[nggallery id=57 images=1]For one realtor, the journey to making his house a home is just one chapter of a whiskey-fueled historic tale.
To folks who know Jeff Staggs, it comes as no surprise that he would end up owning a home on Bourbon Alley. Staggs himself is unlike many Avondale residents. While some homeowners in the renowned historic district go to great lengths to research their home’s “pedigree” (and cross their fingers that the name of a prominent architect such as Henry Klutho or Marion Sims Wyeth turns up on the blueprint), he isn’t consumed with such details.
When asked about the architectural style of the home, for example, he’ll probably respond vaguely: “I’d probably call it art deco on the outside, but it feels more Mediterranean on the inside.”
Turns out the house is equally enigmatic. Aside from not representing any particular architectural style—other than to say it reflects the influence of the international style popularized between 1926 and 1950—the house sits atop a short, dead-end street, known as Bourbon Alley, that can’t be found on a city map or in the Duval County property appraiser’s office database. (For relational purposes, Bourbon Alley is situated between Donald Street and McDuff Avenue with the five homes located on it having St. Johns Avenue addresses.)
Being that Staggs isn’t especially connected to his home's history, he wasn’t obsessed with filling it with period furniture and antique accessories or decorating it with era-appropriate paint colors. Rather, he chose to fill his home with furniture, accessories and colors he likes.
Fortunately, when Staggs purchased the house earlier this year, he didn’t have to do any major repairs or remodeling, which allowed him to concentrate on cosmetic issues and making the house fit his aesthetic and lifestyle.
“I looked at about 15-20 houses, but this one just blew me away. I loved the location and the fact that it’s unique. There’s nothing like it [in the neighborhood],” Staggs says. “And when I saw the kitchen... my heart really started beating.”
At move-in, the house was practically devoid of color—white walls, white ceiling, white trim—and a far cry from the vibrant atmosphere he wanted to create, so his first order of business was giving the interior a much-needed splash of color. In the living room, he chose Golden Gate, a warm yellow tone that makes the space, which is already flooded with natural light, feel even brighter. (The same shade is repeated in the kitchen.) For the dining room, he selected Moroccan Red, a rich vermillion that gives the room some exotic flair. In the smaller guest room, he opted for a calming color called Whipple Blue. And to create a sophisticated master bedroom, he went with Chelsea Gray as the main color, then added an accent wall, which started out purple, went to silver and wound up as a shade that resembles a spa blue.
The furniture, artwork, accessories and lighting found throughout the house similarly reflect Stagg’s vibe of “contemporary, casual, comfortable” and, of course, colorful. From the orange/red (depending on whom you ask) leather chair, ottoman and similarly toned patterned armless chairs in the living room juxtaposed against a sage, coffee cream area rug in a geometric pattern and hexagonal Mexican clay tiles, the room showcases Staggs’ ability to bring together disparate colors, textures, styles and motifs successfully—a talent he, no doubt, learned working in the retail merchandising field for more than a decade, and which he continues to hone as a realtor with Traditions Realty in Riverside. Though, in all honesty, he first found his talent for decorating as a kid growing up in rural Alabama by rearranging his bedroom on a regular basis.
Perfectly-poufed throw pillows in bold patterns and colors add splashes of color throughout the house on beds, sofas and chairs, while vivid pieces of art adorn the walls and photos of family and friends decorate tables and shelves in virtually every room in the house, including the master bathroom. Window coverings are inconspicuous or non-existent to let as much light in as possible.
The fact that Staggs decorated his residence in keeping with his own preferences and style, instead of letting the house’s history, architecture and age dictate the interior, is yet another way his attitude reflects the uniqueness of his home. Plus, where other owners of historic homes are often quick to brag about their expensive designer this, antique that and custom-made the other, Staggs takes great pride in his bargain-hunting abilities. The majority of the furniture in the house came from West Elm, Rooms To Go and Target; accessories and artwork from Stein Mart and Hobby Lobby (yes, Hobby Lobby); and light fixtures from Lowe’s or Home Improvement (not including the two chandeliers that he convinced his friend to sell to him for next to nothing, or the hanging kitchen lamps that he talked the previous homeowner into leaving behind). Staggs admits he’s even rescued items from the trash chute of the department store he used to work for, literally screaming across the floor to stop someone from throwing away some candles and pedestals covered in dust, which now—after being cleaned and polished—look like new sitting in his living room.
But perhaps the most interesting detail about Staggs winding up in a house on Bourbon Alley relates to his love of socializing and entertaining.
Though theories abound about how the street came to be known as Bourbon Alley, Staggs says he’s been told that back in the day, the wives who lived there would gather in the afternoon and drink bourbon until their husbands came home from work, then their husbands would join them. Someone came up with the idea of calling the street “Bourbon Alley,” which they painted on the two columns flanking the turn-in that still stands today.
“We refer to my house as the ‘cocktail home.’ Some neighbor or friend is always coming by after work for a drink, so we’ll hang out on the screened-in porch [off the kitchen],” he says. “And I just had a big housewarming party with about 75-80 people. I love having people over.”
That explains, in part, why Staggs is opening his house to thousands of strangers this month as part of the Riverside Avondale Preservation’s Spring Tour of Homes (he did so once before when he lived in a house on Belvedere Avenue). “Yes, it’s a lot of work, but Riverside Avondale has the neatest history of any neighborhood I’ve ever seen in Florida, and I want to share that with others,” he says. “Plus, being in the real estate business, I love to meet new people and talk. And I love my house.”
Note to Staggs: You might want to stock up on bourbon.