Tag Archives: residential design

The Story of a Home: A New Sylvan Park Residence with Old Soul

Sylvan Park exterior Bynum Design Nashville

When partnering with Renaissance Tile & Bath design consultant Shelby Brown on her personal residence, we used salvaged treasures and rustic lighting to create a new house with all the warmth of a historic home.

The Process: A few years ago, my friend Shelby approached me about designing a new home for her and her husband. Shelby works at Nashville’s Renaissance Tile & Bath, where we have long sourced all of the tile for Bynum Design projects. I adore her and was eager to build in Sylvan Park–this would be my first house in the neighborhood–but I hadn’t partnered with another designer in a long while.

I primarily build spec houses, but it’s different working closely with a client. Since building this house, I’ve discovered that when I’m the client, as I am when designing spec houses, I make myself (even) crazier. The process of working with Shelby was more relaxing and rewarding, as she gave a rustic, artisanal edge to my polished modern style. And in an age where everything from Domino to HGTV to Pinterest have given people interior design savvy, it was high time for me to collaborate with a client. I was fortunate that this particular client had a keen eye for design and a perspective that both complemented and challenged my own.

Gauntlet Gray exterior

“I didn’t want any wasted space—like how people do large foyers, but then are never in that area,” says Shelby. “With our lot being so small, like most of them in Nashville, I didn’t have any room to waste, so I wanted every area to be as functional as possible.” The way we design–using 3D software–allowed Shelby to maneuver through the house before it was built so there weren’t any surprises.

Read on to hear the story of how this 2,267-square-foot home came to life, quite literally rising to meet unique challenges (i.e., an extra-tall husband).

What Stands Out:

Old spindles repurposed

Patina from the Past. “I didn’t want it to feel like it was a brand new house,” says Shelby. “I wanted it to have character and to bring in some old elements.” Luckily, we were able to accomplish that by paying homage to the 800-square-foot house that once stood on this lot. Knowing that kids were in their future, the Browns needed a bigger house than that. The original house, built in the 1940s, offered no aesthetic value and contained little worthy of salvaging, but Shelby did make it a point to save the hardwood flooring.

As she tells it, “The only thing that looked nice was the hardwood floors, so the week before the house was torn down my parents came up, and we pulled them up. Another weekend, they came up again, and we planed each board. Dee and I came up with the idea of using some of these old floorboards above the dining room table. It’s a piece of our old house in the new house, and it ended up being my favorite detail. It brings personality to the cleanness of everything else. I love telling people the story of these boards.”

Repurposed spindles

Shelby’s other favorite detail? The old spindles she repurposed above the doorway that leads from the living room to the dining room. “My original plan was to do transom windows there, but I couldn’t really find what I was looking for,” says Shelby. “I came across these spindles, and I thought they were perfect to give a little bit of warmth.”

To add still more character, Shelby sketched, and then asked her father-in-law to build, the kitchen island and topped it with a stunning piece of Calcutta marble, a foil against the granite-composite sink and the rest of the countertops, which are a leathered black granite.

Repurposed hardwoods in ceiling

Splashy Paint Colors. Shelby added color to our design and our lives by spiking our neutral color palette (get all the paint color details in our next blog post!) with a turquoise front door, a kelly green Dutch door (I call it a Doris Day door) and inky navy on the guest room walls.

Benjamin Moore Bermuda Turquoise

Sherwin Williams Greenbelt

Sherwin Williams Naval

The Dog Room. Speaking of that green Dutch door, it leads to an ingenious space that the homeowners have dubbed “the dog room.” “We have two dogs, and I don’t enjoy sweeping up their dog hair every day,” says Shelby, “but I didn’t want them to be excluded from the house. The Dutch door allows us to see them, and they can see us and hear us, but I don’t have to sweep up their hair. Plus, there’s a doggie door that goes outside from that room, so they get to come and go as they please.”

The 6’7″ Husband. When Shelby and her husband initially selected Sylvan Park to live in, they envisioned renovating an existing house. Her husband’s height soon proved to be a barrier to that. Standing tall at 6’7″, he found himself having to duck through every doorway of the homes he toured–and throughout many of the upstairs rooms, too. Needless to say, it was important for us to give the Brown family 10-foot ceilings with eight-foot doorways, as we did downstairs. Upstairs we ensured they had nine-foot ceilings with eight-foot doorways. Our challenge here was to keep the house from towering so high that it overpowered the houses around it.

Luxe Tile and Plumbing Fixtures on a Budget. When you work at a tile shop, the world is your oyster, right? Not necessarily. Shelby cites the abundance of options as having been her biggest challenge (when these photos were taken, she was still weighing options for her backsplash tile, and has since installed a handmade, elongated subway-style tile). “Budget definitely comes into play because you have to decide what you’re willing to spend the money on and where you need to save it,” she says.

“We love this house and our location–you can’t beat Sylvan Park,” says Shelby, who has now been in this Bynum Design house for nearly four years. “We’ve had two kids since we moved in, and they love to go outside and play.”

Gauntlet Gray Exterior

To get the specifics on everything from paint colors to lighting to tile selection, check back in with our blog next week!

I’m Not an Architect (But I Wanted to Be When I Grew Up)

Not so long ago, I got this weird letter in the mail from the great State of Tennessee’s Board of Architectural and Engineering Examiners asking me to take down all of the references to architecture on my website since I’m not an architect.

It’s not that I had forgotten that I’m not an architect—did I mention that I’m not an architect?—it was just an honest mistake, some crossed wires between my copywriter, web designer, life and myself. (We quickly removed all references.) And these crossed wires became live wires when someone felt like giving me a hard time about semantics.

It’s illegal to call yourself an architect or to call your work architecture if you don’t have an architectural license. What I am is a residential designer. What I do involves creating habitats for shelter with gorgeous interiors, exteriors and landscaping. It is, in effect, architecture, interior design and landscape design. But I’m not an architect. I have a degree in interior design. And, by the way, I’m not a landscape architect either, just in case the State Board is concerned.

What’s the difference? A degree, years of training, and the fact that I can’t stamp drawings or create commercial buildings or design homes that are over 5,000 square feet.

I was mostly trained outside of a classroom, and though I once intended to seek an architectural degree, I just never got around to it. Now life and work are booming, and I don’t see the need—even though all signs have pointed toward design and architecture my whole life.

See: This is me at my drawing board in 1965. I call it “Dee the Draftsman.” I was five years old in this photo my mother thankfully saved for me.

Dee Bynum Bynum Design Nashville

And in ninth grade, when I was assigned a term paper about a career path, I wrote mine about architecture. And I still have it. The writing was on the walls, almost literally, in spite of the fact that I grew up in a ranch house in the suburbs of Nashville that had a dividing wall down the middle with rooms on each side and a stairwell at the end. You know the type. I always loved “The Brady Bunch” and “The Munsters,” mostly because I was fascinated with the houses, and I was very into redecorating or rearranging my room—and often. Even on vacation, we would check into a hotel, and I would move all the furniture that wasn’t bolted to the wall. It’s a sickness. I was weird, and I just always knew what I was supposed to do.

During high school, my mother was gone from home one day, and I took the opportunity to resolve something about our ranch house that had long bothered me: The stairwell on the end of the house had a window in it, and it was next to the living room. I always wondered why that window existed. It didn’t do anything but provide daylight in the stairwell. So, having helped my father build out our basement years prior, I got out his Skillsaw and cut this big rectangular hole in the wall. I didn’t do it right; I didn’t put a header in or anything—I just cut the studs in half, cut the drywall and made the biggest mess. I was so happy to realize it wasn’t load bearing. And when my mother arrived there was this big rectangular hole in the wall. Once she came to her senses we finished it, hung a stained glass on a chain in front of that window (next to a fern), painted it and it looked awesome. Everybody on the street was just mesmerized. Here we are in Podunk, and we had just cut a hole in our wall. It was the talk of the neighborhood.

In 1978, I went to college at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville, discovered interior design, and it stole my heart. But architecture kept calling me still. Around 2000, I decided I really wanted to return to school to get my architecture degree. I had a long talk with Manuel Zeitlin, who I admire still to this day. He was and is a friend who happened to be a revered architect here in town. He suggested I go to Boston Architectural College, where he received his degree. He almost had me convinced, but then I was like, “Look, I am an adult, and I have a house and I have pets and I have bills and I can’t just fold up and go to school.” Then, that very Sunday in the newspaper there was an ad in the classifieds for an architect intern at this little firm here in town. They did really wacky stuff that I loved. I called them and said, “I’m not an architect, but I’m your guy. You’ve got to hire me.” (See, I’ve been saying “I’m not an architect” my whole life!) And they did. I only worked there for a year and a half when I realized I had to start my own design firm.

The planets have been aligned for me to do this—whatever you want to call it—since 1965, but I didn’t completely pay attention until I was an adult, and by then maybe it felt too late to stop, drop and get my license. But that’s OK because I’m more than happy to be able to do the things I do today and to design the homes you see on my site and along the streets of Nashville. Just don’t call me an architect; I’m proud to say I’m a residential designer. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let me design a fabulous house for you!