(above) photo by Ty in the Sky Photography
The Workman Home
(above) photo by Ty in the Sky Photography
On a sprawling Southern estate, this stunning white farmhouse conceals a secret that is just too stylish to keep hidden. With all of the charm and authenticity of an old farmhouse, the exteriors of this home are enchanting. Surrounded by acres of vibrant green fields brimming with grass and shady trees, the thick brick porch and white columns call out their welcome. But inside, only the wildly artistic Workman family could’ve created what the interiors have in store. For Michelle, Justin, and their two boys – this is home.
As Michelle explains, “I’m from L.A., and Justin is from New Jersey. We really wanted to settle down somewhere that the boys could have a wholesome upbringing. We searched several Southern cities for a while, but Chattanooga was like cream – it kept rising to the top. So when we found this place, it needed a lot of TLC, but it was just what we were looking for.”
“Color is very inspiring to me. It makes me feel good!”
Stepping into the home, guests are treated to a carefully curated sea of color and texture. To the left of the foyer are two vibrant sitting rooms, perfectly coordinated while also maintaining their own identities.
The first is one of Michelle’s favorite rooms in the house. “This room is where everyone just naturally gravitates. Even though it is a riot of color, it’s still very cozy and comforting,” she says. In this room she has reupholstered or refinished nearly all of the furniture. She hand painted the striking gold ceiling, creating a checked effect by painting in different directions.
This is also the room where many of her collections are on display. Michelle enjoys building collections of items around favorite gifts or inherited trinkets. For example, in this room, she has two collections of boxes – one wooden, started by a box she and Justin found together on a trip once, and one enamel, that began with some of her grandparents’ enamel boxes she was given. “I do that instead of collecting souvenirs when we travel,” she shares.
In fact, you won’t find much in this home that doesn’t bear special meaning to the family. A painting of a young lady rests on an easel in the corner. It was painted by Michelle’s grandfather. Other scenic watercolors were painted by her great uncle. She has collected them over the years, purchasing any she comes across.
In the next sitting room, artwork by her sisters is dotted through a gallery wall hung over the first piece of furniture that she and Justin purchased together.
In the kitchen, colors bear special meaning. Why choose any paint color off the shelf when you can have it perfectly matched to the peaceful blue hue of the eggs your chickens lay? Inspired by the Workmans’ farm setting, chicken egg blue walls fade down into darker tones, creating an intentional ombré effect that transitions in the backsplash tiles. Bold black countertops are large slabs of granite that look like marble and are complemented by brass and copper tones found in the hardware and other kitchen accessories. “My parents helped get my copper collection started,” Michelle smiles, looking at a rack full of pots and pans.
The room works as a pass-through space when the Workmans are entertaining. “It’s really great. People come in the front door and walk right through here on their way to the pool out back. They’ll pause here for a drink and talk to me or Justin (whoever is preparing the food), and then head out back!”
Through pocket French doors that have been painted a dramatic black shade is the formal dining room. A modernized traditional room, many classic elements are still intact. Ornate molding, a built-in China cabinet, and a wood-burning fireplace remain, while modern photography and art populates the walls with a fresh update. Meanwhile, another custom color sets the tone for the entire room. Michelle explains, “A couple of days after we moved in, one of our neighbors came by to welcome us, and she had cut these gorgeous hydrangeas from her yard for us. My mom was here that day. She has a great eye and sat down and blended paints until she had matched the hydrangeas’ color exactly. So this color reminds me of both my sweet neighbor and that fun afternoon with my mom.”
Upstairs, the master suite is a private retreat tucked away from the main living spaces. This room maintains simple elegance with a crocheted bedspread found in Seville, Spain, during Michelle and Justin’s travels. Monogrammed pillow shams, a focal wall of deco floral wallpaper, and spunky yellow and floral curtains all add those personalized touches of color and cohesive creativity that Michelle craves. The bed is flanked by blown Murano glass lamps, which Michelle pulled out of Alfredo Barbini’s studio in Italy after Barbini was no longer blowing glass. “Those are definitely a favorite find,” she smiles. Another favorite creation is the Victorian bust on the pale pink armoire. “That bust was broken, and in the Japanese tradition of repairing items with better materials, I repaired it with my grandmother’s costume jewelry she had given me years ago. I was really close to her, so that is a really special piece,” Michelle shares.
Downstairs, below the main level, is one of Justin’s favorite areas. “I really love the office,” he says. “This is where I spend most of my day because we work from home. I think Michelle did a great job of creating separate zones. When we’re upstairs, it’s very comfortable and relaxed, and then I come down to the office. It definitely has its own identity. I feel like I can really separate the two and focus while I’m at work.”
The length of this room is walled in shelves, painted a bold blue tone. The windowed French doors at one end of the long room are reflected in the enormous mirror at the other end to support natural light throughout the space and make it feel larger and more open.
Also downstairs are the added guest rooms, which were created by enclosing a garage under the house. “It’s really nice when we have company – guests have as much privacy as they need or want and can hang out with us without feeling like we’re on top of them,” Justin says.
Part of this renovation included a hallway wet bar behind glass French doors and a blue tiled bathroom. The wet bar provides a place for Justin and Michelle to café up or fix a snack without going upstairs and getting distracted. And the bathroom is a work of art. Multitoned blue stripes carry the tile from floor to ceiling. A free-standing vanity and wall-mounted faucets add an elevated aesthetic.
Through years of careful planning and execution, the Workmans have created a one-of-a-kind homestead in the rolling fields outside of Chattanooga. “This is definitely a Southern farmhouse,” Michelle says, “but it is also a very thoughtfully curated collection of heirlooms and our favorite things. It’s a marriage of not just styles but also our lives.”