Heeding a Historic Hideaway

The McKay Home

Brenda and Sandy McKay loved their home in Hixson, but with 10 acres to maintain, sometimes it felt like the maintenance of the property could be overly time-consuming. The couple decided to sell their home in 2016, and the hunt began for a new place to nest. At the top of their wish list? A home that satisfied their love for traditional Georgian architecture and one that had a first-floor mother-in-law suite. 

By Christina Cannon / Photography by Creative Revolver

“We were looking around on the mountains and everywhere in Chattanooga, but for some reason, we kept coming back to this house,” says Sandy. “One night we were riding around, and we pulled up to the house. I remember looking at Brenda and asking if she was up for a big project, and she said yes.”

By the spring of the next year, the couple had closed on the home with renovations set to start later that fall. But the McKays didn’t just want to begin turning this house – which dates back to 1936 – into their ideal home. By working closely with Don Oscai of OC Construction, the McKays were able to update the home while still being respectful of a structure that had been in place for nearly a century.

“This home was built by Dr. and Mrs. Braly, and so many people in the area know this house as a fixture of the community. It’s almost like a Chattanooga landmark,” adds Sandy. “We happened to be in the right place at the right time, and we’re just so blessed to have gotten the home. We saw it as our responsibility to bring the old Braly home back to life.”

Even from the front yard, the McKay home does not disappoint. Six imperial columns rise up past the second story to meet eloquent dentil molding that runs along the front of the house. A vibrant brick veneer cloaks the front of the house with a diagonal detail just below the first story’s large windows. The arched entryway that is commonplace in the Georgian style beckons visitors to enter through a solid wood door and discover more of the home’s storied history. 

foyer with curved staircase in historical chattanooga home


Once inside, guests find themselves standing at the foot of a grand curved staircase made entirely from cherry hardwood. A chandelier hangs above two Queen Anne chairs for a regal look. This area is open to the adjacent formal living room, which features plenty of seating with a sofa, two armchairs, and two floral wingback chairs. A grand piano is tucked into the corner of the room, but the real showstopper of this room is the fireplace surround.

“Mrs. Braly was an artist, and one of the unique original elements of the home are the tiles surrounding the fireplace,” explains Sandy. “She hand-painted all of those, and the oldest one dates back to 1897. The tiles show scenes from around Chattanooga such as Barton Avenue, Taft Highway, and Lower Mill Road, among others, before they were ever paved.”

On the other side of the foyer is the home’s dining room. Eight Queen Anne chairs surround a glossy mahogany inlaid dining table that sits under another classic chandelier. Neutral draperies flank the nearby windows and doors and work to lighten the room, which is full of rich hardwoods.

“Much of the home still had the original crown and base molding,” says Sandy. “There are a lot of solid cherry doors and some cherry paneling throughout, and we tried the best we could to preserve as much as possible.”

Passing through a threshold grants access to the kitchen, which is notably lighter than the rest of the home. Here, the saturated hardwoods have been replaced with white materials from the classic double-stacked cabinets to the glossy subway tiles. But that’s not to say that craftsmanship is lacking. A coffered ceiling sporting recessed lighting is full of ornamental detailing, and the furniture-style footing of the cabinetry goes one step further in maintaining the home’s aesthetic.   

“We really wanted to have a refreshed, almost modern kitchen,” says Sandy. “To accomplish that, Brenda took some old treasured pieces and paired them with some newly purchased ones.”

Two Italian apron-front sinks, marble countertops, a full-size wine fridge, and a split counter-depth fridge and freezer round out this stylish space and effortlessly blend into another dining area. A custom bench is built into the island and is nestled up to a dining table that is accompanied by four Windsor chairs.

Just steps away, a keeping room, complete with a fireplace, can comfortably accommodate six and allows conversation to flow to and from the kitchen with ease. 

Traveling up the grand staircase just inside the home’s entryway carries guests to the top floor of the home. A second living area just feet from the top of the landing is an area where the McKays spend a lot of time, and the adjacent room features their master suite. A cherry bed frame with towering posts matches a traditional bedroom suite, as well as the room’s fan and curtain rods. A soothing pale blue cloaks the walls and ties in with the patterned area rug, while the bedding and upholstery of a loveseat situated at the foot of the bed bring in a more vibrant hue. 

The same color scheme is repeated in the master bathroom and gives the space a spa-like feel. Dual vanities are bisected by a lower elevation makeup vanity, and two elaborate Venetian mirrors add a majestic touch. Silver candle-style wall sconces dot the room and complement the polished nickel hardware used throughout the space. Nearby, a clawfoot soaking tub provides continuity with its polished nickel fixtures while also providing a reprieve from the outside world. 

Also offering up a prime spot for relaxation is the McKays’ back patio. A flagstone pathway snakes from the back of the house and provides access to several different levels of the terrace. The middle level features a dining space for six situated among planters full of colorful geraniums, while the upper level boasts a more comfortable seating arrangement. Here, a number of teak benches are topped with black cushions, and a stacked-stone fireplace in the corner emerges from a landscape of hydrangeas and potted ferns. 

Everywhere you turn – both inside and out – are thoughtful details that aim to make this historic structure feel like the charming Southern home it has always been. “It has been a labor of love, with an emphasis on labor, but we love living in such a beautiful home filled with history,” says Brenda. “We plan to be good stewards of this property until another lucky family is blessed to live here one day.”


Brenda and Sandy McKay sitting on their back patio

Brenda and Sandy McKay

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