By Barry Wise Smith
Photos by Blake Brock
In 2019, Mike and Amanda Higginbotham, of Higginbotham Real Estate Group, partnered with their friends Scott and Sharon Johnson to form MASS Holdings, LLC, to identify properties to renovate and sell. In February, the group purchased a home in the Higginbotham’s Portsouth neighborhood they referred to as “Sandpebble.”
After purchasing the property as-is from the previous owners (who moved to a lower maintenance home nearby), the group set about making a plan to take the house from drab to fab—modernizing the home while keeping the design details that made it stand out.
During the renovation of the ‘70’s style split level, valuable space was taken from the large master closet and added to the small master bath adding 20 square feet and making it a true en suite bath with lots of space; a wall was removed between the dining room and the kitchen to open up the space; and the unfinished basement was converted into a large den and laundry room. “It was amazing to see the difference when we were done,” says Mike Higginbotham. “The new owners were pleased with all of the additional square footage!”
When the renovation was complete, the house sold to Blake and Hanah Brock and their children Vann and Rosie, who relocated from Tarrant, on the north side of Birmingham. “We jumped in at the start of the real estate market boom that resulted from Covid and quarantine,” Blake says. “We were living in Tarrant, and Alabaster wasn’t on our radar to purchase a house. We came to see another house in the same neighborhood, but when we got there, the seller had already accepted an offer while we were on the way. Our realtor told us about “this other” house a few minutes away and suggested we see it. When we got here, we fell in love.”
The Brocks, owners of a photo/video media company called Rosie V. Nash that specializes in wedding and corporate photography and videography, immediately set about putting their own stamp on the newly renovated house. “We bought the house because we felt it was large enough to continue growing our family, and we loved the ‘70’s chalet style and the big living room windows,’ Blake says. “The outdoor space was appealing as well.”
The Brocks contacted Kevin Martin of Martin Customs LLC, who was the Higginbotham’s contractor on the project. Martin removed the carpet that had been added to the home’s sunken living room and matched the hardwoods that were in the rest of the home’s living space. The Brocks also took on some DIY projects including staining both outdoor decks, painting, building deck furniture, and removing carpet on the stairs to the basement and replacing with stained solid oak treads.
“I think our favorite thing about the home is the abundance of natural light,” Blake says. “There are large windows in the living room behind our sofa, and the windows face the east. We’re early birds by nature, and we like to have coffee every morning before the sun is up. Because of that, we’ve seen some of the most beautiful sunrises right from our living room. The space is amazing as well. It’s a large house with a lot of room for growth. We have room to relax and entertain, and there’s always somewhere for someone to sleep when Hanah’s family of almost 30 visits for the holidays. We also love the open space between the dining room and the kitchen and the exposed beams in the living room and the basement.”
Now that the Brocks have been in the house for a while, they are making their list for their next projects, including building a covered, screened-in back porch; extending the wood flooring to the bedrooms; landscaping the yard; finishing the rest of the basement, and adding smart home features. “We’re going to be here for the long haul,” Blake concludes.
Portsouth Neighborhood Spotlight
Portsouth is an older neighborhood comprised of homes built in the late ‘70s and ‘80s, with some owned by original owners and some brand-new residents. The convenient location near Thompson High School makes Portsouth a popular choice for families. The homes in Portsouth have character and charm, and no two homes look alike. There is a neighborhood Facebook page where homeowners communicate about maintenance and projects that need to get done. In the spring, the Higginbotham’s sponsor a spring cleanup with a large dumpster provided for residents that is then hauled off to the county dump at no charge.