Thursday, June 07, 2012

Back Alley Inspiration

A while back when my daughter Cally was in college, she wanted to move into an old warehouse that had been renovated into loft apartments in Birmingham, Alabama.

The Phoenix Building

My youngest, Casey, and I went for a visit to help Cally move in and get situated in the new expansive space.

The building is called The Phoenix Building Lofts. You can read about its history and see a bit more about it HERE.

I wasn't thrilled about Cally living in an urban area in downtown Birmingham when quaint and lovely Homewood was nearby, but she assured me Police Headquarters WERE across the street from the loft. 

Did I see a single cop while we were there? Uh, no. But well, you take what you can get and try not to see boogie men on every corner when your children grow up and go out on their own and insist upon making their own decisions despite your well-expressed motherly common sense. (No cops, but there were quite a number of people who appeared otherwise unemployed and down and out wandering about and hanging out on nearby street corners. The police station was not at all comforting with one cop car in the lot.)

Hallway leading to the apartment ~

The loft and its surroundings reminded me of going downtown as a kid to shop. Fun times! There was so much "industrial cool" in the loft and I imagined so many things we could do with it. 

However, Cally was rooming with a new friend who already had her own things in the space. She didn't want to make any drastic additions and infringe on her friend's style. Plus, she has her own ideas...mine don't always fit it in with her plans. I was there to assist.

Look at that cool footstool her friend had. Cally thought it was hideous, but I was enamored by it. Think of what could be done with that!

With half walls and no bedroom doors, we had to rig a door curtain and a black out curtain to go all the way around the top to block out the light from the living area. No easy task. Note to potential loft dwellers...consider such downsides before signing a loft lease.

Our friend, Lynette had provided not only decorative items for me to take to Cally, but also the SUV to drive the 11-12 hours to deliver it. Can you say "Priceless Friend"? We were given permission to do as we pleased with this shelf, so we painted the blond wood my "go to" color at the time, a very dark brown. The contrast was needed against the massive stark white walls.
Please excuse the "excess strapage", I was in work mode.

More lofty living

 Waa laa! It was a start.

 A partial view of Birmingham's skyline is seen through 3 ginormous windows. From the vantage point right at the window, we could see run down buildings and an alleyway.

 I thought it was so cool! A great gazing spot, if you asked me. (No one did.)

The Back Alley

 I was fascinated by this abandoned brick building with the vines growing up the side and the broken windows. What's wrong with me you ask?

As is my custom, I pulled out the camera, which at the time, was my daughter's little Canon Powershot. It served me well.
The cobblestone alley behind her building.

More alleyway and fire escapes.

I photographed and the girls rolled their eyes, twiddled their thumbs and sighed, rushing me along. This was hardly photo-worthy in their young eyes. They just wanted to move along.

But oh, the texture and color. 

The bars where it appears someone tried to pry their way in... the broken glass... what had taken place that this cool old brick building was abandoned and left to the elements? 

Neglect and discarded moments marked the entryways.

Painted glass, steel bars, old worn wood and chipped plaster all work together to give this place an intriguing character rarely found in elegant and upscale environments.

There were stories in the cracks and crevices and the details of what had been left behind and all that was no longer in use. The old painted address above this doorway gives me ideas for signs of my own.
Jefferson Home Furniture.

Back in the day, signs were done up in style on brick facades and painted on wood and metal and every which way you can think of. Now bent, rusty, and worn, they tell a faded tale of days gone by and a bit about what might have once transpired during this area's heyday.

A variety of texture jumped out at me, from the rusty metal bars to the sleek twisted metal sign, to the rough wall. It all looked like treasure to me.
Then there was this... I fell in love.

This is how it looked.
This is how it felt to me while wandering down the alley.
You can click the images to see them full size.

Is it silly to fall in love with an abandoned door in a back alley that has seen livelier, cleaner and more prosperous times?

You know it's not. You'd fall in love too, wouldn't you?

Just an old meter and a city sidewalk, but photo-worthy.

Old architecture and signage

The iconic Alabama Theater

None too popular with the girls for stopping to photograph the rundown alley, buildings and signs, I took all my shots in a hurry on the way to the car and as we drove away to make the most of our short time together.

I'm amazed this was never painted over or cleared away.

Imagine how much other faded, etched and historic goodness I didn't get to see on all the other streets and along the backside of the other everyday places that once were the stuff life was made of. What was it like back then as folks shopped and made a living and carried out their daily tasks in another time right here on the streets of Birmingham, AL? 

I had to wonder. I wonder still.

Any cool back alleys and run down buildings near you?

I'll post the map projects I created for Cally's loft tomorrow or Saturday. 

I hope you'll come back by and check them out.

I'll be at:


  1. You had a camera..imagine that! Hey we "get to" visit Bham several times a year for doc appts for Mr. T..Yes, very interesting-like interior decor and our "yardens" it's all A DIFFERENT KIND OF BEAUTY but for day trips our senses can be pressed to the limit..the city sights, sounds ..busy-ness. we usually enjoy a 'time out' by day's end at the lakeshore exit..Landrys rest...catch our breath, relax and enjoy favorites on the menu.Thanks for photos of things I am sure to miss-keep us posted re the loft dress up.

  2. I love all of it! The loft is looking really good. These old tattered buildings fascinate me, so much history, yet so sad that they've become so run down. You really captured their beauty. Thank you for sharing.

  3. What a great post! I love that back alley too! You captured amazing details that show how grand those run down buildings were, or what they have had to go through!

  4. I love the charm of the loft apartment, and it's wonderful that you had your camera to capture all the goodness around it. I loved all the texture ... you got some great shots! I'm sure you'll be taking your camera every time you visit. Good job on the shelving looks cute and I LOVE that foot stool. Never seen anything quite like it. Great Post!

  5. All that amazing space, I'd be lost in it! I remember when we lived in Atlanta 25 years ago we drove thru Birmingham on our way back to Springfield, Missouri where we live now. Love the south, and of course old buildings have so much wonderful history. thanks so much for sharing all these great photos at Vintage Inspiration!

  6. What a big awesome space. So sad to see those buildings in such a crumbly state.

  7. I love this post for so many reasons! A. your pictures - you have a wonderful eye!

    B. I was there for the first time this past week-end! LOL

    I even took a picture of your daughter's building! LOVE the loft!!!!

    ;-D robelyn

  8. I'm with you! That was a fantastic tour! Loved all the brick and old signage. And the loft space, How cool is that?

  9. Oh my goodness! What a fantastic post. Living in a loft like that is a dream of mine. I love the old buildings, the view, super high's beautiful. Being a total "Fraidy cat" myself, I would be concerned about unwanted encounters with strangers but the nutty part in me thinks I'd risk it just to live in an area like that with so much history and dilapidated beauty.

    And I think that footstool is gorgeous too. It caught my eye as soon as it came into view, I was shocked to read anyone would think it hideous. :)

  10. You have a great eye for the quirky and eccentric. I admit I'm often too focused on where I'm going to look around at where I am - you've inspired me to slow down and have a look around (and keep my camera with me)! And I do LOVE old, faded signs painted on the sides of the buildings.


Thanks for coming by. I hope you'll say hello and let me know your thoughts. I'd love to hear from you! Unfortunately spammers have been at an all time high, so I will no longer be able to accept anonymous comments.