Category Archives: Story of a Home

The Story of a Home: Hansel in 12South

Bynum Design Montrose Avenue Nashville

Earlier this year, we told the story of Gretel, one of the two 12South homes we built side by side in 2010, right as Bynum Residential Design was becoming Bynum Residential Design. Now it’s time for Hansel’s tale.

The Process: This house was one of the first houses to offer a different take on the “connector conundrum,” which is how to put two beautiful houses on one very desirable Nashville lot and yet have the houses stand apart aesthetically. I had done two houses on one lot in other ways—for instance, on 10th Avenue and Gale Lane, but they were all connected, almost like an apartment building, and we weren’t trying to make them different. This is the first time I really tried to change the language of two homes, in spite of their connector. So far as I know, all the builders that had built homes with a connector prior to this made them mirror images. This was a complicated but fun challenge, to come up with two entirely different floor plans and exteriors. But it was an important one for me. We set about creating a masculine and a feminine house. The one we’re talking about in this post we called Hansel, and it was to be the man—the dark opposite to the light farmhouse, Gretel, we built next door.

Bynum Design exterior

What Stands Out:

Craftsman Style. Not so long ago, Vaulx Lane was one ugly place. I am very careful to preserve and respect the existing architecture and flow of our streets, but in this case I felt free to create a new language. For Hansel, I used Craftsman details like tapered columns, overlap trim pieces, a Craftsman front door, and modern Craftsman brackets. Even the windows on the garage door supported this Craftsman language.

Bynum Design Nashville garage Bynum Design exterior Hansel

The Trim. I loved playing with the trim on this house, inside and out. Of course, ordinarily the exterior trim would all be the same color, but instead I had some of it painted white (the same white as the Gretel house next door) and then used dark trim on the parts clad in shake siding. That’s not a response that most people would have given it.

Bynum Design side of house

The Entrances. Honestly, the side of the house is a little more dramatic than the front. But this brings up an important point and reminds me of the conversation that we’ve had so many times with people who want to hire us to change their facades. Somebody will say, ‘Can you come talk to us about just changing the front of our house?’ And we tend to say, ‘Well, the front of your house is no more or less important than the other three sides.’ I think all four sides of a house should be equally addressed. So, for this house to have that kind of drama on the side is appropriate because of the approach to the house from the garage.

Bynum Design looking into kitchen

Dark and Dramatic Interior. This wasn’t a super big house square-footage-wise, sitting at just over 2,000 square feet, but nonetheless the interior built a lot of drama. It’s a two-story space with a bridge that spans above the kitchen. I’m also pleased with the beauty of the master bathroom and its relationship to the style of the rest of the house. And I thought the stairwell was especially pretty.

Brown tile shower Bynum Design bridge

Challenges Faced:

Attractive Opposites. We were trying to make these houses opposites, but still complementary in a subtle way. The opposite of light is dark. The style of home is different, the colors are different, and the roofs are different: on one the shingle color is charcoal and on the other it’s weathered wood. It was all about making them completely different houses—the antithesis of each other. This was even reflected in the landscaping—one had boxwoods and arborvitaes, and one had more of a Brentwood landscape. One was rolling, and one was flat. It was all part of trying to make them completely opposed.

Bynum Design Nashville

Future Floods. The biggest challenge here was the site because, right before we began building, the Nashville Flood completely covered this area and left many nearby houses submerged. I didn’t want anyone to ever have to deal with that again, so we took on a lot of infrastructure stuff here. On the Gretel side of the lot, we created almost a freeform drainage pattern, and put rocks in and planted grasses around it. On the Hansel side, we gave it a flat lawn and made it not-so-freeform, which meant we had to bury pipes and install french drains.

Bynum Design Nashville stone fireplace

Apprehension. My biggest challenge was an emotional one. I wrote about this in the Gretel post, but I didn’t know how people would respond to my work. It was scary to put this stuff out there and to see what people thought. It’s baring my soul through construction.

Bynum Design

Happily Ever After. The response to Hansel and Gretel was reaffirming. And it’s my hope that it helped establish a new way of thinking about the construction challenges posed by Nashville’s connected homes. This home, and the one next to it, was a jumping off point for my career, and I still look back at it with pride.

bynum design kitchen Bynum Design Nashville TN

See more photos of this home and other Bynum Residential Design homes on our Facebook page.

The Story of a Home: Bynum Design Does East Nashville

We know. We’re late to the party. Better late than never, this project represents Bynum Design’s baptism into East Nashville. As our first new construction on the east side, it gave us occasion to get to know this sweet neighborhood, lined with the old houses that inspire us and the diversity we remember feeling excited about in 12South a decade ago.

Bynum Design exterior Sharpe

The Process: We built these two houses—situated side by side and separated by a firewall—for Prime Nashville, a developer that specializes in contemporary real estate. They reached out to us because they said they wanted to step up their design a little bit; we were up to the task. These homes are mirror images and staggered, so one has a bigger front yard and the other a bigger backyard. Throughout this post we’ve interspersed photos of both of the homes, which are certainly similar but also special in their own ways.

Bynum Design Sharpe Avenue kitchen

What Stands Out:

Bynum Design Sharpe Ave kitchen Bynum Design Sharpe Ave Nashville kitchen

The Kitchens. We are known for our sleek and stunning kitchens—as are, really, most designers who are worth their salt—but these have especially garnered a lot of attention with their sky-high ceilings and a wall of windows. Normally you just get one window over the sink, so you can imagine that a quantity of windows like this proved expensive and caused our developer some pain. (Worth every penny.) The only thing I regret about these kitchens is that we didn’t put in even more windows. I wish they were behind the cabinets, too, so that they would have glass both in front of and behind the cabinets.

Coffered ceiling

The Ceilings. Budget constraints didn’t allow us to play with the ceilings as much as we would have liked to, but we were able to add beams upstairs and coffer a ceiling downstairs. Notice in the photo below that we also did a trio of skinny interior windows—another Bynum Design trademark.

Ceiling beams

Urban Outdoor Spaces: If you read our recent blog post on designing outdoor living spaces, you know we are just as into exteriors as we are interiors. Both of these houses have a “party deck” upstairs on the front of the house, and a deck and an outdoor patio on the back.

Bynum Design party deck Nashville Party Deck Bynum Design Sharpe Avenue Nashville TN

The Master Bedrooms: We were able to put double master bedrooms in each house—one upstairs and downstairs—and one of our favorite details is that the upstairs masters have coffee bars right off of them.

Bedroom coffee bar Bynum Design

Challenges Faced:

A Narrow Lot: These houses had to be narrow to fit onto a 50-foot wide lot, which meant they needed to be built side by side with a firewall separating them. We had to design around that reality but also needed to give these spaces pizzazz and personality as soon as you walked in the door.

Bynum Design Nashville arched doorway Bynum Design Nashville bathroom Sharpe

A Small Footprint: Our biggest challenge was to hit a small square footage number—we were alloted 1,895 square feet each—and yet still lend these homes a lot of our drama. When you vault the ceilings in a space, it naturally subtracts square footage from the second floor, so it creates a puzzle: How do you make the footprint big enough on the first floor so that by the time you get all of that cut out on the second floor, you’re still at your target?

Coffered ceiling

We want to know: What’s your favorite thing about our Sharpe homes? Our favorite part was starting the process of getting to know East Nashville. We’ll be back soon.

The Story of a Home: Hansel and Gretel

Technically, this is the story of two homes. Two very important homes, in that they signified the beginning of Bynum Residential Design and introduced the tone and template for so many of our future designs throughout Nashville.

Bynum Residential Design Nashville
Bynum Residential Design

*All photos shown are of “Gretel” only.

The Process: When we acquired a dilapidated house not fit for human habitation on a parcel of land in 12South, we did so with great excitement and not a little trepidation; this was to be our first official project as “Bynum Residential Design,” would be executed according to our specifications, and would be financed by—you guessed it—us. It was 2010. To maximize the space most efficiently, we drew up plans for two tall and narrow houses, side by side, to be joined by an inconspicuous connector (per Nashville code) but with two distinctly different facades and feels. Hence, the Hansel and Gretel name, which was given to these homes by my friend Bo Boaz, a Franklin designer who proclaimed the houses “Hansel and Gretel” as soon as he laid eyes on them.

Bynum Design kitchen

What Stands Out:

Meant to be? This corner in 12South—situated at the intersection of Vaulx Lane and Montrose Avenue—is a block from my own house. Every day for 15 years I drove by this crummy old house and thought, “If that house ever sells, I’m buying it.” And I drove down the hill one day, and there was a realtor putting a sign in the yard. I called him, and I was just sitting there and he answered his phone, and I said, “I see you putting the sign in the yard, and I want this house.”

Bynum Design living room

Differentiating Hansel and Gretel. When we do multiple houses on a lot I don’t want the houses to feel the same, like an apartment complex. If you become friends with your neighbor I want you to be able to go to their house and have a unique experience—not know where all their hidey-holes are, you know? We carefully planned ways to distinguish Hansel and Gretel from one another. The white one is very farmhousey—very clean and bright. They both have an open floorplan, but the back house with the shake on it had a darker, manlier vibe about it. The exterior was dark, the interior was dark, it had a bridge that went overhead. Everything I did was really intentional—even the landscape. The white house had a Beetlejuice sort of landscape; all we used were columnar arborvitae and round boxwoods. The back one—Hansel—has more of a suburban looking landscape, with beds hugging the house. They’re just completely different in every way.

Bynum Design living room

Getting our first farmhouse fix. Building Gretel in particular made me realize just how much I love the farmhouse style. I had never had a client who would let me do that in the past so when I sat down with a blank piece of paper that’s just what happened, and it was so magical. This farmhouse has now inspired several others that I’ve built for clients who asked me to replicate it.

Bynum Residential Design

Challenges Faced:

Working up the nerve. Probably the biggest challenge faced with these homes, being the first we’d done on our own, was the one we waged against our own confidence—just in having faith in our vision. In the end it taught us a huge and important lesson, which is that Bynum Residential Design really does have what it takes to build exactly the home we imagined in our minds and on our computer screens.

Bynum Design bathroom

Getting above the (very recently flooded) floodplain. Right after we tore down the house on this lot, it flooded. It was the Nashville Flood of 2010, and everything as far as the eye could see was drenched. Houses nearby had water up to their windows. Needless to say, we quickly realized we would need to elevate the houses we built considerably. This proved problematic for a couple of reasons—first, I was trying to keep these houses in scale with the neighborhood, and I didn’t want them to be gigantically tall. We had to immediately do some site work and start laying block. For the record, my biggest pet peeve is when a builder doesn’t excavate a crawlspace and just starts laying block. I didn’t want to do that here. We did build our houses far above the ground, though, which made us have to come back with a lot of extra soil at the end and grade everything up to the house. Throughout the build, I was so overwhelmed with this height thing that I was doing everything I could—even though it was a two-story house with a steep roof pitch—to keep it low, so that was a huge obstacle in my mind. Now if you drive by there and look at these houses, they feel completely normal—the right distance off the ground. They just feel smart and right.

Bynum Residential Design Nashville Uneasy neighbors. Some people in the neighborhood were kind of opposed to what we were doing because we were changing the architecture there. I had to stay true to my vision anyway, even though I definitely had a fear of the unknown—will people like this? Will somebody buy this? Believe it or not, people weren’t yet busting down the doors to move into 12South. There had been some other development on Vaulx Lane but nothing like what’s going on over there now. Not long after, we built four houses across the street from these; that opportunity came about because of this, too.

Bynum Residential Design

The Happily Ever After: Thinking back about these houses, I’m still blown away by how intimidated I was and by how pretty they turned out and how well they were received. When it came to getting started on this property, I ran into a mental block. I wanted the lot and I wanted to develop it, but I was afraid to bare my soul with these houses. In the end, we had people fighting over who was going to buy them. There were back-to-back showings, and both sold in a heartbeat. The guy who bought Gretel, the white farmhouse, says people still stop and ask him about it. And we’ve gotten numerous leads from people asking us to recreate Gretel for them. I’m so grateful that we were finally able to just get really nervy and do these houses exactly the way we wanted to. They were a huge hit.