Window Shopping for Soul

The truth is your house is the true window to the soul.

I visited my sister's new apartment in Greenwich Village last weekend. She shares an apartment with a couple of other women. Her bedroom is coolly Barbara Barry sparse because she arrived there with only her suitcases a few weeks ago and has acquired all her furnishings since she landed. I met her roommate's bedroom before I met the actual person. Unlike my sister's room hers is piled high with junk. She was actually sleeping on the bed under a pile of clothes (including what looked like a pair of snakeskin boots) and a jumbled duvet. When I met her the next morning I wasn't surprised that she was loud and unfocused. My sister claims she is perfectly nice but I liked her less because her room was so awful.

Seeing my sister's apartment got me thinking that our living quarters contain the sum of our experiences, which tells the story about who we are. Maybe the roommate is just temporarily a little disorganized just as my sister is just living in Spartan digs for the moment. But when a family has lived in a house for as long as the Lihanis have lived in their home on Cahaba Road (They moved in on the day of the first moonwalk.) the whole story is there, just waiting to be told.

John Lihani greeted me at the door of the brick and siding home and ushered me directly into his study, where he clearly spends most of his time. Built-in bookshelves and cherry paneling line the walls of the retired UK professor's home office. He explained that he had become spoiled in his last house where he had an office and when his wife, Emily, designed this house she included an office for him. Emily designed the house based on things they liked about their former house in Pennsylvania, including the L-shape living room and the open, circular floor plan. As John proudly described how Emily designed the house she practically blushed.

If they are proud of each other then they both practically burst when speaking of their three sons, all of whom served in the military. Each boy's (the youngest boy is 38 years old) bedroom contains photographs and memorabilia from childhood. John and Emily showed me pictures of their children and grandchildren while proudly naming achievements and recounting anecdotes from band days.

When John and Emily retired eight years ago they knew that they would be home more so they wanted another room where they could relax and enjoy the view as well as have more room for entertaining their family. They designed and built a large sunroom where a screened-in porch once stood. The room looks out over the half-acre yard, which is planted with fruit trees and perennial beds. The exterior door opens to a most dreamy pergola covered with wisteria and grape vines as big around as my calf that shade a patio with its own built-in gas grill.

From the large eat-in kitchen to the large but cozy family room this house was clearly designed for and home to a healthy happy family. I imagine that growing up here was really fun: the ping-pong table was folded up but still standing in the finished basement alongside each child's own craft desk.

In the kitchen, dozens of small plates line the soffit over the cabinets. Emily explained the plates are souvenirs from their travels around the world.

When I asked which is the favorite, John pointed to a hand-painted blue plate from Portugal, the only one with writing. It reads, to paraphrase John's translation, "I for you and you for me and both of us for the children."

If a house can be said to have one, this is the theme at 825 Cahaba Road.


825 Cahaba Road


4 bedrooms; 2 and a half baths

3207 plus 1047 in finished basement

Contact: John or Emily Lihani 278-2748

If you have a unique or interesting house for sale contact Lissa Sims at lsims@aceweekly.com.