Hollywood Success Story: Kitchen Remodel Wins Home Builders Award; Whole house renovation meets the needs of a growing family

The Home Builders Association of Alabama awarded studio j.fante a 2022 Alabama Remodeling Excellence Award for the $75,000-$150,000 Kitchen Remodel for the Forsythe home in Homewood. j.fante studio helped the family transform their two-bedroom, one-bathroom home to accommodate their growing family.

By Anne Ruissi

Its work renovating a kitchen as part of an overall home renovation in Hollywood’s historic Homewood neighborhood won a Birmingham design and construction firm an award from the Home Builders Association of Alabama.

The association honored j.fante studio with a 2022 Alabama Remodeling Excellence Award for Kitchen Remodel of $75,000 to $150,000, said the studio’s Joe Fante.

“We are very pleased with the result,” said Jeremy Forsythe, owner of the home with his wife, Emily Forsythe.

The couple found the house when Emily walked to a Starbucks in Mountain Village on her way to work one morning. As she was driving down Hollywood Boulevard to the cafe, she spotted a real estate agent putting up a For Sale sign in front of a house that caught her eye.

The two-bedroom, one-bathroom home became their entry to Over the Mountain when they bought it and made it their own in 2009. But, as their family grew with the arrival of their three boys – John Michael, now 10, William, 6, and Bennett, 3 – the tiny cottage-style house has become too small for five people.

John Michael, William and Bennett Forsythe, left, playing in the front yard.

The couple knew they needed more space but didn’t want to leave the area, which they had fallen in love with, Jeremy said. So they decided to strive to expand their home to fit their growing family.

This eventually led them to studio j.fante, a design-build company specializing in renovations and additions to existing homes. Fante is a graduate of Auburn University’s architecture program and spent time in Hale County as part of the Rural Studio program.

Emily hit up social media for recommendations of businesses that could expand their home. When they first met Fante at their home, they told him what they wanted, and Fante talked about what he would like to do as he walked through the house.

The Forsythes liked what they heard and on February 7, 2021 the renovation project began.

Joe Fanté

Before any further work could be done on the 1930s house, a complete overhaul was required, with all new plumbing, electrics and gas installed. The floor system also needed fixing and the size of the house more than doubled.

As for the kitchen, Fante described it as “really small and cramped”, with the old wood from the original cabinets falling apart. When formulating the plans for the project, the designers “tried to honor the original character” of the house, he said. The end result, he said, “fits the original house very well.”

For starters, old rooms became spaces with new purposes. The kitchen was gutted to the posts and became the pantry and cloakroom. The master bedroom has become the new kitchen and the space where the old bathroom was located has become the new stairwell. There was also room to expand the basement later.

Once the structure was in place, locally-made custom built-in cabinets, polished marble countertops and ready-to-use appliances were added, the submission said. Reclaimed wood beams bonded to new white oak flooring and white oak cabinetry. The La Cornue range is highlighted by a double radius arched opening which matches the original arched opening in the salon.

A recessed exhaust hood with a flush panel finish is hidden above the arch in the drywall ceiling, allowing the Zellige backsplash tile, pierced by a pot filler, to be a feature of the kitchen. A hidden niche on one side and recessed shelves on the other provide quick access to cooking utensils. A pair of 30-inch column refrigerators and freezers complement the cabinet fronts next to a pantry that houses a coffeemaker and small appliances on a marble countertop.

Other details include new Bessemer Glass patio doors and triple casement windows above the kitchen sink, “which strike a delightful balance between old Southern tradition and new construction techniques”, said Fante’s studio in its price submission. “The quiet emphasis on the clean lines of the steel windows and overall design are flush drywall air vents in the ceiling that ‘disappear’ from the ordinary site, a niche touch brought to the project by the builder.”

Between the kitchen and dining area are a pair of dry bars with a built-in double wine fridge on one side and cocktail storage on the other. The old front door to the house has become the new side entrance to the kitchen and cloakroom.

The Forsythes knew they needed more space but didn’t want to leave the area they had fallen in love with.

Renovations and expansion of the whole house

While the award was specifically for the kitchen renovation, the work went well beyond that, Fante said, and included expanding what was originally a two-bedroom, one-bathroom home.

The Forsythes opted for a bedroom with double bunk beds and a games room separated by a Jack and Jack bathroom, while the master suite includes a large bathroom with a freestanding bathtub and a large main dressing room with built-in shelving. on the spot. A fourth bedroom is converted into a guest room.

A fireplace made from high-purity limestone quarried in Alabama is a highlight of the living room, said Jeremy, who works for limestone company Lhoist.

The house was full of charm and character, and the owners’ priority was to add a space consistent with the current house, according to the bid for the price.

By adding basement space for a two-car garage and a future basement suite, and creating four bedrooms and 3½ bathrooms, the work more than doubled the square footage of the home, said Fante.

Achieving this goal has created one of the biggest challenges in renovation. While more space was needed, the architectural character of the original house needed to be maintained.

“Our ultimate goal was to have a finished product that always felt like it was there. I think we accomplished that,” Jeremy said.

“Thoughtful design led to a construction process that cut the existing rear corner bedroom, from the roof to the basement, so the new addition could begin. After moving the stairs and removing a load-bearing wall to enlarge the living room, the space was now freed up to join the addition,” the company’s application noted.

Supply chain issues also became a challenge, as the COVID pandemic was raging across the country when their project began, Jeremy said. Some items took six or seven months to obtain.

The Forsythe boys enjoyed seeing the construction phase of the project, and it particularly caught the attention of eldest son John Michael, who wants to become an engineer, Jeremy said. The boy enjoyed looking for scrap metal for his own homemade projects.

“He dove a lot in the dumpster. He used materials to build a birdhouse and put copper gutters in it,” Jeremy said.

Outside, new details include steel pane windows and doors installed in the cottage style home. Fante said they were custom made by Bessemer Glass and brought “more modern detail” to the structure while acting as a tribute to Birmingham’s industrial past.

Copper gutters and downspouts, stained cedar brackets and gaslights flanking the main front door were added, while new stonework was laid to match the existing partial finish.

The Forsythe family returned to their renovated home on October 30, 2021, the day before Halloween.

“It was the absolute deadline to be home for Halloween, for the kids,” to enjoy the holidays in their neighborhood, Jeremy said.

The size of the house corresponded much more to the needs of the family. When they moved in, their home had grown from 1,200 square feet to 3,200 square feet, Jeremy said.

With a larger home, the couple can entertain friends and hold gatherings that weren’t possible in the cramped quarters of their home before the renovation.

“We definitely have the space we needed,” said Emily Forsythe.

Hollywood development

Hollywood is one of Homewood’s historic neighborhoods, known for its Spanish mission-style stucco homes that were all the rage in Hollywood, California in the late 1920s when the neighborhood was being developed, according to a Hollywood historical marker Boulevard.

The causeway is the main east-west corridor through the neighborhood, running from US 31 toward English Village in Mountain Brook.

At one point, for a short time, Hollywood was actually a city, incorporated in January 1927 but annexed by Homewood in October 1929.

Like other areas of Over the Mountain, Hollywood has been advertised to homebuyers as a healthier place to live than the city of Birmingham.

The sales tagline, “Out of the Smoke Zone into the Ozone”, referred to the neighborhood’s location south of Birmingham, far enough away from the industrial smog that smothered the Magic City on the vast plain below the northern slope of Red Mountain. .


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