Category Archives: Tips and Tricks

Gardening Tips: Spring in Nashville

These photos of my yard are probably the closest you’ll get to seeing my house. I live in a cute and drafty old stone Tudor. Meanwhile, I build houses that are more “chic” than “cute” and more energy-efficient than drafty. I have a yard I’m proud of, and I’m perhaps most proud of it in the spring, when Nashville indeed springs up around us. 


A few months ago, I wrote a blog post (with some fab Pinterest inspiration photos) about ways to create a resort-like outdoor space, but in this post I’m getting a little more specific with foolproof gardening tips and tricks. I should start by saying that landscaping is such an important personal thing. Not everything works for everyone and different light conditions may prevent you from being able to do all the things that I describe in this post, but these are some pretty good guidelines for most yards and conditions across middle Tennessee.

Foolproof springtime-in-Tennessee plant combinations: Some of my favorite combinations of blooming plants and trees this time of year are Bradford pear trees (can’t believe I’m saying that) and forsythia and redbuds and dogwoods and bridal wreath spirea and daffodils. That combo is just magical, and it’s so Nashville. And don’t forget the azaleas and the rhododendrons. My favorite azaleas are this intense purple, and when they bloom they’re electric.

Purple rhododendron

The ultimate year-round plant combination: There are certain, specific plants that I like over and over in landscapes, and this may sounds like a cop-out, but when you put hydrangeas with boxwoods and arborvitaes it just always works in middle Tennessee. Hydrangeas start to be perfect right about now, but at any time of the year, I’m a sucker for hydrangeas with arborvitae and boxwoods. During the winter months, this landscape becomes a whole other canvas. When you see a heavy frost or a snow on a landscape with hydrangeas, boxwoods and arborvitae, you get a shrub that was all leafy in the summertime that’s now just twigs right next to a ball of green. There’s just something about the way the winter weather treats this combination of plants that makes it almost as lovely and stark in the winter as it is lush in the summer.


Plant contrast: I’m kind of classic about plantings, but I’m also kind of peculiar about the way they’re put together. I think the best landscapes are formal and informal all in the same space, and I think juxtapositions—think tightly clipped, round boxwoods next to plants that are just wild and untamed—create the most interesting yards.


White flower power: I pretty much just like white flowers, especially in a formal setting. Really the reason why is because of the way white flowers look at night. White flowers are the only flowers that reflect whatever light there is in the dark, whether it’s the moon or the streetlight or a light coming from the inside of the house. Plus, day or night, I love white with all the different shades of green—lime green and dark green. It’s fun to have all the mainstays in your garden that I mention above and then fill all the blank holes with white impatiens if you’ve got a shady garden, or white vinca in areas that are sunny.


Embrace the wildflowers: Everyone in Nashville wants to have gorgeous lawns, and I want that, too, but really only in my front garden, which is more manicured. In my backyard, I like to embrace the wildflowers that come with spring. I put off mowing until the very last minute, because it kills me to wipe out all the little violets and strawberry vines and dandelions and clumps of clover. It looks like a pasture back there. And, of course, in the middle of that pasture there are boxwoods and arborvitaes and things. So it’s sort of formal, but very unmanaged this time of year. I think it’s good to take pleasure in the season’s first wildflowers.


Too much of a good thing: I like for plants that are alike to be clustered together. It’s more of a commercial approach, but I think things like hostas look best when they’re clumped together in masses, rather than just one here, one there.


By the moonlight: Plenty of people use floodlights on their house that just blind you and make it so that you can’t see anything for the light. But I love when somebody instead puts a spotlight in a tree and it mimics moonlight as it shines down and makes shadows from the tree limbs on the yard. It’s also cool to put uplights against the wall of the house, behind plants, to create those shadows. You still get light, but you can actually see what you’re looking at.


Are you a gardener? What are you favorite plants for springtime in Tennessee?

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.

6 Types of Wood Paneling to Consider for Your Interiors

Mad Men interiors wood paneling

As part of the bring-the-outside-in decorating mentality—but also the everything-old-is-new-again cycle of life—wood paneling is back in a big way. But we’re not talking about the garish knotty pine of your grandparents’ basement. In its various forms, wood paneling is most often painted a glossy white and used to express vibes ranging from farm to formal. Bynum Design relies a lot on paneling to dial our spaces up a notch. It can be a surprisingly affordable way to add architectural interest and to draw the eye where you want it. Here we explore six of the most popular, most devastatingly handsome of your wood paneling options:

shiplap paneling

1. Shiplap paneling: First, it bears mentioning that “shiplap” is just a lovely word to say. So pat and succinct. And doesn’t it, simply by virtue of having “ship” as part of its name, communicate a coastal/beach house feel? Shiplap, which is usually laid horizontally, acquired its name as its panels overlap, with grooved boards called “rabbets” fitting together tightly to form a weatherproof seal. Shiplap is inherently informal and tends to make the most sense in cottage-inspired homes in need of the texture and the warmth of a natural material. It first came into popularity on home exteriors.

tongue and groove paneling

2. Tongue and groove: Tongue and groove is very similar to shiplap and offers the same clean, classic look. The difference is in the way the boards connect; while shiplap panels are joined with a rabbet joint at the top and bottom of each board, tongue and groove paneling connects where the “tongue” of one board fits into the “groove” of another. In this way, shiplap presents the look of the boards overlapping slightly whereas tongue and groove boards just fit one on top of the other. Tongue and groove is usually a bit more expensive than shiplap, and when used outdoors it is said to do a better job of keeping the elements at bay.

reclaimed wood paneling

3. Reclaimed wood: Whether you utilize actual reclaimed wood or simply use new wood and make it look old, a wall of reclaimed wood paneling can add loads of texture to a space. The stain color or finish you select will have a lot of sway on the final look. Of course one of the best things about reclaimed wood is the story it has to tell. Though much of it comes off old factories and barn structures, we’ve also heard of it coming from gymnasiums and churches. And there’s something to be said about the one-of-a-kind character that comes from real nail holes, worm holes, knots, saw marks, surface patina, and even chipping paint.

Board and batten

4. Board and batten: There are two types of board and batten that you will see these days. There’s the real deal, featuring real wood panels on top of which the board and batten framework is formed with solid wood battens (strips) and boards (planks). And then there’s the imitation-style board and batten, which is created atop plyboard or even drywall rather than real wood panels. If you ask me, both are fantastic and, whether they run the whole height of a wall or stop half or even three quarters of the way up a wall, serve to dress up a space. This look is most common in bathrooms and dining rooms. Again, board and batten had its beginnings on home exteriors.


5. Beadboard: Beadboard is simply another type of tongue-and-groove paneling, except that the tongues and grooves connect not single boards but panels with the distinctive look of beaded-board plank. Beadboard is usually an affordable and very charming option for adorning your walls, but with many styles to choose from, you will find a range of prices and qualities and “board” widths, with 2½-inch V-bead and 1⅝-inch V-bead being common options. Beadboard works on entire walls, half-walls, or ceilings, on kitchen islands and cabinets, to frame in a bathtub, as a backsplash in kitchens and bathrooms. It quickly communicates laid-back farmhouse style. Would you believe that once upon a time beadboard went up stick by stick?

flat paneling

6. Flat panels: Into this category we’re going to group a whole bunch of styles that we’ll call “flat panels.” If you’ve heard of wainscoting, that belongs here, as does most paneling that you’ll hear described as “elegant” or “high end.” The photo we selected above shows painted panels, but you can also think about walnut paneling in a library. This is highly custom work that communicates classic luxe and really adds value to a home.

Do you have paneling in your house? What’s your favorite look? Tell us in our comments.