Stepping inside, guests are transported to a world of curated beauty, where every corner tells a story of the owner’s passion for design, nostalgia, and hospitality.
Birmingham, Alabama – Nestled in the heart of Historic Forest Park, on the tree-lined 42nd Street, lies a hidden gem known as Forty Second, an exquisite Airbnb apartment that effortlessly blends timeless elegance with modern charm.
Meet the creative genius behind this captivating space, artist and interior designer McKenzie Dove. A Texas native, Dove has lived in the vibrant city for the past seven years, and her journey from small-town Texas to the heart of Alabama has been one of transformation and inspiration. Her roots in design can be traced back to her childhood, where the constant movement due to frequent relocations instilled in her a love for collecting unique treasures to decorate her ever-changing bedroom.
“I still have objects from my childhood collection I use in my personal home,” she says, “and I’ve continued to collect over the years, which has required me to fill several storage units.” These stored treasures from her wanderlust-filled past now serve as a reservoir of design possibilities for her various projects, including her stunning Airbnb.
Forty Second itself is a work of art, a lower-level two-bedroom, one-bath space spanning approximately 1,500 square feet. Built in 1925, it exudes vintage charm, a character that the owner and her husband carefully preserved during a recent renovation. “We installed picture frame molding that feels original to the apartment,” Dove explains, “and we chose to keep the original blue tile in the bathroom.”
One of the most striking features of Forty Second is the captivating mural adorning the bathroom walls. With shades reminiscent of Nantucket, the nautical scene adds a whimsical touch, blending seamlessly with her blue and white china collections, chinoiserie side table, and antique linen press.
“I knew I wanted to paint a mural in the same color tones but I didn’t know exactly what scene to do. I just went for it one afternoon and the result was a nautical scene that reminded me of Nantucket,” says Dove.
“I shopped my storage unit to bring out my blue and white china collections, a chinoiserie side table and purchased a linen press from a local antique shop.”
The front bedroom offers an equestrian nod, with Ralph Lauren lighting throughout the space. To balance the traditional pieces, she added a modern twist with plaster bowl lights on the ceilings and a custom-built plaster table in the dining room.
But what makes Forty Second truly special are the personal touches that make guests feel right at home. “I see each Airbnb we own as a guest home for our friends and family,” she says, “and I hope each guest feels as though they have stayed with us when they stay at Forty Second.”
For Dove, the kitchen — adorned with an array of blue and white plates and complemented by muted gray-green walls — is a dream for both the eyes and the palate.
The dressing room is another favorite cozy haven, where guests can relax under the warm glow of a cane lantern and admire the upholstered walls adorned with her own pencil-drawn landscape pieces.
“I placed a favorite burl table in that space and made a cane lantern to hang from the ceiling. The walls are upholstered in linen landscape pieces I did mostly in pencil, so I spent a lot of time in that room.”
After a day of exploring Birmingham, guests often find themselves drawn to the screened-in porch on the front of the apartment, “We tend to gather on the screened-in porch on the front of the apartment to gather after dinner. It’s tucked away behind a Japanese maple that is lovely in the fall,” says Dove.
While every corner of Forty Second reflects Dove’s impeccable taste, there’s one item that stands out as a splurge-worthy statement piece—the linen press, a traditional gem that adds character and grandeur to the space.
As for future additions, an 18th Century Aubusson tapestry discovered in Saint Germaine holds a coveted place on her wishlist, promising to bring even more enchantment to the already captivating apartment.
Beyond the charming confines of Forty Second, the owner has a treasure trove of recommendations for first-time visitors to Birmingham. Brunch at Automatic, a stroll through the botanical gardens, and dining experiences at Chez FonFon, Bottega, and Highlands are must-dos. For a touch of chic, Key Circle Commons in English Village beckons, while antique lovers will find solace in Hen House Antiques, Atelier, and Le Weekend. And, of course, a visit to Forty Second wouldn’t be complete without exploring the walkable shops of Shoppe and MK Quinlan.
Forty Second is more than just an Airbnb; it’s a home away from home, and a testament to McKenzie Dove’s dedication to creating a space where guests can make memories and feel truly welcomed. It’s a place where design meets hospitality, and where every detail tells a story.
Photography: Marta Xochilt Perez