Text by Katie Ellis
“Everyone needs a place to retreat, to rest, to recharge,” says homeowner Jim Edwards. “For me, that place is Old Town in South Dallas County, Alabama. When I unlock the gate, I immediately relax and enter my retreat.”
Jim and his wife, Beth, live and work in Montgomery, Alabama, but they both grew up just 50 miles away in Selma, Alabama. The couple owned land in the area in a community called Old Town for years before they decided to build their rustic retreat. And in 2006, they began building their modest country-style cabin in the woods, adding on to it in three different phases until it was completed in 2016.
Thursday through Tuesday each week, the Edwardses retreat to the country, making a trip back into town only on Sundays for church. “We spend probably two to three nights in our home in Montgomery during the week to run errands and see family, but we always get back to the farm, as we call it, by Thursday evening,” Beth says.
Jim explains that while Old Town’s obvious charm is found in the tranquil calm it brings, their cottage retreat shines even brighter when shared with any guests who may visit. “Old Town is not just a place—it is also an experience that we enjoy most when we can share it with family and friends,” he says. “Old Town is best when it is enjoyed by many.”
When it came to outfitting their country retreat, Beth pulled from her existing collections, expertly marrying juxtaposing styles. “I love my antiques and European pieces,” Beth says. Throughout the house, a sense of refined history and family reign supreme while accented with rich European décor. However, you’ll quickly find there’s nothing too rich or refined that would make the house uncomfortable or unwelcoming. “There’s nothing in my house that’s too precious. We live in our house, every corner of it. If there’s something really precious that I have, I will tuck it away somewhere, but this house was made for relaxed living with our family, grandchildren, and our two labs,” Beth says.
One thing that makes the Edwardses’ autumn cottage truly special are the ever-present freshly foraged floral arrangements. “My wife has a passion for flowers,” Jim says. “Old Town gives me a chance to participate in her art by foraging for wild flowers, vines, berries, and other greenery, [all while] learning more about Old Town and it’s beauty.” The couple walk the land together, pulling and clipping nature’s beauty. “Jim and I forage over our property for our arrangements. I try to use as much from our property as the season will allow,” Beth notes. The arrangement on the mantel in the living room is entirely from the property.
Both Beth and Jim would agree that autumn in Old Town is one of the many highlights of the year. Between entertaining for holidays, supper club, church groups, and football season, the Edwardses keep a busy social schedule as the summer heat finally begins to wane. The wide front porch wraps around almost the whole house, and most guests claim its fireplace as their favorite spot in the home, Beth shares. The porch is truly an extended living space, and with the mild climate, it stays usable nearly year-round.
Jim shares that he’s often asked about his favorite place in his cozy retreat, but he admits it’s an impossible question to answer. “That is like asking which of my five senses I enjoy most. I enjoy the hill at sunset; the back porch in the fall, watching Alabama football; the front porch in early spring, enjoying the outdoor fireplace; the great room when it is too hot or too cold outside,” he says.