On August 10, 2015, Marian Humphries went to work excited for the beginning of a new school year at Vestavia Hills Elementary School Central, where she served as principal before retiring. She was gathered with school staff in preparation for students returning three days later when she received a devastating call from her husband, Maurice. The Liberty Park home they had built together was on fire.

Marian and their two adult children—also educators—rushed home as firefighters fought to extinguish the flames. “We all felt so blessed when we saw that my husband, their dad was ok. After all, material things are not what makes life worthwhile.”

Marian and Maurice Humphries on the front porch of their new home in English Village

Officials allowed the Humphries to survey the damage outside. Everything was covered in soot and ash, but amidst the destruction, they saw a huge philodendron toppled on its side. The plant had been given to their daughter by a family friend named John Wiley nearly 30 years prior.

“The inside was still burning,” shares Marian. “They made us put on boots and full gear and we walked down the side and around the back of the house with the firemen. I yelled out, ‘John Wiley!’ They thought it was a person, they didn’t understand it was a plant! We were so glad to see something we could save. I told them John Wiley’s a survivor like us.”

A large potted philodendron plant survived the Humphries' house fire.

The Humphries home of seven years was deemed a total loss. They moved into a hotel for six weeks and then to an apartment in downtown Homewood while they determined where to live permanently. While they had enjoyed raising their two children in the suburbs, their temporary residence introduced them to the joys of living in a more central location within walking distance to restaurants and shops.

“We had such a good experience building in Liberty Park, but we didn’t want to build there again because of the memories of the fire,” says Marian. “We started looking and looking for the right place.”

As Co-Founder, President and C.O.O. and of LAH Real Estate, Maurice had plenty of experience and lots of friends helping search for their perfect home. They were at a company holiday party when a friend told them about a home he was building in Birmingham’s historic Redmont neighborhood near English Village, but worried would be too much space for him. The Humphries went to see the construction in progress and, after three years of searching, knew they had found the place to call home.

The home is surrounded by stone walls, gates and courtyards that evoke the gardens of England. It was built on the previous home's footprint to look as though it has always been part of the historic neighborhood.

“The house was 75 percent finished,” Marian recalls. “We came in at just the right time and got to pick out the jewelry, the fun part—the paint colors, the chandeliers and light fixtures, the hardwood floors. We had inherited so many things from family over the years. It was hard to lose so much, but we decided to take our time and pick out the items we really wanted.”

Guests are welcomed into a grand foyer that showcases one of the home's four gas fireplaces. The antique wood chests were recovered from the fire and brought back to life by a restoration specialist.

The Humphries were able to save several pieces of furniture—a leather-covered desk, two console tables, a pair of antique chests, a beloved mirror, pieces of art—and a few other items like a crystal vase that somehow survived unscathed. They were amazed to see the transformation brought by restoration specialists to pieces heavily damaged by fire, smoke and water. The Humphries have enjoyed sourcing furniture and accessories from local shops and picking out art pieces during their travels.

The foyer leads into the spacious and open main living area of the home that includes kitchen, den and dining area.

The home was built by Gip Plott, who specializes in commercial real estate projects. He expertly planned the home to sit on the footprint of the original house, making it seem as though the home has always been part of the historic surroundings.

“The bones of the house were here,” says Maurice. “The builder preserved as much of the brick as possible. Instead of bringing in new brick, he salvaged it from old buildings like the Waites downtown.”

The expertly designed kitchen features custom cabinetry painted a chalky blue-grey. The marble countertop surface is repeated on the backsplash for an aesthetic that is both calming and luxurious. Chef-quality appliances and touches like a pot filler about the gas range create a perfect spot to entertain friends and family.

Inside guests are welcomed into the grand foyer, which features one of the home’s four fireplaces and opens into the spacious den, beautiful deep blue kitchen and elegant dining area that comprise the main living space. The main level features an office and three large bedrooms.

The dining area includes a versatile round table with casually elegant seating. Art from the couple's travels and a glass vase that survived the fire are front and center.

At the top of the delightfully designed staircase is a small den the Humphries grandkids love to claim as their own. Marian utilizes the basement as an art studio.

Marian took a hands-on approach to selecting design elements with artistic flair throughout the home. She worked with a local craftsman to bring her ideas to life in the stairwell's iron banister.
Marian commissioned a designer in California to create an eclectic ceiling fixture for the powder room that ties in to the carefully selected tile floor.

The true gems of the property are the outdoor spaces. The Humphries had long admired the courtyard gardens of England but could never achieve the feeling in spacious Liberty Park. Their new home is tucked into its surroundings with privacy walls and gated courtyards that encompass soothing fountains and lovely garden areas.

The Humphries love to gather spend time in the welcoming covered outdoor patio. The comfortable seating, stone fireplace and TV make it the perfect spot to watch football games in the fall.

The stone walls feature unusual elements like glass balls, old tools and hidden stone faces. Out the back door is a covered patio complete with stone fireplace, generous seating and a large-screen TV—the perfect spot for the family to gather to watch a fall football game.

A stone face is one of the interesting elements tucked into the intricate stone walls surrounding the home
The back patio features a calming concrete fountain.

The couple’s favorite feature is their new neighborhood. “It’s a really convenient location,” says Maurice. “It’s five minutes to Homewood, five minutes to downtown, five minutes to Crestline.”

The gated front courtyard features a delightful fountain that spills into a fish-filled pond.
Marian relishes gardening in the quaint courtyards and containers found all around the home's exterior.

“We have wonderful neighbors,” Marian shares. “We love walking the sidewalks. The English Village Garden Club is a caring and entertaining group who really cares about the best interest of our neighborhood and the city. We like to walk to Vino and Chez Lulu to eat or have a glass of wine. And the grandkids love to walk down to Continental Bakery to get cookies when they visit. We just love living in English Village.”