World-Class Living

By Katie Faulkner

Photography by Beacon Imagery

After a lifetime of world travel, art collecting, adventure seeking, and business ventures, Stephen Garrison and Kay Diviney put years of research into finding the perfect city for their retirement. Their wish list of hometown characteristics led them to Chattanooga, and they fell in love. Two years later, they’re taking full advantage of life on the Riverwalk and feel right at home in Cameron Harbor.

“We knew we wanted to downsize and simplify our lives. But we also wanted to be in a vibrant area where it was easy to maintain our active lifestyle”

– Kay Diviney


When we were choosing where we wanted to live, we had several criteria,” Stephen says. Kay continues, “We had been living in a very rural area in Washington, and we were ready to get back to an urban environment. We also wanted to be near some culture, which we found here with the Tivoli; we wanted to be able to walk to downtown; and we hoped for a college or university to be nearby so that there would be energy and a lively downtown.” Stephen adds, “And we love how easy Chattanooga is to travel in and out of. Plus the internet was a big draw.”

If Chattanooga met the mark for a well-suited city, their townhome in Cameron Harbor was the perfect fit. “We knew we wanted to downsize and simplify our lives. But we also wanted to be in a vibrant area where it was easy to maintain our active lifestyle,” says Kay.

The ideal location has made it easy for them to maintain some of their favorite hobbies and cultivate new ones. Going for walks and long bike rides on the Riverwalk are basically daily activities. They ride their bikes downtown to visit the gym, restaurants, and anywhere else in NorthShore or downtown. Now that they live on the river, Kay says they also love watching the tugboats pass by from their balconies and the beach area on their bank.

The three-story townhome opens on the ground level to the garage and office area, where they like to relax and spend time watching movies. As you make your way upstairs, you’re greeted at the top landing by an imperial, red, embroidered silk tapestry from China depicting creatures from Chinese mythology. The entire main floor is filled with carefully curated art pieces and antiques, many of museum quality, which Kay and Stephen have collected during their 30 years of world travel. Their collection was actually built on the foundation of Stephen’s father’s collection.

Self-proclaimed “Sinophiles” Stephen and Kay have an affinity for Oriental art and culture. The pieces that populate the main floor, and much of the upstairs as well, are mostly Oriental artifacts. Painted silk scrolls, elaborate koi fish carvings, and beautifully detailed and colored wood-block prints adorn the walls.

Nothing in this home is ordinary. In the open kitchen, stainless steel appliances and granite counter tops are personalized by a small English painting of chickens that Stephen picked out as a gift for Kay several years ago.

Adjacent to the kitchen is arguably the centerpiece of the second story’s open floor plan – the dining suite. A sturdy, primitive, wooden table with a smooth patina earned over centuries is partnered with tall-backed, primitive chairs. The oak set is from Amsterdam and likely dates back to the 17th century. Its striking design is necessitated by functionality – every piece is engineered so that it comes apart, making it easier to fit through the small doorways of that time and area. “This is probably one of our favorites,” Stephen says, admiring the table’s impressive construction. Nearby, a Venetian wall clock from 1865, in perfect condition, keeps time.

Connected to the dining room is the living area which boasts amazing views of the river from double French doors and ample windows. The natural sunlight flows over Stephen and Kay’s ornately carved, camphor wood chest which they use as a coffee table. And their painted silk scroll hanging beside the sitting area was on loan to the Dallas Museum of Art several years ago. Outside the French doors is one of the home’s two balconies.

“We use this balcony about every day,” Kay says, gesturing toward the open doors. “Yes,” Stephen smiles, “Every day around six o’clock, we enjoy a cocktail on the balcony in our island garb!” Kay laughs but confirms that one tradition which they’ve always upheld is dressing for dining. “We just like to make it an event,” she says.

Upstairs, Kay’s loom is dressed and in the middle of a weaving project. “We needed some placemats to match the table runner downstairs,” she says. Kay took up weaving ten years ago, when a back injury forced her to give up her passion of woodworking.

Evidence of Kay’s hobbies can be found throughout the home. In their master bedroom, she built their bed and a rocking chair. Above the bed is an English painting of a windmill that Stephen commissioned as a special gift for Kay. Shuttered windows of the master bedroom open to the same beautiful view as the second story, and another walk-out balcony creates an ideal sitting area for some shaded reading.

Whether biking the perimeter of Ireland, diving with sharks off the coast of Papau New Guinea, waking up to roosters on a teak mat in the jungle of Luang Prabang, or taking in a riverside sunset from their balcony, Stephen and Kay are living life to the fullest. They’re constantly planning new adventures while enjoying all that downtown Chattanooga has to offer.

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