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An Alabama design studio defines its vision of ‘objective beauty’ with the Christopher Collection

Alabama-based Christopher Architecture & Interiors has created the Christopher Collection – a curated showcase of bespoke design pieces, antiques, and original artworks, complementing the work of its design studio

All too often, architecture and interior design blindly follows trends and the ever-changing whims of consumer desires. Christopher Reebals, architect and founder of Alabama-based practice Christopher Architecture & Interiors, however, shies away from the idea of having a particular style. Instead, he says he is drawn to objective and timeless beauty. “I’m turned off by the notion that something is pigeonholed into a style or trend,” he explains. “I hope that we focus on things that are more objectively beautiful and are considered timeless, something I believe is created through proportion, scale, and materials that age well.”

Since Reebals’ eponymous design practice was founded 25 years ago, it has developed an ever-growing profile – over a million monthly views across various traditional and social media platforms – and a diverse audience of design lovers wanting a slice of the brand.

“We wanted to find another way to reach out to this broader audience and so created an experience – the Christopher Collection – that allows people to engage with a curated selection of products that represent our brand,” explains Reebals, who set up Christopher Collection. “Not everyone can afford to design a $20 million home, but they can go into our store or visit our website and reap the benefits of pieces selected by our design team. I am a firm believer that interiors and architecture should become one. Christopher Collection accomplishes this unity.”

For Reebals, the Christopher Collection offers a way to democratise luxury design and make his design team’s vision more accessible – and the diverse portfolio of the Christopher Collection is testament to this. “We are proud to offer a unique combination of luxury upholstery, world renowned artists, luxury linens, and state of the art kitchen appliances,” says Reebals. The collection also includes a range of bespoke pieces designed by the in-house architects and interior designers, including custom bed swings, lighting, mirrors, bookcases, garage doors and more.

Visitors in the Christopher Collection showroom in Birmingham, Alabama - Effect Magazine
Visitors in the Christopher Collection showroom in Birmingham, Alabama (Photo: Bryan Johnson Studio)

Reebals has always had a keen eye for design. “Not to be corny, but I think I was just made this way,” he says. “I think God created me as a creative person. The most fun and the greatest joy in life is when I’m using those creative gifts. It’s something that is embedded in my DNA. Ever since I was a little kid, I’ve liked to draw and design.”

I am a firm believer that interiors and architecture should become one. Christopher Collection accomplishes this unity.

Christopher Reebals

He studied architecture at Auburn University, Alabama, and then took a job at a large commercial firm. In 1999, he decided to take a break from architecture and work in vocational ministry, serving as a regional minister to high-security prisons and designing for inner-city housing projects. It was during this period that a friend and colleague asked if Reebals was able to design an addition to his home and Christopher Architecture & Interiors was born. “Someone else saw what I did and asked if I could help them,” says Reebals. “It was all a bit serendipitous and has, by and large, been built by word of mouth.”

The interior of the Christopher Collection showroom - Effect Magazine
The interior of the Christopher Collection showroom is flooded with natural light (Photo: Kerry Kirk)

Since then, Reebals has grown the practice from a solo outfit to a team of more than 50 with offices in Alabama, New York City, and Los Angeles. While Reegbals has stayed true to his vision of timeless design, he has seen many changes within the industry, particularly with the advent of social media. “When I graduated in 1992, there were very few high-end residential architects,” he says. “Over the past decades, however, every architect that sees beautiful images on social media thinks they can do it and the result is more ‘cut and paste’ design. I’m not saying we’re pure in all respects – as there is nothing new under the sun – but we try to start with a blank canvas, understand the client and the site and design with those factors in mind, not an image.”

This approach not only influences Christopher Architecture & Interiors, but is instrumental in curating the product selection of the Christopher Collection. Inside the showroom – which is located in the artsy town of Homewood, Alabama, in a former gallery reimagined by the Christopher Architecture & Interiors team – visitors can discover a mix of bespoke pieces, carefully curated contemporary objects, and antiques.

“We believe fervently that the curation of products that embellish a home is just as important as the architectural finishes,” says Reebals. “We are very strategic in our curation of products and the artisans we work with – and the Christopher Collection is a reflection of what we would select when designing a home.”

Many of the bespoke pieces are crafted in collaboration with talented artisans and furniture manufacturers in North Carolina, perhaps most notably Verellen; while the antiques are selected by Reebals and his team on annual trips to European destinations renowned for their antique fairs and events, from Italy and the South of France to England. 

“We go and engage in the insanity and frenzy of these events,” says Reebals. “We’re always thankful when we find pieces as you can’t help but wonder when the suppliers might run out of antiques. It just seems to keep replenishing itself every year, though. It’s a pretty incredible industry.”

Christopher Collection showroom in Birmingham, Alabama - Effect Magazine
Christopher Collection is located in a former gallery building in Birmingham, Alabama (Photo: Bryan Johnson Studio)

In keeping with the approach of the Christopher Architecture & Interiors team, each piece is chosen for its quality, craftsmanship, and timeless appeal rather than to tap into a fleeting trend. Take, for example, a set of eight exquisite Louis XVI dining chairs from France that were crafted around 1700 and have been reupholstered in an elegant white fabric; or a 19th Century horse-drawn carriage from France. A particularly unusual recent acquisition is a set of five bronze panels depicting biblical scenes that dates back to the 11th Century. 

Unsurprisingly, much of the Christopher Collection finds its way into the brand’s interiors projects, and Reebals is adamant that the team only select pieces that align with the design brand and ethos as a whole. The retail platform is also popular with the wider design community both in the US and abroad, and many of the more exclusive items – say, an artwork by world-renowned photographer David Yarrow or abstract painter Sally Threlkeld – are specified by designers in their own projects. “We also have a pretty broad swathe of patrons that are more laymen that come in and they just love the fact they are able to experience, in a tactile and visceral way, the curated product,” reveals Reebals. “Maybe they’re not buying the $20,000 sofa, but the $30 candle.”

It’s this kind of inclusivity and democratisation of his design vision that sets Reebals apart in the rarified world of high-end architecture and interiors. Instead of gatekeeping his vision, he has found a way to make it more accessible and share the joy that beautiful design brings to the everyday. The success of the venture is testament to the value of this approach – and Reebals has even more plans in the works for the future.

“At 54 years of age, I’m more ambitious than I was when I was 24,” says Reebals. “I believe that we will continue to expand and grow – but I don’t want it to be forced or contrived. I hope it’s organic growth and happens as people express interest in our work. I think that the growth of our companies will be symbiotic. As one grows, so will the other.”

Read more: Collectible Design | Design | Furniture | InteriorsLighting | USA | Christopher Architecture & Interiors