By Madoline Markham
Photos by Lauren Ustad and Samford University
The stately home on Shades Crest Road next to the First Church of the Nazarene is abuzz with parties each Christmas season. With its decked halls, trees and mantles, come hundreds of students, alumni, leadership groups and home tour attendees—all welcomed in by Samford University’s President Beck Taylor and his wife, Julie. While the couple lives in the house with their family, they’re quick to admit it’s a “working home”—and one always ripe with hospitality.
When the Taylors moved into the home in June 2021 with the start of Beck’s new role on campus, they brought some of their family’s furnishings to mesh with others owned by the university for the home. To those they added their own style to it, working with Sallie Aman at Ruby Ansley Interiors with fresh white paint over its jewel tones and new wallpaper, draperies, rugs and reupholstering.
In addition to the Taylors’ family pieces, the house also features art gifted to the university that the Taylors can rotate and pull from university archives, such as an oil painting of Howard College’s (Samford’s previously named) first president Samuel Sterling Sherman from 1841 that they had restored and reframed.
While the home was built in the 1980s, its architecture was based on a historic home in Natchez, Mississippi, that makes it feel more true to that home’s era. In 2007, Samford purchased the private residence, which conveniently overlooks the campus, and added on a ballroom for events, as well as a garage and new master suite to complete the home’s current footprint—all with architecture by Neal Davis of Davis Architecture.
Today, Julie and Beck live in the house with their 15-year-old daughter, Chloe, a sophomore at Vestavia Hills High School, and their golden doodle, Peanut. Their son Zach, 26, is a recording artist in Los Angeles, and their daughter, Lauren, 24, is a medical student at the University of Washington.
When Julie isn’t wearing her hat as First Lady of Samford, she’s hosting even more events in her home as the executive director of the Legacy League. Legacy League is an auxiliary of the university that raises money for scholarships for students with significant financial need and challenging life circumstances. Julie says these scholarships impact not just the students’ lives, but also their families lives, too. In this role, she opens the home for the Legacy League’s annual Christmas home tour, which features different homes in the area each year but always includes the Samford president’s home where guests are treated to live music and refreshments.
To prepare for the tour and all the home’s many Christmas parties, Julie works with Rita Daffinson of RD Designs to design Christmas trees, mantles and more, all with a white, gold and greenery aesthetic—plus red bows on the front door. It’s all a part of the warmth of hospitality that is more than evident as you talk to Julie about her love for welcoming in countless students, parents and community members into her home.
The biggest difference in this formal space now is its ivory walls, which show off the large tapestry on one of them in a whole new way than it did against the previous red color.
Gold ribbon dresses this elegant two-story home up for the holidays.
This room is home to one of five trees in the house that Rita Daffinson of RD Designs styled for Christmas in a white and gold angelic style that Julie requested. Rita designed greenery on the home’s fireplace mantles as well.
Light spills into this intimate room off the living room as a part of its design, which is based on a historic home in Natchez, Mississippi.
This spacious event space overlooking Samford’s campus was added onto the back of the house after the university purchased it to be the president’s home. Garland adds a festive flair to its fireplace for Christmas.
Dickens Christmas Village
This collection of the Taylors reminds them of the time their family has spent in London and Oxford- first for a summer with college students and later for conferences and other family trips.
The Taylors’ son is a recording artist, so it’s no surprise the whole family likes to listen to music by the fire in this cozy, wood-paneled room off the kitchen. Not pictured are the room’s built-in bookshelves, which house items Beck was given on his travel to Asia as a part of his previous university president roles, to attend conferences and to teach as an economist.
About the Home Tour
The Samford University Legacy League’s annual Christmas Home Tour, presented by ARC Realty, raises money for scholarships for students with significant financial need and challenging circumstances. Now in its 12th year, the tour features the Samford President’s Home plus several other carefully curated and festively decorated homes in the area.
Advance tickets are required and may be purchased at samford.edu/legacyleague.