French Twist

Text by Rebecca Rochat | Photography by Med Dement

To create an updated French countryside manor in the heart of Chattanooga, a local couple enlisted the skills of Matt Brown of Raines Brothers construction. Jimmy Adams, owner of Nell’s Home, Gifts, & Interior Design, was called in to help create the French-inspired design.

“It is undeniably French in design,” Adams explains, “updated for today’s lifestyle. This family lives cleanly and simply without a bunch of fuss.” The result is effortlessly fresh and updated, while keeping true to aged but timeless architectural details.

 The magnificently carved double front doors open onto a foyer that showcases a quintessential French checkerboard patterned floor, executed with polished crema marfil ivory marble, cross-laid with walnut planks. From the upper level, the walnut handrail curves gracefully down to the lower levels, supported by wrought iron spindles crafted by Sam Dunwoody of Dixie Metal Craft. The stairs were installed by Southeastern Stair & Millwork Company.

From the foyer, the Kolbe double-arched windows of the living room come into view, anchoring the room’s western wall. The windows are the pièce de résistance, connecting the living space to the breathtaking views outside. The three arched window sets, each framed by simple linen hangings, create a panorama along the room’s longest wall. An adjacent niche replicates the window curves and serves as a desk or writing space. The delicate color palette – inspired by a sophisticated but pared-down French
country design – is grounded by a massive French Renaissance-inspired limestone fireplace.

The large room is divided into two separate but cohesive spaces—one centered on the fireplace and the other on a baby grand piano. “Everybody in the family plays the piano,” Adams says, “so our client wanted a seating area around it.” Oak parquet floors are crossed with a darker, smoother walnut and covered partially with an antique Persian rug.

In a separate wing off the foyer, tucked away behind the staircase, the master suite provides a sense of retreat and quiet refuge. The wing includes a peaceful sewing and art room, a magnificent master closet and the master bed and bath. In the master bedroom, the soothing color palette is driven by the bed linens on the sleigh bed. The same shades are picked up in floral patterned linen window shades. Walnut crown molding with egg and dart motif surround the walls. A bay window with walnut paneling houses a desk and chair and provides a spectacular vantage point for the pastoral vista below.

The master bath is a marble-encased escape, with crema marfil covering all surfaces. The countertops were brushed and antiqued to give an older world feel, which highlights the veining in the marble. The custom cabinets have a French gray wash finish and are embellished with a carved French cross motif.

The glass-front shower is lined with 12×12 marble slabs, and a freestanding volcanic limestone soaking tub sits in its own recessed space next to the shower.

 Nowhere in the house is the French influence more evident than in the expansive combination kitchen/keeping room. All the materials are new, but constructed to have an aged patina. Hand-cut, hand-pinned oak flooring spans from end to end, while the ceiling’s quarter-sawn trussing with exposed saw marks renders an antique look to the room.

Above the keeping room, the ceiling soars over a trestle dining table into a trussed barrel-shaped ceiling that ends at a small seating area and wall of windows overlooking the ridge. Anchoring the keeping room is a fireplace constructed of French limestone and topped with a reclaimed wood mantle and exposed chimney of locally quarried stone.

 The oak kitchen cabinets are custom made by Mark Whitlock of Windsor Pine, as was all the woodwork in the home. For the intricate island, Adams collaborated with the homeowner, piecing design elements together to create a personal twist including paired S-shaped scrolled supports mirrored in the range. Rather than using a line of pendant lights over the island, Adams patterned the metal lights after French hanging baskets. “I never use pendants,” he says. “They don’t show a unique personality.” Encapsulating the stove is a very rare hand-carved oak frame supporting a French hood.

 The formal dining room was designed to be an intimate space, very different from the soaring keeping room. Adams chose a small, round table and simplistic furnishings. Centered on a spectacular concave ceiling, a delicate wood-and-metal French antique chandelier floats above the dining table. The effect is an old-world cloister with the light thrown upwards. A metal French Nouveau side table with scrolled supports lightly reinforces the room’s French influence.  “I told her, at some point we have to stop buying wood pieces,” Adams says with a laugh. The concave ceiling in the dining room was a masterful feat of construction. “But of course, Matt made it happen,” Adams says.


Architect: Ann Aiken, AMA Architects, LLC 

Builder: Raines Brothers, Inc.

Interior Design: Jimmy Adams,
Nell’s Home, Gifts, & Interior Design

Home Suppliers:

Woodwork: Mark Whitlock, Windsor Pine | Stone: Majestic Stone  Roof: Gravitt Roofing | Masonry: Brian Oliver Masonry
Countertops: Stone Source | Marble Installation: H. C. Corporation
Shower Surround: SGO Designer Glass | Stairs: Southeastern Stair

& Millwork | Electronics: David Lawman, Current Electric | Plumbing & Appliances: Ferguson | Windows and Doors: East Chattanooga Lumber & Supply | Ironwork: Dixie Metal Craft

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