A Historic Lookout Mountain home was given a fresh update and a new life, thanks to a family who saw its charm and potential.
By Candice Graham
Photography by Med Dement
When the Lookout Mountain Inn burned to the ground in 1907, all that was left of the structure were piles of smoldering bricks. Eleven years later, the bricks were used once again, this time to build a stately residence where the inn once stood. After belonging to the same family for more than 80 years, the house is now home to Sarah and Wes Robbins, who love how it’s not just the bricks that give a glimpse into what the property once was. A stray flower from the Inn’s old landscaping blooms from the ground, bits of china can be found beneath the dirt, and original badminton poles are now used to hold a brand new net.
From the back porch, three double doors swing open to a bright and airy family room and expansive kitchen. The area, where the family spends most of their time, is characterized by natural light, clean colors, and a mix of marble and wood.
The kitchen underwent a major overhaul when the couple bought the house. Sarah and Wes went to work researching kitchen trends and found that they wanted a kitchen that was open, airy, and bright. They settled on statuary marble countertops and a contrasting dark slate prep island top to replace the existing dark formica and bring a timeless look to the space.
Now, sleek, clean-lined white cabinetry with brushed nickel knobs and white window frames and wainscoting bring a bright look to the room. Wanting to keep the view unobstructed from the kitchen to the living area, they opted for clear glass overhead light fixtures with exposed bulbs. Can lighting adds extra illumination.
Both cooking and entertaining are made easy by the kitchen’s layout. Stainless steel appliances include a warming drawer, a double oven, a gas stove with poppy red knobs, and a steamer and induction cooktop built into the slate-topped prep island. Clear glass-front cabinetry allows white china and clear glasses to be displayed from within. Pops of vibrant color are added by fresh-cut purple irises and a painting of Chattanooga done by their son Henry’s class as an art project. Everyday family meals are enjoyed at the rectangular x-based wooden table. Gray chairs surround one side, and a choir loft church bench, stripped of its green paint by Sarah, now provides ample seating at the kitchen table.
Beyond the kitchen is a family living area once sectioned off as an in-law suite. It is a continuation of the kitchen’s light gray wall color, white ceiling, and rich brown ceiling beams made of reclaimed wood from a textile mill in Georgia. “Because the ceiling was two different heights and it was such a long room, we wanted to break it up,” Wes explains.
Sarah adds that the family spends more time in this area than in any other room. The fireplace and concealed wood box get ample use throughout the winter months. “We hang out in here and build a fire even if it’s 50 degrees,” she says.
Eclectic art is displayed throughout the room, much of which was obtained by Sarah’s aunt and uncle who were art dealers. Above the fireplace hangs a piece Sarah received as a college graduation gift flanked by two floating white orchids. To the left is a wet bar complete with a sink, refrigerator, glasses, and spirits.
On the opposite side of the kitchen, the formal dining room has a palette of steely blue-gray, which is accented by a crystal and gold chandelier. “We didn’t change anything about the dining room but the color,” Sarah says. Wide-planked yellow pine floors in the dining room and throughout the home were hand-scraped and stained by craftsmen in south Georgia. The dining room table extends to seat 10, and family holidays are spent gathered around it. Artwork was obtained during the couple’s travels including their honeymoon in Saint Barts.
To the left of the family room is a hallway that leads to the master bedroom. In order to keep the simple, streamlined feel, they decided to paint the bedroom walls the same color as the kitchen and family room. Above the bed, a vivid painting by Henry hangs in a regal gold frame. Much of the bedroom’s furniture came from local antique stores. Metal sconces are mounted to the wall on each side of the bed, enabling a cleaner look and feel for the bedside tables.
Attached to the master bedroom is a bathroom with several smart features. Marble and slate match the surfaces in the kitchen, keeping a cohesive look throughout the house. Two separate vanities allow for ample space. In the shower, a pebble floor offers natural visual appeal, and two showerheads provide an overhead rain or traditional handheld option. Beveled porcelain subway tile is used three quarters of the way up the bathroom wall and in the shower. Black and white square tiles cover the heated floor to give an antique flare to the room.
A bright and cheery living room infuses the home with a splash of sunny yellow. “I love this particular shade of yellow and I brought it from my old house,” Sarah says. A Persian rug with saturated hues of navy, gold, and red blankets the floor, and a verdant painting of the home’s exterior hangs above the mantle. An adjacent sunroom looks out onto the patio and yard and houses a ping pong table for their sons, George and Henry, and their guests.
Outside, the patio is made of flagstone tiles and outfitted in wooden furniture with bright blue cushions. The Robbinses use the area for outdoor cooking and for gathering with friends. On rainy days, they spend time under the second level’s roofed area. Underneath the shaded spot is a cozy lounge space with hardwood flooring recycled from the original kitchen. Arched brick doorways add a rustic touch.
Remnants of a bygone era can be found both on the home’s brick and ivy-covered façade and its surrounding areas. In the garden, an old sandstone fire pit is now used by the Robbinses to roast marshmallows, and a mossy brick wall wraps around the back yard. A vine-covered wrought iron archway and wooden fence door lead to a neighboring yard. Two shady trees anchor a hammock, and gigantic oak leaf hydrangeas bloom each summer, just as they have for decades. While the Robbinses have brought new life and a much needed renewal to this nearly century-old home, its original character and charm remain intact as years go by.