two. Now that everybody in our family knows that I’ve got the collection, when they find one at their house, they send them my way. Most of the things around here came from family, but I do go to a lot of thrift stores and estate sales.”
Situated behind the den, the walk-through family room’s white walls provide a prime canvas for gallery collections of artwork and found items Casement has collected. “We decided we love art too much to stop,” Casement says. “This entire room is just about covered so we figured we’d go for it. My oldest daughter declared, ‘Mom. Definitely too many pictures.’”
A versatile Ikea sofa offers a comfortable spot for the family to pile in to read together. “In three of the rooms, the light fixtures are original,” Casement explains. “We can tell that because we actually have some old pictures of the interior of the house. The entry light, the den light and the light in the family room are all original to the house.”
Off the family room is a breathtaking sun room, framed by three walls of floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a perfect lookout spot for their rescued lab-pit bull mix, Hank. The room provides a spot for a computer desk where work or studying may take place. “This is one of my favorite rooms in the whole house,” Casement says.
The dining room’s dark beams, molding and fireplace were painted in a carefully selected shade that blends with the dark stain applied in the front rooms. The dark walls of the dining room set off the relaxed dining table and chairs from World Market, positioned under an ornate crystal chandelier. A ceramic swan, snagged for $3.99 at Goodwill, holding a plant serves as an unexpected centerpiece. A marble-topped chest in the corner belonged to Casement’s great grandfather. It’s topped with a thrifted glass lamp she filled with tumbled river glass collected by the kids on nature walks.
“The chandelier in the dining room is not original, but it is a very old one that my great grandfather brought back as a gift for my great grandmother from France. It was originally made for candles and he had it electrified. Even though it’s not original, it’s definitely around the right time period.”
Casement struggled to find reasonably-priced curtains for the dining room’s 11-foot windows. Her solution? She painted $16 drop cloths ordered on Amazon with a makeup sponge dipped in paint the color of the walls to create an abstract design.
At the rear of the first floor spans the gorgeous updated kitchen and open eating area. The reworked kitchen features a large island lined with bamboo stools. Cabinets are positioned below the black soapstone counters to allow the windows to bounce abundant natural light around the room. Stainless steel appliances and brass fixtures add an elegant tone to the black and white space. Simple floating shelves hold china and cutting boards and a roll of craft paper posts the weekly menu. A glass top table with bamboo frame is complemented by six matching chairs for casual family meals.
At the bottom of the second staircase is a set of built-in shelves that hold silver, glassware and bar items. “We took the doors off of an old built-in china cabinet and installed one of my favorite pieces, a brass rack for hanging glassware, in the top shelf. If you love it, don’t hide it away in storage!”
The light-filled master bedroom stands under the apex of the home’s second story roofline. The previous owners vaulted the ceiling to open up the room. “Our bedroom is one of my favorite spots in our house,” Casement says. “It has a 16-foot vaulted ceiling and lots of beautiful natural light. We typically don’t cover windows up with blinds and opt for functional curtains instead. I feel like it makes it so much brighter during the day.” She picked up 120” brown velvet curtain panels at Sozo Trading for under $20 each. They had been donated new by an interiors business and still bore $199 price tags.
At the center of the room is a stately bed positioned in front of a screen that serves as a headboard. The crisp white quilt and shams are from Pottery Barn. Casement had throw pillows made from vintage chinoiserie fabric she bought at an estate sale. She found a vintage screen painted with a flower cart at an antique store that fits perfectly above the bed. Matching white tables and green lamps flank the bed. High above is a single ledge holding a rainbow-hued array of books. A rolled arm leather chair set in front of one of the home’s original fireplaces brings cozy charm to the corner.
The master bath had seen renovations that detracted from the room’s abundant natural light. The Casements initially considered leaving the room as it was to avoid ballooning their budget, but they recognized the importance of investing in the project and the comfort it would provide every day.
“The master bath is an area where we really reworked everything. The space was originally a bedroom in the house and the previous owners had converted it into a master suite. There was a lot of square footage, but the layout wasn’t what we wanted it to be so we gutted the space. We took out some walls that blocked some of the windows so we could have a big walk-in shower, a soaking tub and a long vanity with his & her sinks.”
The Casements’ son’s room is painted a dark moody blue that sets off the bright orange and white comforter and a colorful custom mural spray-painted by a local artist.
“The mural was done by Dewon Moton. When we were renovating this house, we lived around the corner a couple blocks away and got to know him. He’s a muralist and artist and works in all media, particularly spray paint. We asked if he’d be willing to do some art for our son’s room. He got some requests from our son about what he might want up there and he specifically asked for a Lamborghini, a rocket, an astronaut, Mars and an electric guitar playing the notes to the guitar solo from ‘Beat It.’ Dewon took all of that and showed us the preliminary sketch and projected it onto the wall and made it come to life.”
Casement splurged on a colorful floral wallpaper from Anthropologie that creates a stunning focal wall in her daughter’s bedroom.
The Casements’ lab and pit bull mix Hank is a rescue posted on Facebook by a craftsman who worked on a home they previously owned.
The Casements work together to homeschool their four young children. “My husband has a flexible work schedule and homeschooling allows us to travel when we want to,” says Casement. “His family is on the west coast and we’re able to stay for a week or two without the restrictions of a school calendar. We love the freedom it provides.”
An extra bedroom upstairs serves as a classroom and playroom, with vintage metal lockers, old maps and collected shells and feathers serving dual education and décor purposes.
“We use this space to store our homeschool things and we do school wherever they feel comfortable that day. We keep a lot of toys in here as well and all their nature collection from when they’re out on walks. This is also the room where they do a lot of their art which keeps our dining table free from art projects.”
When asked if she would consider moving from the home, Casement says she doesn’t think that will happen any time soon. “We love it here. We moved in just before the holidays once the renovations were finished, so it still feels new to us. This place has a long history of family memories, milestones marked and service to those in need that we hope to continue.”