Buying the last wooded lot in a neighborhood full of quarter-century-old homes was a godsend for the Dennises, who set out to create an indoor-outdoor retreat.
By Candice Graham | Photography by Med Dement
It may physically be in an Ooltewah neighborhood, but the home of Clay and Charlotte Dennis could fit seamlessly into the scenery of Charlotte’s hometown of Mentone, Ala. “Being in the woods surrounded by trees was important to us,” Clay says. “We also wanted to plan a house that would open itself up to the outdoors and to all the other rooms so that when we entertained, people could flow from room to room. That was the whole idea for our house.”
The Dennises set out to create a retreat set among rustling trees and warmed by glowing fires. The Craftsman home, built by Charlotte’s brother, Heath Blalock, includes subtle modern touches set off by an open, flowing floor plan and an outdoor space that adds an additional 1,000 square feet onto the house when doors are kept open. Natural touches, like locally sourced stone hearths and several different types of wood, come together to give the home a treehouse feel.
The vast back porch includes stainless steel cabling, which adds a modern touch and allows for an unobstructed view of nearby woods. As owner and president of Southern Hearth and Patio, Clay incorporated several furnaces, fireplaces, and heat lamps to make the outdoor area usable all year round. “Once it’s screened in, if the temperature is right we’ll have the doors open all the time,” Charlotte says. With an outdoor kitchen complete with a smoker, gas grill, and refrigerator, the family uses the space four to five nights per week to grill out.
Varying wood tones both inside and outside of the home helped to create a look that is true to nature. Pine, cedar, birch, and oak are some of the woods that can be found throughout the home’s interior and exterior. “Outside, the floors are pine tongue and groove and the beams are cedar. We were told it looks like a lake house without a lake,” Clay says.
Double doors on the patio lead into the living room. “The porch is designed to flow through the entire house. We wanted a house that would open itself so that everyone can mingle,” Clay says. Designed with entertainment in mind, the interior of the home flows freely from room to room. The living room features prefinished birch flooring and a stone mantle (the same local stone used in the outdoor fireplace), adding to the rustic feel. The fireplace features black porcelain, a subtle modern touch that reflects the flame from all angles.
The living room is outfitted with built-in shelving and furniture in calm, creamy tones. Walls throughout the home are painted the same neutral tone, which allows the wooden ceiling, floors, and doorframes to stand out, while arched wooden double doors in the front of the home create an inviting entry. Accessories close to the family’s heart, such as a refinished carpenter’s chest that once belonged to Charlotte’s great-grandfather, add personal touches.
Other pieces that have been given a new life are used in the Dennis home as well. The dining table, which Clay found on Houzz, was fashioned from old barn wood. The barn, which was built in Cleveland, Tenn., in 1908, was torn down in the late ‘90s, and now serves as a rustic counterpart to modern cushioned chairs that surround it.
Charlotte designed the kitchen to be open and airy, which is a stark contrast to their previous home. “We never ever used the dining room in our old house, and we’re always in this kitchen area now. We needed it to be as open to the outside and to the other rooms as it could be.
“We also wanted to be able to walk through the front door, see out the back, and open all the windows in order to feel like we were outside,” Charlotte says. This was achieved by ample windows and a large center island that allows for meal prep while interacting with guests and family members. Contrasting cabinet colors with an Old World finish and polished granite add visual interest, while professional appliances such as a range hood and pot filler provide function and ease.
The outdoor-inspired style continues through to the master bedroom and bathroom. Soft wall colors and a rich wooden sleigh bed make the room feel like a calming retreat. “We wanted something that had a quiet vibe, so we did spray foam insulation,” Clay explains. A plush ottoman and side chair outfit the room, and antique-inspired botanical prints hanging above the bed tie back into the woodland theme.
Cream-colored travertine tiles sweep the floor of the attached master bathroom, and natural granite serves as the countertop for his-and-her sinks. Wood-inspired ceramic tiles blanket the walls of the walk-in shower, and an all-natural stone floor creates texture. A built-in armoire adds additional bathroom storage with the look of a real furniture piece. Smart details like 36-inch doors throughout the home and pocket doors in the hallway create extra space.
Upstairs, home entertainment is taken to a whole new level with the family’s theater room. With the look and feel of a real movie theater, ample plush leather chairs, and dark colored walls, the space has everything the family needs for a movie night in. A collection of movie posters hang on the walls, including the poster for the movie “Tombstone,” which the couple saw together on their first date.
From the outside in, the Dennis family home was built with the intent to bring those closest to them together in an environment that feels like an escape from daily life. “We wanted anyone we had over to feel comfortable, and we wanted it to feel natural. Even though location-wise it’s convenient to everything, it feels pretty remote,” says Charlotte. “We feel like we’re in a vacation home here.”