|Mid-century renovation by Bates Corkern Studio. Interior design by Betsy Brown. It was a treat to tour this amazing project with Jeremy earlier this month!|
One of the best parts of working in the design world is meeting the wonderful, creative individuals who influence the industry. Architect Jeremy Corkern of Bates Corkern Studio in Birmingham, Alabama is one of the first talents I met in the business, and one of the nicest, too. It had been a few years since I had seen Jeremy (although it is easy to follow Bates Corkern Studio's projects in House Beautiful, Veranda, and many other magazines) so during a recent trip to Birmingham, it was great fun to chat with Jeremy about architecture, his inspirations, his favorite houses, and his recent work.
MannerOfStyle: What attracted you to pursue architecture?
Jeremy Corkern: I have always been an old soul. From day one I always had a pencil or crayon in my hand. My memories as a child always revolve around a house. My first experience in field was at the age of eight. We had just moved back to my hometown of
. We remodeled/built a house. From that time forward all I thought about were houses. Brookhaven is a railroad town. The founding families created a beautiful place within a pine forest. The boom of the timber and oil eras (and later the infamous WORLD COM) brought many beautiful houses and stylish people. You know every Southern boy has to mention his mother. My mother always had a project or party in the works. Next, my mentor the late Brookhaven, Mississippi took me under his wing at the age of 14. My father would drive me down to Hays Town (2 hours away) on Fridays to spend the weekend with the Master of Louisiana Style. We would spend hours looking at old houses and meeting with his many loving clients. Many had waited up to five years to work with him. A lot of times the meetings involved just him wanting to give his blessing on the placement of a single boxwood. Baton Rouge
|Greeson House designed by A. Hays Town|
I also have to include Bobby McAlpine. He gave me my first job (outside of my father's sawmill..... those were long HOT
summers). He, along with Mr. Town, shaped who I am as an architect and person. They taught me how to become a client's hands and eyes. Bobby actually sent my business partner, Paul, and me our first project. Mississippi
|View of Bobby Mcalpine's signature steel windows|
MOS: What architectural styles/periods to you most admire?
J.C.: That is a hard question! My taste in architecture, art, interiors, music and food is schizophrenic! I like everything.... If I had to select a certain period it would be the Regency period. Visiting the city of
Bath, at the age of 14 had an immense influence on me. The order, simplicity, and the modernity of it is still fresh today. My friends all joke about me and my Regency chairs..... England
It is hard to say one.... may I give you a top 10 of architects and designers?
|Interior of a Bobby McAlphine house.|
J.C.: First let me say that it is not just my firm. My business partner Paul Bates is not only an incredible architect but my best friend. We have been lucky to weather the past eleven years with wonderful work and clients that have become great friends. Also, last but NOT least is Meredith Fuqua. She is our first, second and third hand (and little sister) in the office. I honestly do not know how she deals with the two of us, but it works! What works for us as a whole, I believe, is that we all want to touch peoples' lives and create beautiful things.
|The Bates Corkern Studio team: Paul Bates, Meredith Fuqua, Jeremy Corkern.|
MOS: What is your favorite Southern house?
J.C.: Again, favorite Southern house is a hard one! There are many for many different reasons. I hold Hope Farm in
, Mississippi close to my heart. It was the very first house I ever "toured" as a child (age 6). It started as a simple Spanish colonial house and evolved over time to have refined Federal and Greek Revival detailing. Natchez
is one of my other favorites. Today it is the most intact plantation in the Southeast. The house and its grounds have had an incredible influence on what we, as an office, do. The idea of a house and its landscape acting as one is personified here. We will go around the world to make an axis work! Plantation
|Hope Farm, Natchez, Mississippi|
|Evergreen Plantation, 2010|
|Rendering by Bates Corkern Studio|
MOS: What is your favorite room or feature to design?
J.C.: The Library would have to be my favorite space to design. There is nothing more beautiful than a paneled library with french doors or floor to ceiling windows surrounded by books. A great bar and music also help to make this space magical.... BUT books in any room make me happy. Books are your escape no matter where you are or who you are. They are a window to the world.
|Library in "Grand Retreat" in Tuscaloosa designed by Bates Corkern Studio|
J.C.: I think rules are meant to be broken..... BUT... I/we are always on a quest for something new. Taking the old and reinterpreting it in a fresh new light. Many years ago we went on an in depth tour of David Adler's work. The way he handled the scale of space and its relationship to the outside is still fresh and inventive today. Keep in mind the David Adler book was my first "real" architecture book given to me at 15. Many years later it is the go to book for me and many of my peers.
Secondly, a I enjoy working with a client that guides and listens.
Last, but not least, an understanding of the past and a clear direction of where we are headed.
MOS: Which current or upcoming projects are you excited about?
|"Crane Cottage" built in 1916 for Richard Teller Crane, designed by David Adler|
|"The Reed House" interior designed by Frances Elkins and David Adler|
J.C.: We have several wonderful new projects in the works. One in particular is a project that is ongoing (eight years) Swann Song from our website. Our most recent project was the conversion of servants quarters to a 21st century office. The clients have wonderful taste and are always up for adventure. The walls are composed of individual squares of shagreen that are set within a grid of fumed walnut and bronze panels. It is our nod to Jean Michel Frank and Frances Elkins.
Personally, I just purchased a wonderful house/labor of love?!? That was built in 1834 named The Shadows. It is the small town of
, Alabama. I am learning exactly what our clients go through first hand. Lowndesboro
MOS: We have run into each other several times shopping; are you always in the hunt for your own collections and/or do you design interiors for clients as well?
|Interior of "Swann Song"in Redmont by Bates Corkern Studio|
J.C.: I love to shop.... whether it be for clients or for myself. I never tire of the hunt! Early on my parents and grandparents shared their love of collecting with me. Today the collection runs the gamut from tortoiseshell to
to architectural engravings. Santos
We do a small amount of interiors work, when clients ask us to. We love working with designers. Our best projects are those with a designer that has a clear sense of what he/she and client would like to accomplish.
interiors shops do you frequent? Birmingham
Circa Interiors (
Birmingham and ), our dear friend and client Whitney Johnson and her mother are always unearthing new finds that are not only beautiful, but fresh! Charlotte, NC
Charlotte Woodson. Shop owner Dinah Torroh has an incredible eye for the unusual and delightful.... I am still putting money in my piggy bank for the 12 foot long walnut slab table with 19th century stone palm tree bases.
Paige Albright Oriental Rugs. IF Paige does not have what you are looking for, she will hop on the next plane to NYC and find exactly what you want!
White Flowers.... Ethereal space in the heart of
. From Diptique candles to one of a kind artwork and clothing. EVERYTHING IS WHITE! They even carry my mother's handmade paper crosses and artwork. Homewood
CHARLESTON (just right without ANY attitude!): David Skinner Antiques, John Pope Antiques and Niche Interiors.