Proud Placemakers: The Johnstons, East Lake

Hello to the Johnstons, Morgan and Duquette! 
 
We are kind of dying to know everything about your life here in Birmingham. To start, tell us where you live…
 
We live in East Lake, near Ruffner Mountain.
 
You seem to know so many people throughout the Magic City. Is it safe to assume you are familiar with other neighborhoods around the city, as well?
 
We relocated to East Lake almost four years ago, after having rented in both Southside and Crestline Gardens. 
 
Rock on. Now, you aren’t originally from Birmingham, but would you both consider this now your home?
 
Both of us have called Birmingham a home base for most of our lives. Duquette grew up in the mountains in Wyoming before moving to Alabama, and Birmingham became home base when he began playing music at the age of 18. His mother's family is from here.
 
I grew up in the country, living between Cullman and a horse farm in Holly Pond until moving to Birmingham. I finished school here before leaving the country, moving to England, then the mountains north of Seattle, Washington. And Duquette and I both moved to Teton Village, Wyoming, before moving back to Birmingham, where we have been for the past eight years.
 
After spending several years renting, we realized we were ready to plant some roots somewhere. We considered Nashville, New York City, and a few places in Northern California before deciding to officially make Birmingham home. For us, the decision was largely based on the community of creatives that we belong to. The relationships and the investment we had in our creative endeavors was something we couldn't leave behind. And the prices in Birmingham can't be beat, especially in up-and-coming neighborhoods.
 
Birmingham is all the better now that you two claim the city as your home sweet home. And we just love East Lake, with its cozy cottage charm and lush, green views. We're curious about other qualities you may have been searching for when choosing your new home?
 
We were limited by budget but had a list of things we ideally wanted in our first home: historic details, hardwood floors, fireplace, basement for a studio, garage for wood shop, and good land. It sounds ridiculous to have a budget under $120K and a list that long. We knew that we'd get more bang for our buck in an up-and-coming neighborhood, and we looked in Norwood, Crestwood, and East Lake. We had friends that had moved to East Lake a few years before us, and they loved it. They kept encouraging us to head to the East side. The third house we looked at was in East Lake:  2400 square feet, original hardwood floors, finished basement, marble fireplace, two-car garage, and almost an acre of land with the most beautiful natural landscaping. When I was a kid, I wanted a home one day that had a "secret garden"--and I walked into it that day. We paid well under our budget, too.  
 
All characteristics and experiences around the Magic City that we love to hear about. Tell us more about why you love East Lake.
 
I love that people sit on their porches in this neighborhood. Kids play ball in the street. People start grilling out before the sun sets on weekends. And with the mix of Arts+Crafts, Spanish Mission (same architect as Homewood's Hollywood Blvd), early ranch styles, and a few stunning Victorians, you feel like you've stepped back in time a bit. There's a slow pace to the neighborhood, giving you the feeling that you've moved somewhere between city and country. And it's just restful, though the city is five minutes away and the country is just twenty minutes away.
 
Mmmmm. Music to our ears! So after moving and living all around, and after carefully considering several different places to finally nest here in the Magic City, tell us your list of top benefits to city living...
 
  • The prices! They can't be beat. You can find a beautiful historic home that needs little to moderate repairs for $4K-$100K. Yes, you can find homes for only a few thousand dollars! The prices allow us to be based here and travel for our work and pleasure.
  • The connection you get to make with where you shop. Since moving downtown I almost exclusively shop small business.  It wasn't some concerted effort; it's just that there is a really great concentration of unique businesses, services, goods. And I would much rather buy from someone I get to connect with in a personal way (and avoid 280 Corridor to boot!).
  • The community of creators and makers and doers here! We have formed life-long relationships with some of the most talented people we know in the world. We get to collaborate with amazing people day in and day out, all based in Birmingham. It's something that we couldn't leave. 
  • Birmingham is a little big city, and we love that. You can avoid the traffic if you want to. You can live and sustain yourself as a creative if that's what you live for. You can be in the thick of it or drive a few hours to get away to the country or the beach if you need to. And nothing beats having all your friends and neighbors over to grill out, have a bonfire, and sit and talk in your big backyard!

Wow. What fun we've had with these two! Keep up with the Johnstons on Twitter:  Morgan, @RuggedAndFancy, and Duquette, @RebelKing. You can also check out their totally hip lifestyle brand over at the official Rugged & Fancy website. Oh, and don't miss out on Duquette's latest album, Rabbit Runs A Destiny. Be sure to say hello next time you're on the East side!

    

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