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Inviting Family Home in Birmingham

Birmingham-based 2014 New Trad designer Dana Wolter proves that neutral doesn’t have to mean boring—just bring on the texture.

Written by Brielle M. Ferreira

When it comes to life in the Deep South, there’s only one thing more universally revered than college football and the perfect barbecue: good old-fashioned hospitality. So each time Birmingham-based interior designer Dana Wolter approaches a new project, she’s careful to take her Alabama roots to heart. “I believe a house should be able to entertain well—whether you’re having five people over or 50,” she says. “Your interiors should be warm and inviting and make everyone feel comfortable.” 

A yellow mirror from Horchow adds a blast of color to this space—a departure from the rest of the home’s neutral aesthetic. 

The wallpaper is from Thibaut; fabric on the Roman shade, is from Kravet.

The home she designed for a young family in Birmingham’s tony Mountain Brook area exemplifies this philosophy. By rearranging the floor plan in the kitchen and eliminating cabinetry with questionable functionality, Wolter created a cozy breakfast room with a built-in banquette that can easily accommodate 10. 

In this newly transformed space, a built-in banquette upholstered in “Gillian” fabric from Kravet provides a plush spot for casual dining and looks fresh and inviting when paired with Ghost chairs, a cowhide rug from Paige Albright Orientals, and a custom stool covered in “Provo Field” fabric from Norbar.

In the living room, she created multiple seating areas, anchored by matching chaises on one side and a slipcovered sofa on the other, that make it as easy to host a game-day get-together as it is to take a leisurely afternoon nap. 

She used Benjamin Moore’s “Linen White” on the living room walls and fireplace mantel. 

To add a hint of three-dimensional flair to the space, designer Dana Wolter hung a collection of antlers she found at Architectural Heritage above Lee Industries chaises upholstered in Duralee fabric.

Not that you’ll find Wolter lying down on the job. Since launching her design practice nine years ago, she has been steadily building momentum. “I took a winding road to get here,” she laughs, “but there’s no turning back now. It’s turned into my life’s passion.” It’s a love that Wolter has continued to foster by studying the work of legends like Axel Vervoordt, Susan Ferrier, and Bobby McAlpine—all of whom have provided inspiration for her aesthetic.

Unexpected touches, like a framed picture of the homeowners’ children that hangs in front of a window and Cole & Sons wallpaper lining the built-in bookshelves, bring interest to the room’s white-on-white-on-white scheme. 

The desk chair is from Z Gallerie.

A sumptuous sofa from Bernhardt. a Moroccan-style rug, and armchairs from Lee Industries mean this room is bult for comfort as well as work.

Like those design greats, Wolter prefers to steer away from colorful, look-at-me palettes, opting instead to outfit most of the spaces she works on in clean, neutral hues. That allows the focus to fall on the rich textural accents she incorporates.

Multiple windows ensure plenty of light for family activities, but the lack of wall space makes adding artistic touches tricky. To compensate, Wolter hung artwork directly on the curtains above the oversize sectional.

Soft linens and velvets on the upholstered pieces throughout the Mountain Brook home, for example, denote luxury and remain compulsively touchable, while the deep, plush rugs underfoot beg for bare feet. It’s here that Wolter has found her sweet spot, where function and beauty meet. “Pretty and practical should go hand in hand,” she says. “There’s absolutely nothing better than a room that works exactly as intended.”

Benjamin Moore’s “Linen White” on the walls provides a soothing backdrop for a custom bed, nightstands from Bernhardt, bedding from Suite Dreams, and pillows crafted from Schumacher and Highland Court fabrics.

Chairs from Lee Industries and a side table from Richard Tubb Interiors create a cozy seating area. 

Dana Wolter’s tips for designing neutral spaces with polish:

  • Layer it on thick. When you take color out of the equation, the scale can tip quickly from tailored to boring. Try layering a great Oushak on top of a sisal rug, and bring in texture with linens and blankets.
  • Get in the mix. Go to town with your material choices and finishes. Styling a wooden coffee table or nightstand with a metal tray or a milk lamp can create interesting tension.
  • Put function first. When you have an awkwardly shaped room or nook to fill, don’t be afraid to spring for a custom piece. 

Photography: Graham Yelton

Traditional Home