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Bringing Up Bebe, The Alley Way

Raising A Family In Historic Downtown

It’s a bright Saturday morning in downtown Huntsville. “Lovely Day” by Bill Withers is playing and the Alley family’s weekend routine is just beginning. 

Katie and Brad Alley found their dream home in 2019 and promptly wed in the backyard. Pictures of the happy day line the walls in their historic Twickenham home. The young couple, who have Huntsville ties, wanted to establish themselves in the heart of Huntsville. “We remain incredibly grateful to the previous owners for selling the home to us, so we could start our family here,” Katie says. Their son Mac was born in 2021, followed by daughter Elisabeth in 2022. 

With major renovation work already complete, they embarked on making the home comfortable for their growing family. They hired close friend, Birmingham designer Mark Kennamer, to help achieve their design goals of staying true to the historical features of the home while transitioning other parts into family-friendly spaces. First up was the nursery.  “I love Peter Pan and how all the children grew up in the nursery,” Katie shares. “We didn’t find out the gender of our first born so we wanted a room that was neutral and would serve as a space for all our children.” The room’s focal point is a bay of windows that filter in natural light and the claw foot tub in the en suite bathroom is out of a storybook. Mark’s addition of two swivel chairs is one of Katie’s favorite parts of the space. “We are all in there together so we need two chairs. So many times in nurseries you just see a single rocking chair.” It has become a respite for the entire family.

Mark’s philosophy is to create beautiful, comfortable homes that reflect a collaboration between his style and the style of his clients. “I love mixing in antiques and traditional furniture with more modern pieces of art, rugs and lighting,” says Mark. With any historic home the designer keeps the home in mind, every step of the way, selecting period antiques as well as classic fabrics, trims, rugs, and lighting.

The parlor is the most traditional room, keeping with the 1870s time period in which the Victorian home was built. The gold silk draperies lend a touch of glamour, while the furnishings are a mix of curated antiques and new pieces that are traditional in style. Walking through the gracious opening from the parlor to the dining room you can sense a shift in the design. The gold draperies continue paired with peacock velvet-upholstered dining chairs and an expansive round table - a must-have for a couple who loves to entertain. The draperies were purchased with the home, and the designer felt them to be just the touch of formality that the parlor and dining room needed. “We incorporated them into the new palette, and it just turned out beautifully,” says Mark. 

For Mark, scale was important. The home’s high ceilings can accommodate large chandeliers, and he chose fixtures that were grand in scale without being overpowering. Through the use of airy, crystal chandeliers, like the open-arm fixture in the dining room, the designer achieved a transitional look that complements the voluminous spaces. When it came to furnishings, Mark wanted to create a home that honors the formality of the house while also keeping in mind the family’s casual style. The Alleys spend a lot of their time in the open kitchen and great room. Textural linens wrap the seating to create a warm and cozy space in the heart of the home. A remodel of the primary closets and laundry added organization. The designer refined cabinetry throughout and added a beautiful wallpaper in the powder room to achieve the comfortable elegance the family desired.

As Katie shows me the home’s original plaster, visible in the closet under the stairs, she shares about the renovation done by the previous homeowners. Built in 1874, the Wilson-McKissack home stands tall in downtown Huntsville. Katie has a framed news article from 2001 when the house was auctioned. The article notes that the home had fallen into some disrepair. 

Historic homes are full of stories - you would be too if you were almost 150 years old! In the primary bedroom Katie makes note of a window overlooking the porch. “This used to be a door, that’s why there’s a set of side stairs on the porch. You’d knock on the door to be treated by Dr. McKissack.” Dr. William McKissack and his wife Mona purchased the house in 1945, and to this day if the family is outside, Huntsvillians will stop by to tell stories of their relatives visiting Dr. McKissack at the door on the side porch.

The Alleys chose downtown Huntsville because of the growth and vibrancy for which this area of town is known. It’s also a walking-friendly location. “We’re walking all the time. Usually on Saturdays I’m going for a run with our son and we’re stopping at one of the bakeries downtown,” Katie shares about their weekend routine. It starts with music, includes a stop for pastries, and ends with Brad at the grill and the family in the backyard. The location also provides convenience. Katie, Brad and their kids are just a few minutes from church, school, dining out and the grocery store. Their ultimate desire for being in downtown Huntsville is to witness the growth and energy of the city. “We wanted our family to experience all kinds of structures and all kinds of people,” Katie shares. Two-year-old Mac is very fond of the many cranes he sees on their outings. “The energy in downtown is building, and we love being a part of it.”

“I love Peter Pan and how all the children grew up in the nursery. We wanted a room that was neutral to serve as a space for all our children.” 

  • Foyer
  • Nursery
  • Parlor
  • Parlor