Memories Built to Last

The Duncan Home in Cleveland

This home was part of our journey. We thought of it as finishing our journey together,” says Ann Duncan, of the home she bought with her late husband in the historic district of Cleveland, Tenn.

By Rebecca Rochat | Photography by Med Dement


Ann and Eddie’s journey began when they were in the eighth grade at Arnold Elementary in Cleveland. The year was 1956. They went to high school together, and then on to the University of Tennessee.

After they graduated from UT, Ann and Eddie married and moved to Memphis where Eddie began medical school. It would be a long while before they returned to their hometown. When Eddie finished, the Duncans moved some more– first to San Antonio where Eddie served as a flight surgeon in the Air Force, then to Montgomery, Ala., and last to Atlanta where Eddie did an ophthalmology residency at Emory University.

Finally, in 1975, the Duncans returned to Cleveland. They settled in the Bowman Hills subdivision and Eddie began his practice with the Cleveland Eye Clinic, now the Duncan Eye Center.

In 1990, after the Duncans’ children had left for college, Eddie’s friend “Skeet” Rymer mentioned that he and his wife Anne were looking to sell their home. The Duncans weren’t planning on moving, but they agreed to meet the Rymers’ at their house one Sunday afternoon. It was love at first sight. Realizing how “elegant, but homey” the home was, the Duncans bought it on the spot.

As soon as they had settled in, the couple began a series of renovations to the 1957 home. They refinished the home’s existing hardwood floors, and added hardwood where there had been carpet. They purchased Persian rugs from Munson Persian Rug Co. in Chattanooga (now Persian Rug Company), and Ann used them to develop a color scheme for each room in the house. She also purchased custom draperies by Jane Easterly to complete the home’s old-world aesthetic.

In 2007, the Duncans gave their 1950s-style kitchen a fresh look with a new galley floorplan. With the help of Haskell Matheny of Haskell Interiors, they also replaced the old cabinets with cream cabinetry embellished with fluted columns, dentil molding, and low relief foliage designs. They also added a backsplash of Moorish patterned tile with guilloche banding, installed a Five Star gas stove with a large copper hood, and replaced their old countertops with new granite ones.

Just off the kitchen, the Duncans’ informal dining room has an oval dining table with Queen Anne style chairs. The walls are papered in a pastel Chinoiserie pattern with wainscot paneling below. Built-in cupboards on either side of a window looking over the back veranda showcase some of Ann’s collection of Majolica pottery and her mother’s Flo Blue and Blue Onion china. An avid collector, Ann also collects Staffordshire figurines and antique oil paintings, and she and Eddie collected Lladro and Guiseppe porcelain figurines throughout their married life. Now the figurines are displayed throughout the house, memories of times spent together.

Ann’s “winter den” is conveniently located between the kitchen and the dining room. On chilly days, the room’s cherry paneling and gas fire give warmth to the room, making it a cozy spot to watch TV or read curled on up on one of the room’s plaid love seats or brown leather wing chairs. Each wing chair has its own tufted ottoman—one red, one green—brought over from England.

The home’s stately dining and living rooms provide appropriate backdrops for 18th century English furniture with their delicate pargework ceilings in the English Adam style. The dining room has the home’s original hand-painted Chinoiserie wallpaper, and a gold leaf chandelier hangs over a long table that seats 12 in Queen Anne-style chairs. Two Hepplewhite sideboards each have their own silver coffee service, and a prominent breakfront displays Ann’s mother’s Havilland china.

The living room has the feeling of an 18th century grand salon. Fan-shaped pargework extends from the corners of a ceiling lined with dentil and egg and dart molding. Antique oil paintings line soft green Monroe Bisque walls, and figurines and family pictures are displayed on chests and tables. On the mantel, a gold candelabra, porcelain figurines, and gold leaf clock have been symmetrically arranged with an antique painting against a paneled overmantel hanging above. The room’s impressive furniture includes a mahogany chest of drawers with oyster parquetry and a double bonnet mahogany secretary, and guests can gather around the formal fireplace with a Classical surround embellished with low relief paterae. For entertaining, there is a baby grand piano that once belonged to Ann’s parents. Guests can sit and listen on a Hepplewhite sofa or a  loveseat upholstered in a red, white and blue striped fabric.

A hallway lined with portraits of the Duncans’ children and grandchildren leads to three bedrooms and baths. One of the guest bedrooms is furnished with cherry furniture including a four-poster bed covered in a Martha Washington bedspread. The second bedroom, called the “Victorian” room, was named for its Victorian era furnishings and decorative pieces. A four poster spindle bed has a Martha Washington bedspread with one of Ann’s grandmother’s quilts folded at the foot. Other folded quilts rest on a chest at the foot of the bed, and a spindle cradle has been placed beside the bed. Other furnishings include an oak dresser and chest of drawers with marble tops, and hand painted kerosene oil parlor lamps.

The master suite at the far end of the hallway houses the “summer den,” a warm space with honey-colored paneling and green leather furnishings. Steps away, the master bedroom boasts a rich color palette with shades of ruby red in the floral patterned drapery and cut velvet upholstery. A four poster bed with a white bedspread is accented by a folded coverlet matching the floral draperies and decorative pillows upholstered in cut velvet. The room also has two striking pieces of 18th century antique: a Chippendale highboy in burl walnut with a writing desk, and an armoire with satinwood banded inlay and oval shaped marquetry of musical instruments on its upper doors.

Also upstairs is a den/playroom with warm wood paneling where Ann’s grandchildren love to hang out when they stay overnight with grandma. The kids can curl up in lush leather sofas in front of a T.V. entertainment for movies, or enjoy a number of books and toys scattered throughout the room, including a whole collection of legos grouped on top of a wooden bar with three wooden stools. And the kids don’t have to go far when if they get sleepy in the midst of all the fun—a wooden door just off the room leads to another cozy bedroom.

Behind the house, a rear entrance opens to a secluded veranda and a lush backyard surrounded by a black wrought iron fence. A stairway leads to an upper level that houses a separate recreational room, bedroom and bathroom for the grandchildren to enjoy.

Eddie and Ann had almost 20 years together in the house they hadn’t planned on buying, and never for a moment did they have any buyer’s remorse. As Ann reflected, the house was the end of their journey together. “It took us 13 years to get back to Cleveland. Wherever Eddie went, I went happily. Our whole life was a wonderful adventure.”

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