Coke Williams and Kelly Kitchens built a striking getaway home on the old family farm

Lisa Davis, The Anniston Star, Ala.
·3 min read

Mar. 27—When Coke Williams and his wife, Kelly Kitchens, designed a getaway home on the old family farm, they wanted it to rust.

The exterior walls are clad in COR-TEN steel, which is designed to weather to a rusted finish when exposed to the elements (without actually rusting all the way through).

That's not the only weathered finish in the house. There are memories in the wood, the stone, the metal — and in the land itself.

Coke's family has been in Calhoun County since 1850. The house sits on the old Williams family farm in Ohatchee, on land originally purchased by Coke's grandfather and his best friend, although the farm is smaller now than it was in the past.

It's been a working farm since at least 1911, from raising cows to growing corn to today, when the land is leased for quail hunting.

(The family dog, Dixie, has never been trained to be a retriever, but nevertheless, when she hears a hunter's gun fire, she hightails it in that direction, because she likes to try and help the other dogs.)

Coke is a real estate agent in Birmingham, and Kelly works for SBA Communications. The couple co-own the getaway house with Coke's brother, Jim Williams, and his wife, Robin.

"It's a very special place to us," Coke said. Growing up, the kids in the family would go to the farm to shoot skeet or camp. "We all learned to drive out here," Coke said.

The back of the house overlooks woods and a creek. The back wall of the living room features glass doors that fold up, accordion-style, to open the house to the outdoors.

Steps lead down to a patio with a large fireplace. The patio is concrete, stamped to look like wood. "There's a lot of concrete and steel in this house," Coke said.

The couple recently hosted a "burn party" to get ready for quail season. Controlled burns in the fields help maintain the habitat for quail. Afterwards, there was a crawfish boil on the patio.

The farm has been the site of many memorable parties. Especially the one the couple planned several years ago for Kelly's 50th birthday, when the two were just dating. Coke proposed a few weeks before the party. And then Kelly thought, "Let's just get married in the middle of the farm party."

And so they did. And then they turned it into an annual music festival, dubbed Kellypalooza, with ticket sales going to support various charities.

Coke and Kelly spent their honeymoon in Morocco, and the new house incorporates those memories. The front and side entrances feature antique painted doors from Morocco. They had Moroccan-style metal hanging lamps made for both entryways. When lit, the metal latticework casts mesmerizing patterns on the wall.

Kelly furnished the house with a mix of family heirlooms, hand-me-downs from friends and pieces picked up in Birmingham shops.

There are interesting woods above and below. The ceilings are mushroom wood — boards formerly used to grow mushrooms. After the mushrooms are harvested, the leftover wood is heavily textured and weathered to a dark brown.

The floors are a mixture of light and dark antique woods, with a simple clear finish to preserve the natural colors.

Most of the wood came from James & Company Antique Timbers and Flooring in Collinsville. Coke and owner Donnie James spent half a day together going through various reclaimed woods.

The house was designed by Hennecy Architecture in Birmingham and built by Holland Construction Services in Gadsden. The decorator was Barri Thompson Interiors in Birmingham.

In the middle of the living room is a massive fireplace, reaching up 36 feet to the ceiling. The chimney is clad in pine that was cut down and milled on site, using a portable sawmill.

"That's special to us," Coke said. "The center of the house came from here."

Lisa Davis is Features Editor of The Anniston Star. Contact her at 256-235-3555 or ldavis@annistonstar.com.

Features Editor Lisa Davis: 256-235-3555.