Bill Ingram and Godwinks

October 20, 2014

In 1992, I picked up a copy of Southern Accents that would forever more change my life.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, Southern Accents was a beautiful shelter magazine that was the Southern superlative version of Architectural Digest.  Before the internet, it was my outlet to the world outside of my small town.  Its pages were filled with stories of places that I had never been in the Deep South, and traditions that were unfamiliar to me.  And homes, it was full of the most beautiful homes that I had ever seen!

This magazine began my love of interior design.  I was 20, and was remodeling a 1926 bungalow home in Brewton, Alabama.  I had ripped down cheesecloth wallpaper, painted, refinished floors, and installed mouldings by myself.  I knew that this was what I wanted to do- I knew that I wanted to design.

Friends, relatives, and one very elegant real estate agent came to my home and told me "You shouldn't be majoring in English, you should go to school to become an interior designer."  I had no idea what design might entail, but I wanted to read more. I took in every word from the pages of Southern Accents and Architectural Digest and I tried to read the philosophies of every architect and designer featured-  philosophies that were crammed into a few columns of copy.  Imagine reducing the philosophy of your life's work to a few columns- it's not an easy thing to do, especially not when you are being interviewed live.

There in the pages of Southern Accents, in one of their very first issues, was the home of Birmingham, Alabama architect, Bill Ingram.  I fell in love with everything that he did- the simplicity and elegance of his designs were flawless.  Through the thick, glossy pages, you could feel the warmth in the homes he designed.  I will never forget the leather upholstered portal door to his kitchen; I could almost smell the leather.  That door won me over- I was a fan! I read that issue cover to cover a thousand times and I still have it somewhere in my box of things that really matter to me. The next year, I sold the home that I had worked so hard on, and went back to design school.

I became a licensed interior designer and moved to Birmingham, Alabama, to secure work.  I have worked in commercial and residential interior design over the last 20 years, and no matter what kind of successes or failures I have had along the way, I always remembered that my goal was to be featured in Southern Living and Southern Accents- it was on my list.  I had no idea how I would do it, but I knew that one day, it would happen- after all, I had written it down.

Birmingham became home to me and I settled into a church family and became involved in our outreach ministry. My job was to coordinate volunteers for the women's Homeless Shelter for our church. And there, in my out-reach group, I met a man named Bill Ingram.  I didn't connect him at the time with the article that changed my life, but I knew that I really liked him.  His signature round glasses and dashing Southern style were out of a movie;  he truly is extraordinary in every way.

A few months later, I took some food over to Bill's house because a mutual friend of ours had been ill. When I arrived at his home, we stood in his kitchen unpacking the meal. I looked around and there was the door from Southern Accents, my door, my LIFE CHANGING door.  I realized at that moment that he was THAT Bill Ingram, my hero architect Bill Ingram. It was sort of like meeting Elvis or Elton John, except that  I realized I was at Elvis's house in the equivalent of a house coat. All I could think of was that I was wearing Birkenstocks and dressed like a hippie in the kitchen of my inspirational style guru.  I can't begin to explain how excited I was all the way home and how I kept trying to get it across to my husband, who just didn't quite seem to share my joy over the portal door.  But, I knew that I was where God wanted me to be.  The door was a sign.

Today, I saw an article that popped up in my news feed on Facebook, it was a lake house that Bill designed recently- absolutely stunning!  Lately, I have questioned where I am on my path- whether I am where I am supposed to be, whether I am where God wants me to be, whether I am fulfilling my true calling. And there, once again, was Bill Ingram.

Seeing his work today reminded me that if I hadn't seen his work in 1992, I would have never gone back to design school.  If I hadn't gone to design school, I would have never moved to Birmingham. If I hadn't moved to Birmingham, I would have never opened a design shop there and met the incredible people who are some of my best friends- friends who have helped me so much along my journey. As fate would have it, our shop was featured in Southern Accents before the magazine folded.

Without having the experience of owning my own shop,  I would have never learned so many hard lessons about success and failure.  If I hadn't closed the shop due to the crash of the economy in 2009, I wouldn't have been home working on a website to market my design business online when the tornadoes hit Alabama in 2011.  The tornadoes threw me into an entirely different outreach ministry that has changed my life, saved my marriage, and transformed me as a human being.  If I had never heeded the call to get involved in the outreach ministry with disaster relief, I would have never been featured in Southern Living. Although I wasn't featured as a designer, it was even better- I was featured as a disaster relief coordinator working with the most incredible group of humans to ever come together.  And once again, to reinforce that I was on the path, my other hero, Rick Bragg, wrote the article and sent me a special copy. The other writer who worked on the Southern Living story, Kim Cross, became my friend through all of this and is a sister from another mother.  Because of all of these things-  I find myself, however inadequately, writing the story of my 4-27 journey.

When you think that what you do doesn't matter to others, know that you will never fully comprehend the impact your work may have on the life of another person until some time has passed- maybe twenty years?  Maybe they will send you a blog post to let you know that by you walking your divinely ordained path, they found theirs. Being recognized for doing great work is validation, and we all need to know that our work is appreciated, but know this- know that no matter how unstoppable and validated you feel some days, or how insignificant you may feel on others, your contribution to this planet makes a difference.

Thank you, Bill Ingram. This has been one hell of a ride and I am grateful for the journey.


Here is some of his amazing work  Bill Ingram Lake House

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