A local family renovates a 30-year-old Signal Mountain home, creating an inspired fusion of airy minimalism, contemporary sleekness, and rustic charm.
By Rebecca Rochat
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Four years ago, Chris and Tracie Lesar traded houses.
Then residents of the St. Ives neighborhood on Signal, the couple was searching for a home that was big enough for their four children – Cora, Claire, Cole, and Clay Tucker – and was also closer to their church.
Little did they know then they would kill two birds (selling and buying) with one stone. Some time later, the owners of a house on Primrose grew interested in Chris and Tracie’s St. Ives house, and upon touring the home and meeting the family, proposed a trade.
The Lesars took them up on the idea, and after touring the Primrose house, realized just how felicitous the swap would be: the home had the potential to be transformed into a house that perfectly suited their family needs.
They sealed the deal and immediately embarked on a series of renovations to make the home their home, gutting the interior to make it more “open and airy,” adding a guest wing, remodeling the kitchen and bathrooms, and repurposing unfinished parts of the basement. The most recent addition to the home is the guest wing, which is accessed by a spacious breezeway leading from the great room. Light floods into the breezeway through two side windows with built-in window seats topped with seat cushions and decorative pillows.
The space uses varying shades of light gray, white, and beige. The flooring is made from light toned hardwood, while overhead, a vaulted, beamed ceiling visually expands the room.
The wing includes two seating areas, a kitchenette, a dining area, and a bathroom. In the main seating area, a light gray tuxedo-style sofa faces a white cabinet with gray trim over which hangs a flat screen TV. The second seating area has two-barrel chairs covered in light gray leather that face a wall decorated with pictures and a hanging mirror above a wine and liquor serving table.
In the dining area, a round glass top table with a gold metal base is surrounded by four Klismos-style wood framed chairs with gray leather upholstered backrests and seats. From the ceiling hangs a multi-arm, silver chandelier with long, tapered candles.
Rich woodwork is one of the trademarks of the interior, and nowhere is it more evident than in the great room at the heart of the home.
The walls are lined with reclaimed wood from a 100-year-old barn – a washed, heavily textured wood that contrasts with the oak-paneled vaulted ceiling and massive trestle beams on either end and floors of wide plank knotty pine. The room is anchored by Palladian French doors on one side, and a towering brick wall with a wood burning fireplace and oak mantel on the other.
In keeping with the room’s earthy, organic feel, Tracie grouped a brown leather Stickley sofa and Morris chair in front of a flat screen TV and placed two matching club chairs together in front of the fireplace. In contrast with the great room’s warm, natural aesthetic, the Lesars’ contemporary kitchen is light and bright with its contemporary materials and modern finishes. A red brick wall, a remnant of the original kitchen, forms an arched niche housing a stainless steel gas range and double oven. Above the range, a contrasting lighter blonde brick wall has a central mosaic starburst pattern. Granite countertops complement cream-colored cabinets with square-shaped brushed aluminum hardware. Tracie decided to go with acid-washed concrete brown flooring for practical reasons (three dogs and four children). To create a more open look, the couple went with bracketed shelving rather than closed storage cabinets on either side of the sink above the counter.
Tracie deliberately chose to make the dining room more comfortable than formal, it being used more for family meals than entertaining. Warm and cozy, the room has soft green walls and honey-colored oak flooring covered with a beige rug. On the wall are two asymmetrically placed narrow shelves which display some of Chris and Tracie’s glassware collection of varying heights, shapes and colors. Above the dining table hangs a double-tiered dark metal chandelier with multiple electric candle lights covered by candle shades. A visit to Napa Valley inspired the addition of a custom wine cellar in the basement of the house. Originally, there was just a small closet where they stored wine bottles, but a friend suggested they knock down a wall and expand the space to create a larger cellar. Now, custom-made racks line the walls, storing hundreds of wine varietals and champagne. A recessed table centered on the main wall provides a place to set wine bottles during tastings, and above it hangs a wooden frame with a series of multi-directional corks.
The swimming pool is the centerpiece of the Lesars’ backyard – an area that has many options for entertaining, the largest of which is a covered area with seating, a bar, and kitchen all under one roof. Large stone piers with supportive posts hold up the wood plank ceiling, and from the highest point hangs an iron chandelier with strands of shells.
The outdoor kitchen has a gas grill, refrigerator, and serving bar, and the rear wall of the kitchen is lined with sea glass in shimmering tones of silver and gray. During warmer weather, the family can enjoy swimming or bocce ball on their own bocce court (a favorite of the Lesars’ guests).
On chilly nights, guests can gather around a fire pit at the far end of the pool, or cozy up on a wicker sectional sofa in front of a stacked stone fireplace that burns lava coals. Stone steps lead up to a terraced garden with a water fountain and a sunken hot tub – another inviting option for cooler nights.
Tracie describes her taste in design as “comfortable,” “eclectic,” and naturally, “child-friendly.” A tour of the home shows just how well equipped it is to accommodate both the kids and the adults – without sacrificing elegance or style. “We wanted a functional house,” says Tracie. “A home we could enjoy and live in, but also one that we could entertain in. We love it!”