A New Tennessee Home With Old Southern Charm
“When a tape measure wouldn’t reach, I counted bricks,” explains architect Alyson Sailer about her precise approach to reinterpreting one of Nashville’s oldest houses, the circa-1810 Grassmere Historic Home (the estate is now the site of the city’s zoo), as a new house in College Grove, Tennessee. When Mary and Patrick Hatcliff, owners and operators of Murfreesboro, Tennessee-based Hatcliff Construction were looking to build a Southern Living Showcase Home, they turned to Sailer and six of the region’s best designers to spotlight old Southern style in a fresh way. “Character is often lost in new construction, but we wanted to show how to capture older-home details in smart ways,” says Mary. “Although the exterior is made of all low-maintenance composite products such as James Hardie siding and PVC shutters, handrails, spindles, and brackets, it looked so authentic that the curator of Grassmere teared up touring the house.” To pull off the old-fashioned feel, Mary worked with Sailer to replicate interior millwork, fireplaces, and the front rooms while reconfiguring the rear of the home to provide modern comforts like an attached kitchen, an expansive master suite, and a spacious upstairs bonus room. Here’s how the team artfully fused past and present.
Change Is Constant
The Grassmere Historic Home had a few elevation updates over time, which encouraged Sailer to subtly tweak the exterior of this design. “It’s important for me to recognize what’s great about the house but also to put my fingerprints on it,” she says. Although the proportions and style of the facade remained the same, Sailer streamlined the porch’s brackets, painted the house Sherwin-Williams Oyster White (SW 7637) and the shutters Relaxed Khaki (SW 6149), and swapped the windows for a version with in-demand-now dark muntins (Marvin Signature Ultimate in Bronze). At 48 inches across, the front door mirrors its Nashville muse. The front walk looks old, but it's actually made of Belgard's Holland Stone pavers laid in a herringbone pattern.
Twist Up Tradition
The staircase of the house impresses with its sturdy and handsome millwork. Kevin Walsh of Bear Hill Interiors in Little Rock, Arkansas, kept up the striking decor with a large square table. “Round would have been the obvious choice, but I wanted to shake things up a bit,” he says. He topped off the look with a chintz table skirt (Arabella in Peacock/Apple by Lisa Fine Textiles) and a grand chandelier overhead (Montmartre by Circa Lighting), which set a welcoming tone. Blue and green make a classic pairing. In fact, a photo of actress Grace Kelly wearing the color combo inspired this room. Crisp white walls (Sherwin-Williams Dover White, SW 6385) complete the look.
Tucked Away Spaces
Beneath the stairs, Walsh devised a snug seating arrangement anchored by an antique chaise. “It was valuable real estate and needed to be taken advantage of,” he says.
Bring Back Glamour
“I wanted to wow people but also make them want to sit and stay,” explains Charlotte, North Carolina-based designer Becky Nielsen about the unabashedly feminine and cozy dining room. To add dimension
to the graphic Gracie wallcovering, Nielsen applied ceramic flowers that match the art hanging over the sideboard—both are by artist Caroline Boykin. The crystal Circa Lighting chandelier maintains
the formality while the trim color (Sherwin-Williams Quietude, SW 6212) blends perfectly with the wallpaper.
Get Creative in Small Spaces
The butler's pantry serves as a pass through between the kitchen and the formal dining room, so Nielsen needed to create a transition in style from one room to the next. Not skimping on creativity, the walls are decoupaged in botanical prints. The trim and cabinets are painted in Sherwin-Williams Spinach White (SW-6434).
Borrow from the Past
For old-house authenticity, Nashville designer Stephanie Sabbe researched kitchens from the Grassmere home’s era and found that, back then, most had large fireplaces for cooking and a dining table that anchored the space. So she skipped the basic kitchen island, choosing an antique version instead, and placed the Monogram range in an exaggerated hood intended to mimic a wide hearth. A continuous swath of soapstone fabricated for the countertops, sink, and backsplash makes the kitchen cohesive.
Create Space for Charm
Keeping the scale of the room small for old-house authenticity, Sabbe extended the storage from floor to ceiling that’s accessible by a library ladder for convenience (and charm). The cabinetry and shelving are painted in Sherwin-Williams Naturel (SW-7542), which perfectly compliments all the natural surfaces in the space.
Made for Great Conversation
“Finding the perfect balance of old and new helps the look feel current yet traditional,” says designer Ashley Gilbreath of Montgomery, Alabama. To avoid getting overwhelmed in “a room large enough to be two living spaces,” the she started with a smart layout, breaking the room into several small furniture groups that make chatting easy. Pairing antique pieces with modern art and lighting gives the house 2020 credibility anchored in classic Southern style. This shade of blue (Sherwin-Williams Quietude, SW 6212) is just strong enough without overpowering the room.
Keep It Playful but Clean
The breakfast room serves as "a pass-through between the living room and the kitchen, so this space had to be intentional and tailored without being over powering," says Gilbreath. "It needed to compliment both the functional nature of a kitchen and the softness of a living room." To accomplish this look, she created a tent affect with Cole & Son's Cambridge Stripe wallpaper in pale blue on the ceiling and the walls. Gilbreath pulled traditional pieces for the furnishings but applied them in a way, she says, "Where the more you love on the items, the better they look."
Set for Conversation
Designers Hannon Doody and Doug Davis of Hannon Douglas kept the study off the foyer crisp and clean. They chose four chairs instead of a sofa for the casual conversation area. A gallery wall of living art hangs in above a bar cart.
Let Light In
Sailer designed the rear of the house using floor-to-ceiling Marvin windows to resemble a porch that was enclosed over time. The decking is sustainable TimberTech. “We wanted the porch to seem inviting and intentional,” says Doody.
Bring Comfort Outdoors
A terrace made with smart, rot-resistant, no-stain necessary, and sustainable Timbertech decking is nestled into a corner of L-shaped home. Here, Hannon Douglas created a true outdoor living room with a stylish, upholstered outdoor sofa and pair of chairs around an outdoor fireplace.
Design a Restful Retreat
Sailer broke out of the footprint of the inspirational house to make way for modern features that home buyers request in master suites. “The way this space is situated in the back of the house made it feel like a hideout from the rest of the world,” explains designer Betsey Mosby, who furnished it traditionally with a calm blue-and-white color palette and didn’t include a TV. A serene valance over the bed is flanked by De Gournay wallpaper panels. Mosby doubled up on the bedside lighting. The Circa Lighting sconces are for reading in bed while the table lamps (also from Circa Lighting) illuminate the room.
Elevate the Bath
Break for Color
On the second floor landing, Walsh designed a hangout space made for relaxing. The white backdrop allowed him to work in pops of color through furnishings, artwork, and accessories. "Stick with colors that appeal to you [and] possibly bring in different shades of a color,” Walsh suggests.
Make Room for Two
When it came to the guest bedroom on the second floor, Sabbe wanted to continue the nod to early American interiors that she referenced in the kitchen. The color scheme was fairly simple, but sophisticated with Sherwin-Williams Niebla Azul (SW-9137) on the walls, Blustery Sky (SW-9140) for the trim, and shades of tan in the fabrics. For the set up, Sabbe welcomed the idea of twin beds in the guest room after being featured in a Wall Street Journal article about how designers are embracing them in their spaces. Canopy drapes added some drama to the space so it felt like an adult space instead of a children's bedroom.
Go for Classic
Just off the guest bedroom, Sabbe carried the color palette into the adjoining bath. She knew she wanted a picture rail, so she went with extra tall wainscoting with Sister Parish wallpaper above as a little relief at the top. Sabbe hung an antique mirror above the stained vanity. "Everyone wants to avoid orange and red, but I think a little bit of red it what makes something look nice," she says. "Historic homes were not afraid of a little red, and I’m not either."
Bring the Outside In
Designate a Place for Fun
While most third floors remain dark attics, the Hatcliffs built out this space that Walsh turned into what he calls “a spot to kick up your heels and make a little mess.” The interesting paneling looks modern but is actually an energized adaptation of classic board-
and-batten (extra horizontal boards were added into the vertical battens) pumped up with a coat of Sherwin-Williams Celestial (SW 6808). Limiting himself to one color, blue, gave Walsh the freedom to unleash a mix of prints: one statement floral, a couple of solids, and multiple small prints.
Save the Trip Downstairs
Play with Space
With such a narrow room, bunkbeds were a must. To make it more playful, Nielsen incorporated trellis into the structure and used a floral wallpaper by Lulie Wallace. "I wanted the bunks to feel like a backyard garden and so we added the 'awnings' to the beds to mimic an old school porch awning," she says.
Make Your Own Light
When it came to the guest house, Gilbreath new she needed to create designated zones and maximize function. "The queen bed downstairs with the canopy began the concept for this open floor plan," she says. "The canopy provides the opportunity for privacy and creates a room divider."
Build Your Own
Check out houseplan.southernliving.com to view the Oakland Hall floor plan of this spectacular Antebellum style house. With 4 bedrooms, 4.5 baths, and a total of 6,265 square feet, you'll definitely have room for everyone in the family.