This post is about three accessory dwellings around Birmingham, Alabama that are worlds apart in how they are used.
Last fall, I made a trip to Birmingham to reconnect with an old friend and found a surprising number of accessory dwellings that ranged from century old estates to recently converted garages that are now ‘Bama football man caves. My friend had recently moved from New York City to Birmingham with his wife who was starting a new job at Southern Living Magazine. To my surprise their first apartment in Birmingham was a great little accessory dwelling designed and owned by Marcy Miller.
It turns out accessory dwellings are common around Birmingham and Tuscaloosa. We just reconnected with Marcy when she emailed a few photos and I dug up a few more from my weekend in and around Birmingham and I have three great stories to share. They range from decadent homes of a foregone era to Marcy’s new accessory dwelling that’s serving her family in many ways such as rental income, a future home for mom, for hobbies and car and storage
The three small homes that we came across are:
- Plantation: Mr Pursell’s 3,500 farm
- Man Cave: A game shack outside the Alabama Football Stadium
- Marcy’s Carriage House for Mom (and classic cars)
1) Mr Pursell’s FarmLinks
When we dropped by the 3,500 acre Pursell Farms outside of Birmingham and passed this main home with a guest house just off to the side, I got a sense of what the phrase “southern gentry” means. This 3,500 acres farm is open to the public for golfing, fishing, hunting and events.
Fortunately, they built a bunch of small cottages around the ground and you can stay there. They keep a “Cottage Gallery” here: http://www.farmlinks.org/lodging-3/cottages/cottage-gallery/
2) ‘Bama Football Man Cave: The second surprise of Birmingham accessory dwellings is due to the phenomenon better known as Roll Tide aka ‘Bama Football. Their stadium holds 104,000 and they sell out. Another 150,000 people tailgate outside the stadium. That adds up to 250,000 people descending on the 93,000 person town of Tuscaloosa and that means there’s a slight shortage of beds. Hence the local phrase “Game House”. Game houses range from mansions that are reserved for entertaining the big donor alumni to the much more accessible garage conversion that we found ourselves in.
All these people have to go somewhere:
Apparently, nine of them can sleep in this fixed up garage:
This is a two-car garage with the garage doors swapped out for some classy French doors, a Home Depot kitchen on the left side, bunk beds, a couch and a bathroom. It’s the definition of a man-cave.
The interesting and all too common occurrence with this little man-cave is that it was done with permits but the building department came up with the odd request that the owner can only have furniture inside during game weekends. Considering that it would be a bit of a hassle to move bunk beds and a couch in and out of the building each game weekend, he hasn’t quite followed the strict letter of the law since that request was made seven years ago. But I’m sure they’re going to start soon;)
3) Marcy’s Carriage House: The third accessory dwelling from Birmingham is a perfect example of a job done right and it is the only one that is a real home that is used by real people. It is actually the apartment that my friend first moved to when arriving in Birmingham.
The owner, Marcy, has her own private practice advising people on design and remodeling work works with future clients around Birmingham. We are planning to design and build a few accessory dwellings with her.
Marcy her husband and two kids built this accessory dwelling after buying the main home. It was supposed to be just a garage on the lower level but the reality of aging parents that will someday live with them lead them to add an entire second floor. Considering that this is for 90+ year old at some point potential elevator access is part of the design. While the parents are still living independently, this home has served the following purposes since being built in 2008:
- Home for the family of four while they remodeled their main home
- Rental apartment for recent arrivals
- Home office
- Two-car garage for a car guy husband plus storage for motorcycles and bikes.
About New Avenue:
New Avenue’s mission is make it easy for everyone to build an accessory dwelling such asa backyard cottage, guest-house, or in-law apartment. We love them for the character they bring to neighborhoods and the fun they bring to peoples lives. And, yes, we believe that every home is better and life is simply more interesting when a backyard cottage is near.
Part of this mission means we want to share the stories of who builds accessory dwellings and why they do it. We will be sharing the best examples of accessory dwellings so that others can see what we see. If you have a story of a backyard cottage, accessory dwelling, guest house, bunk house that you’d like to share, please shoot a note to email@example.com and we can share your story with our readers.