Author Archives: Ellen Barnes

Introducing: Our Newest Old House Project

Hillview Heights Nashville Bynum Design

I’ve lived in 12South for a bazillion years. My grandparents called the neighborhood home when I was growing up, and I bought my little home here when it was still crusty and working class. When I moved here the neighborhood was filled with older people, and they all kept their yards flawless and their houses—even if they were painted orange—were fabulous.

I was surrounded by such characters—so was right in my element—and I loved them. Every Sunday they were all away at church until 3 o’clock, and when they baked, you could smell it from a mile away. One woman, Ms. Hill, lived in this little brick house. There was a gorgeous hydrangea bush outside, and she was always in there baking a pie. I loved her.

12South Nashville

After she passed away, somebody in her family held onto her house as rental property. Then, this classic house fell into my lap, thanks to my realtor friend who called me about it and said, “Can you believe that house in your neighborhood just sold?” I was like, “No! That’s Ms. Hill’s house!”

Bynum Design 12South

When that person’s funding fell through, you better believe I was standing next in line for this house, which was probably built in 1937 or 1938. The basement is the most pristine thing you’ve ever seen. The foundation is solid, and the floors are all level. It’s on a corner, and it’s cute as hell.

I just couldn’t resist.


I’m trying to protect my street from the bulldozers. I’m doing a renovation and expansion to my house, and I found out this week that some of my favorite neighbors are also going to do a second story addition on their house. I am thrilled to be given the opportunity to preserve and update this house and to help protect 12South’s character.


Here’s what we have planned for this house:

1) I’m going to put a second floor on the house, not unlike what I did nearby with the Lawrence house.

2) I want to make a section of the exterior super tall and change the pitch so it’s steeper like what Bynum Design normally does.

3) I’m also going to see if I can connect those porches so that there’s a wraparound. I want to put a really cute dormer here on the roof.

4) On the backside I’m going to build back and either extend a master suite around a courtyard—like we did on Lawrence—and connect it to a garage, or have a detached garage and a courtyard space between the house and the garage and hopefully put in a swimming pool.

5) Ms. Hill had a huge hydrangea bush, but some stupid kids who lived in her house for awhile just mowed it down. I’m going to try to resurrect it if I can find the roots. The house itself is almost hidden behind this magnificent magnolia tree (that Ms. Hill planted for all I know) so I’m going to have the tree trimmed.

6) Plus, much, much more.

Dee Bynum

Important side note (which you will not find in ordinary MLS listings): A neighbor on a corner adjacent to this house is one of my favorite people in the world. He’s an old man who has been there forever. He’s just the coolest man—so, so awesome. Whoever ends up living here will be beyond lucky to have a neighbor like him.

I’m so excited to get my hands on this home. I’m gonna do right by Ms. Hill. Stay tuned.

How to Pick an Exterior Paint Color

Bynum Design Nashville

I was tempted to call this post “Foolproof Exterior Paint Colors,” but that would be misleading, because even though I do share 12 of my favorite exterior colors, they were all arrived upon after much hemming and hawing and hand-wringing. So before you take my word for it on any of these paint color selections, read my tips about the process of how to pick the best exterior paint color for your house.

1. Consider the light and the time of day. There’s something about the light, inside versus outside, that makes selecting an exterior color more difficult than an interior color. I guess because we spend so much time inside it’s easier to pull together a paint scheme if you’re in the right light. When you go outside, and you take a color that you love for interiors, and you put it on the outside of a house, it just doesn’t work somehow. And it’s because the light’s different. When I’m picking a color, I’ll go back at different times of the day to see how it does in the changing light.

2. Try as many as six to eight colors. I’m a perfectionist, so I will agonize over finding the right exterior color. I’ll go with all my paint decks and sit there and hold stuff up and stare. We’ll drive contractors crazy because we’ll want six or eight quarts of paint brought over to decide and blocks of color put up. Even then, when you paint a square on a house, you can’t really visualize it because you’re not seeing it related to the color of the trim, or the effect of different light or shadow.

3. Remember where you live. It cracks me up when people in Nashville paint colors on their houses like in Florida or the Caribbean. The light’s different here, so it looks garish. When you’re near the equator it’s a whole different ballgame. What I’m trying to say is: If you see a picture of a beach house on Pinterest that you love, you should not go paint your house in Nashville the same color because it won’t work. The further north you go, that’s going to continue to change, so a color that works well here may not work in Manhattan or Wisconsin.

4. Have patience with the process. Exterior colors are tough. It’s a process, really, to arrive at an exterior scheme. If you throw up a paint scheme on a house and it doesn’t work, you’re going to get a sinking feeling every time you pull in the driveway. Take the time to pick out the perfect color. It’s worth it.

5. Complement the landscaping. Your paint color has got to be appropriate to both the style of the house and to the landscaping. For instance, if you’ve got tons of landscaping, you don’t want to paint your house blue. That was a tenet of the Craftsman movement—that paint colors should be muted and earth-toned, grounding the house to its surroundings. This means different climates are suitable for different color families.

6. Contrast versus similarity. If you’ve got enough detail on the house, I love having similar colors together on an exterior because it’s subtle, part of the art. If you have a lot of texture on an exterior, I will even sometimes paint a house in one solid color because the shadows create that interest. It really works, especially on a lot of our white houses. There’s no need for a secondary color unless it’s the front door, as we’ve done.

7. Ask a pro for help. Should I tell you some of my secrets? Oh, heck, here are they are. These are 12 of my favorite exterior colors. I hate applying the same answers to more than one project, but we do like to hold on to colors that have been successful for us in case we ever need to come up with a scheme quickly. This makes me sound like I only use Sherwin-Williams colors, which isn’t completely true, but which is mostly true.

Exterior Paint Colors

One: Nebulous White
Two: Alabaster
Three: Repose Gray
Four: Gray Matters
Five: Amazing Gray
Six: Intellectual Gray
Seven: Gauntlet Gray
Eight: Foothills
Nine: Brainstorm Bronze
Ten: Urbane Bronze
Eleven: Black Fox
Twelve: Tricorn Black

If you live in Nashville and need help selecting an exterior color, we welcome you to call us for a paint consultation.

A Sneak Peek at Our Twelve Twelve Condo

TwelveTwelve Nashville Bynum Design 6

When the people behind Twelve Twelve, Nashville’s new glass-encased luxury residential high-rise, asked Bynum Design and D.Luxe Home to stage one of their models, we didn’t hesitate.

We were one of five local interior design teams picked to style a space in this statuesque 23-story building, made up of 286 units of posh living, including seven penthouses and two guest suites—all punctuated by breathtaking views. Our unit was a canvas we were beyond excited to paint—literally and figuratively. We were able to choose flooring and wall coverings, window coverings, paint colors and many fixtures, and to furnish it exactly the way we wanted. We were even kindly allowed to do some additional construction on the unit to better suit our vision.

TwelveTwelve Nashville Bynum Design 6

Our strategy was to decorate our unit exactly as we would if we were going to move into it ourselves. We also aimed to mirror the sexy sophistication and detail of this magnificent building’s exterior in its interior. And finally, while the temptation in a space with a view as sweeping as this one is to make it “all about the view,” we understood that in reality people aren’t going to be spending all of their time draped against the glass, gawking at the Nashville skyline. Instead, it was most important that the space be livable and comfortable and that the view serve as a backdrop instead of the focal point. So we placed a lot of furniture against the window wall and chose to make the focal points of the room be inward rather than outward.

TwelveTwelve Nashville Bynum Design 6

While we put the finishing touches on our unit to get it photo-ready, we thought we’d share our inspiration boards with you.

TwelveTwelve Nashville Bynum Design 6

Stay tuned and check back to the blog soon for the full reveal of our Twelve Twelve dwelling, plenty of details about the construction and design process and sources for some of our fabulous furniture and accessories. (Hint: You can find most of them at D.Luxe Home.)

TwelveTwelve Nashville Bynum Design 6