An American mansion needed careful handling to stop its vast rooms overwhelming its owners
Bigger, as any American will tell you, is better. The supersize culture that produced skyscrapers, Hummers, eight-lane freeways and bucket-sized Cokes has also resulted in ever-larger houses. In 1970, for example, the average home in the States was 1,500 square feet. Today, that figure is closer to 2,500, with the living space per person doubling in that time. (British homes, in comparison, appear to be going in the opposite direction, with today’s average around 850 sq.ft.)
What effect does all that space have on interior design? Is bigger really better there? These were the questions Chad James found himself asking when he was approached to revamp a property in the affluent, leafy Green Hills area of Nashville, Tennessee – a property that was not just big by America’s generous standards, but truly palatial.
Found at the end of a long private driveway that snakes its way through lush meadows and past mature trees, the house sits on top of a rise overlooking its verdant surroundings. The façade is mostly stucco, and the architecture is a mixture of styles – a hint of 18th-century Italy in the stone balustrades, a touch of Haussmann’s Paris in the grey slate mansard roof – but it is nevertheless defiantly modern. At the front door is a fountain flanked by a pair of tall cypresses. It’s restrained and unembellished, but everything about it says power, success, money.
James’s clients had purchased the three-storey mansion in 1997, eight years after it had been built, and at that time it was the largest house in Nashville. With four young children running about, they’d loved its roominess and its abundance of outdoor space – there’s a swimming pool, a hot tub, tennis courts and much else in its expansive ten acres of grounds. It was also a spectacular backdrop for parties either on the stone terraces or the lawn, or in the 24ft x 18ft dining room.
Twenty years on, though, the house was ready for a facelift. “It was still in amazingly good shape, having been built with the finest materials and technology of the time,” points out the designer. “But the interior style felt a bit over the top – it was incredibly opulent, with lots of gold and gilt detailing. Our goal was to edit the extravagance and bring the interiors up to date.”
This is just a taster, you can browse the full article with more stunning photography on pages 194-206, issue 107.
What A three-storey mansion
Where Nashville, Tennessee
Architect Chad James
Words Judy Diamond
Photography Alyssa Rosenheck