By Anna Grace Moore
Photos by James and Rachel Culver
Neighboring chateaus line Shook Hill Parkway, creating both a quiet and quite distinguished locality for those who love Southern architectural charm. Built in 1987 by Anne Bruno LaRussa and Benny LaRussa, this 11, 205 square-foot home sits on 3.47 acres and houses seven bedrooms and bathrooms. This “self-contained resort” also hides a lovely pool paired with a separate guest house and tennis court in the private quarters behind the home.
Thirty five years after its erection, this residential beauty had seen better days and was in dire need of a makeover. Enter stage right, real estate developers Ann Marie and Brian James. Upon first meeting the aging mansion, Ann Marie saw potential where others saw disaster.
“We probably see 100 prospective houses a year,” Ann Marie says. “We might buy two or three out of 100. We’ve done almost 400 houses. [Brian] knew I was going to buy this house when we walked in.”
The dynamic duo purchased the home in 2022. At this point, the house had been sold several times with Ann Marie and Brian being its latest owners. The Jameses spent six months renovating the home, getting it ready for its future owners.
“Everything you see has been touched,” Ann Marie says.
Notably, the Jameses are also the founders and owners of White House Interiors, which is a one-stop-shop for furniture and home decor that first opened off of Highway 280 near Greystone in September 2017. The second White House Interiors location also just opened in Hoover in October 2022.
When asked how they manage a growing furniture retail business and have time to build and renovate multiple houses a year, Ann Marie credits her employees, her husband and her faith for their collective success.
“We’re blessed to have the most loyal, talented, hard-working team,” Ann Marie says. “I wouldn’t do what I do everyday if I didn’t love the people that we work with.”
The people who work at White House are different because they enjoy what they do and are loyal to the company, Ann Marie explains. She believes that her and Brian’s business is much like a family in that it takes a village to keep things running.
Brian, too, is the backbone of the business, according to Ann Marie. While neither she nor Brian came from architectural or interior design backgrounds, Ann Marie says her and Brian met later in life, joined their blended families and decided to take a leap of faith and invest in their first property. While she became ridden with anxiety, Brian remained a beacon of strength, assuring her that the Lord would walk them through their newfound journey.
Today, Ann Marie says she and Brian have thoroughly enjoyed 17 years of joyful union together, even while moving 14 times. Brian jokes he does not recommend living in “construction zones,” although he and Ann Marie are hands-on with every project, designing the floorplans and overseeing construction themselves.
Above all, Ann Marie and Brian both agree that they strive to live as authentically as they can, trying to reflect the Lord’s blessings by creating homes worthy of artistic praise and for those who need them most. For this Shook Hill chateau, they hope their touch in preserving this house blesses the family who will one day call it home.
Face of the Home
Guests are greeted with a stunning view of a John-Richard crystal chandelier adorning the 20-foot ceiling when they first enter the chateau.
Ann Marie chose a palette of neutral colors mixed with different textiles to create a subtle yet sophisticated allure to this room.
This two-story, custom-made fireplace is made of limestone and serves as an authentic reflection of raw talent, compliments of a local artisan.
A unique choice, the study’s walls are paneled with wood in a coffered design–a stylistic choice first popularized in ancient Rome. A Civil War portrait of J.E.B.B. Stuart, who was a confederate general, hangs fittingly in the study among the plethora of history on the wooden shelves.
The kitchen was the longest renovation out of any other room, Ann Marie says. The couple opted for a more avant-garde style, painting an egg shell white hue over Brazilian cherry wood cabinets. They utilized Calacatta quartz countertops and gold finishes to set the mood for the stately room.
This sitting area adjacent to the kitchen serves as a site of fellowship during the James’ many gatherings.
Playing to traditional Southern couture, Ann Marie incorporated a 12-foot mahogany dining room table that seats 14 into this room, which overlooks the front lawn. Along with this gorgeous hanging candelabra, a quite grandiose China cabinet fits nicely into the room against the dexter wall.
Every piece of furniture, throw, pillow and artifact decorating this room and many others in the house are all from White House Interiors. Ann Marie is a mom to four and understands the burden of the “washer always running,” so she uniquely included the washer and dryer into the walk-closet adjacent to the master bedroom to be closer to where “all the laundry lives.” Now, she can wash, dry, iron and fold or hang up all of her laundry without leaving the room. Brian says Ann Marie truly does think of everything.
The James’ selected white marble for the floors and walls, maintaining a sophisticated consistency among the other four bathrooms in the home.
Complete with a 20-foot-long pool, a tennis court, a covered pavilion with a grilling station and more, this outdoor amusement center is but one of the many talking points this chateau provides.