Rooms with a View

Architects Thomas Paul Bates and Jeremy Corkern create an airy pied-À-terre for a downsizing couple.

One of the first things visitors notice upon stepping inside this contemporary mid-rise in Birmingham’s Southside is the panoramic view of downtown. It was this sky-high amenity, in fact, that convinced owners Teresa and Malcolm Morrow to trade in their Mountain Brook home for what Teresa describes as an ultimately more attractive “shut-the-door-and-go lifestyle.”

Second only to the developer to purchase a condo in the new development, an early buy-in allowed the couple to not only determine the location of their unit of choice, but also carte blanche to design a space uniquely suited to their needs. “When we first started talking, what was hugely important was the view, of course, but also keeping as much natural light as possible to make the space feel light, airy and fresh,” says architect Paul Bates of Bates Corkern Studio, the firm hired to tackle the build-out of the condominium. Bates and business partner Jeremy Corkern had collaborated with the Morrows on a previous residence, so they were intimately familiar with couple’s style and what made them feel at home.

“Malcolm and Teresa are big collectors of art, artifacts and objects of art, and have a very eclectic mix of things given to them by family members throughout the years that had a lot of meaning to them. So there was already a palette in place,” Corkern says. Keeping in mind the direction of Teresa, a designer, to keep things “cool, comfortable and elegant,” the first order of business for Bates and Corkern was to create a neutral envelope that would allow the couple’s collection to take center stage.

While many couples encounter backyard-sized headaches when it comes to downsizing, the Morrows found the process surprisingly simple, thanks to a design aesthetic that had become “more and more pared-down modern” throughout the years, Teresa says. Also easing the editing process was the fact that the architects’ plan specified just one bedroom (similar units in the mid-rise called for three) while a generous portion of the space would provide for an open, loft-like living/dining area in which even the exposed kitchen—with its sleek, furniture-like cabinets concealing appliances and a pantry—feels like a natural extension.

The result is a look that’s clean but collected, comfortable but elegant—not to mention completely livable, from a separate media room and office space that affords the couple ample personal space to a narrow island in the kitchen that allows Teresa to unload the dishwasher and put all the dishes away without moving. And although the condominium’s all-white walls and floor-to-ceiling windows provide the perfect background for the couple’s treasures, ultimately, it’s the living backdrop of Birmingham that steals the show.

ARCHITECTURE Bates Corkern Studio, 2336 20th Avenue Alley South, Birmingham, Alabama 35223. (205) 414-9940; CABINETS Michael Morrow, MDM Design Studio. (205) 266-3905;