Warmth & Magic
The Slavins Home

By Amanda Smith • Photography by Brian W. McDonald

With Bill’s merry disposition and Laura’s warm hospitality, it is easy to imagine the Slavins as slimmed-down versions of Mr. and Mrs. Claus. They are an affectionate, amiable pair—easygoing and kind. They embrace both friends and strangers, and are quick to provide a helping hand. They enjoy life to the fullest, and because of that, there seems to be a faint shimmering in the air around them, something a bit magical, that makes life more enjoyable when they are about. That same sprinkling of enchantment envelops their home, particularly at Christmastime.

Their house is a charmer. Gray board and batten, with a high-peaked roofline and shingle trim, it wouldn’t look out of place nestled in a North Pole snow bank. Though it is a showstopper today, it didn’t always exude that same allure. When the Slavins first saw it, the house was a simple, sturdy farm cottage that had been vacant for several years. Most people passed it without a second glance, yet the couple saw potential in the place and, though it was not for sale, inquired about it.

The Slavins’ history proves they have a rare gift for envisioning possibility. They co-own The Old Mill Restaurant in Dothan, Alabama. When they built the restaurant on Murphy Mill Road—“way out there” on what was then the edge of town—people said they were crazy, a word they heard again when they told friends and family they were purchasing the old, Headland, Alabama, farmhouse. Bill laughs as he admits this time he too had doubts about the tiny, old home. It was Laura who had the vision, and being a wise husband, Bill gave her free reign.

With the help of Bruce Walker of Walker Construction and decorator Terrie Daughtry, the Slavins transformed the house. In a metamorphosis worthy of St. Nick himself, the plain little farmhouse went from bland to beguiling. The home was remodeled and enlarged, but Laura took extra care to preserve the essence of the original structure. She was acutely aware of the previous generations who once lived in and cared for the farmhouse, and wanted to honor them.

The lovely, old garden to the side of the house is a case in point. “The former owner planted flowers and beautiful old-fashioned rose bushes in the garden,” Laura says. They had been carefully placed and lovingly tended. Laura felt that ripping them out would be tantamount to destroying the soul of the old place. Instead, she chose to make the garden a focal point, enclosing it with an antique iron fence and designing the addition, with windows carefully placed, so the beauty of the garden could be enjoyed from both inside and out. A fountain across the drive adds the tinkling music of running water, making the courtyard a favorite spot ...  [subscribe to read full article and see more photos]