Belle Maison | The White House
The White House
There’s not quite one defined style for the white brick house in Fairhope where Michele and Michael Strength live. Instead, it’s a fusion of Dutch Cape, modern, and Spanish revival, all somehow married together in a way that makes sense rather than fighting against one another, creating a home that is uniquely beautiful and incredibly distinctive. The front elevation is clean and simple, with a circular window over a covered arched entryway as its most prominent features. Along the back, French doors open to the courtyard off the first-floor master and to balconies above. “I’d define it as having a coastal European vibe with mostly white painted brick or stucco, parapet walls and untreated Cyprus wood that has been allowed to weather,” says Michele, who studied as an interior designer at New York School Of Interior Design and operates her own business, Inhabit, from a home office.
Boasting 4300 square feet, the two-story home comprises an open plan living/dining area, kitchen, mudroom, keeping nook and master bedroom downstairs as well as a family room, small office, and three bedrooms upstairs, plus a detached carriage house with Michele’s office for Inhabit downstairs and her husband’s home office for his remodeling and contracting business upstairs.
“The interior keeps a very similar feeling to the exterior with its white walls, painted wood ceiling details, bleached white oak cabinetry, and rice white peacock pavers throughout the first floor,” says Michele, whose eye and design sensibility guided every aspect of the home’s aesthetics. “We went with a simple white stucco fireplace, and the clean lines and white walls make a wonderful backdrop for the many antiques I have collected over the years. It helps make them seem more relevant and fresher, instead of stuffy and out of place. In the living room, the full wall of bookshelves is a space that I love to arrange and rearrange with family photos, books and travel memorabilia—one of which is a cherished old 10-foot monastery table I purchased from an antique dealer in Germany. I just love the patina, and even though it’s quite substantial, it has a very minimal quality. I was also mindful of visuals with the television, so I hung a Samsung frame TV in the center of the bookcase, which feels like a picture rather than a blank television when we aren’t watching it.”