By Scott Mims & Madoline Markham
Photos by Morgan Hunt
If you walk in one of downtown Columbiana’s most storied historic homes today, live piano will ring through its stately 12-foot walls, harkening back to the 90-plus years prolific music composer Mildred White Wallace called it home. Although the piano Mildred—known as Columbiana’s own “Dixie Bluebird”—played is now in First Baptist Church of Columbiana, an restored upright black walnut baby grand of a similar era sits in its stead, ushering in a new era for the home.
But back in 2017, tarps covered the 1853 four-square style home and water was leaking in when Susie and Randy Clements bought the house with a dream to restore it to its original glory. Not long afterward, Susie did some research into old newspaper articles and found that Mildred herself had called the home Magnolia Manor after the waxy-leaved, white blossom-filled tree in front of the home. So that’s the name they restored with it.
In the years since Mildred passed away in 1981, sheetrock had replaced some of the home’s original wood plank walls, so the Clements took it down and put wood board walls that look more original to the home in its place. They also added spacious bathrooms off of each of three rooms they kept as bedrooms. On the main floor, they knocked down walls that boxed in the living room to give it a more open feel and added oak beams to line new room openings. Those beams were just the start of the farmhouse feel the couple would bring to the home with its lighting and décor.
You’ll also see modern farmhouse style in the neutral palette in the new kitchen and in the color-based themes in each of the three bedroom suites. Talking to Susie it’s obvious she had fun piecing together the home’s furnishings, sourcing most furniture from North Carolina-based Bramble Co. and other thoughtfully curated décor details from Antique Farmhouse and Etsy.
The farmhouse details marry well with the home’s restored pine floors, original marble fireplaces and other markers of the house’s historic charm, now also home to modern amenities like a powder room and laundry room. And no matter the detail, it all comes with the soundtrack of live piano music, just as Mildred would have liked.
Magnolia Manor can be rented for events or overnight stays. Find more information on booking it at clementsvacationrentals.com.
The centerpiece of the home is this restored 1906 black walnut upright grand piano—original ivory keys and all—that sits in the same location as Mildred’s piano. Above it hang pieces of Mildred’s music that Susie found on Ebay and Amazon and had framed.
As an homage to the Alabama marble fireplace in the home, the kitchen island boasts a 2-inch slab of locally quarried marble that atop a base made from 200-year-old timbers by local craftsman Ken Burchfield. A matte white refrigerator with bronze hardware sits adjacent to it, and not pictured are intricately cut windows that were originally in Blach’s department store in downtown Birmingham.
You’ll find eight fireplaces in Magnolia Manor, but only half of them are Alabama marble today. A sectional sofa and modern farmhouse décor touches round out this living space, located on the right of the home after you enter its front door.
This main floor bedroom is named after the home and has a green botanical theme to its décor you can see on its sage green bed and bedding.
Dixie Bluebird Suite
Mildred White Wallace’s nickname was Dixie Bluebird, so there had to be a suite bearing that name. Likewise you’ll see pops of blue and of birds throughout the room’s decor.
This suite is reminiscent of a garden, with plenty of pinks, florals and bunnies. It and the other two suites each feature a king bed, fireplace, wardrobe (since there are no closets in the original home design) and their own bathroom (also each with its own fireplace). The more you look around the bedroom, the more you’ll notice thoughtful décor details like coasters with music on them.
Susie holds a copy of a painting of the home that someone she knows purchased at the gift store at Brookwood Hospital years ago. You can see the 1908 marble Shelby County Courthouse in the background.
Behind the Scenes
- HVAC: Champ’s Air Solutions
- Plumbing: Professor Plumb
- Floor Refinishing: Casey Joiner
- Reclaimed Timber Island & Vent Hood: Ken Burchfield
- Kitchen Island Marble & Subway Tile: AM3
- Painting: Certapro of Hoover
- Piano: Antique Piano Shop, Chattanooga
- Ornamental Metal Handrails: Amparc
- Plantation Shutters: Exclusively Shutters