Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Nonesuch House

The initial proposal for Nonesuch House, a new residence in Nashville, Tennessee,
 by John Tackett Design.
Several years ago, John Tackett Design was commissioned to design a new house in Nashville, Tennessee, for a single woman moving back to the city of her birth after living abroad for some time.  The client had purchased a 1970s contemporary house with an indoor swimming pool solely for the lot;  although the house was designed by one of Nashville's leading architects, it was one of the ugliest and poorest designed houses imaginable.  My interview for the commission was held at the house shortly before it was demolished so I could see the site, a forested hilltop with no neighbors within view.  A steep drive scissored up the hill, building anticipation, only to be confronted with the face of the garage at the end of the long, narrow house.  To the side, the front door and kitchen door were adjacent and only slightly varying in design importance.  Inside, it only got worse.  The client had definite ideas of what room was to go where on the limited building site to maximize the light and views at specific times of day, and wanted a formal yet somewhat casual design that had a strong French influence. 

A new Gatehouse that also provides lodging for a caretaker matches the architectural details and materials of the main house.
I love a challenge, and came up with the design shown in the ariel view of the leading sketch of this post that was immediately accepted.  The scope changed a bit along the process and grew from 5,000 square feet to 8,500 (which is another story in itself).  The house, designed to be light and airy since privacy was not an issue, ended up being decorated as a dark, introspective retreat.  Although intended to be comfortable for the single occupant, it was also to be able to accomodate 200 for cocktails.  The client did not want an ostentatious house, so only a portion of the house is visible on entry into the courtyard and the rest of the house is not revealed until the visitor progresses through the sequence of interior spaces.  Because of the restrictions of the site, the full size of the house is apparent only from the Service Entrance, not visible by the typical guests.  The heavily forested site makes photography difficult, but the house was featured in a creatively written chapter (with the owner's name changed) in the book A House in the South with those photographs reproduced here.
John Tackett Design's sketch for the service entrance to Nonesuch House, Nashville.
Since this side of the house is viewed by the owner on a daily basis, it was given architectural interest.
To down-play the formality of the house, the stairs were relatively modest and located in a hallway adjacent to the Entrance Hall, an octagon with mirrored doors that opened to closets and a passage to the service area.  All of the floors, including the Kitchen, were made of salvaged wood planks except for the bathrooms and the Stair Hall which was a last minute change to stone tile by the client's best friend/decorator.
The Stair Hall with the Entrance Hall beyond.
The canape was relocated for the photo.
The Living Room was located in the southern angled wing that faced the courtyard on the east, and terrraces of the south and west to maximize the light and views.

The Living Room of Nonesuch House features light-absorbing upholstered walls.
The Dining Room occupies the core of the house, flanked by galleries along both long sides, accessed by arched pocket doors glazed with mirrored Restoration Glass.

The Dining Room walls are upholstered in fushia silk.  The white cabinet is from the owner's previous residence in London.
Although the house is equipped with an elevator, there is a downstairs Guest Bedroom suite that could serve as a Master if desired.  The other Guest Rooms each have a gracious dressing room and private bath as well.
The Gatehouse can be viewed from a second story Guest Bedroom suite.
The Master Suite is an architecturally distinctive arrangement with His and Her accomodations.  Following the principle that a bathroom is just another room in the house, but happens to have plumbing fixtures, Her Master Bathroom has an antique marble Louis XVI chimneypiece, one of three sourced in Europe by my colleague Hector Alexander. 
The bathroom for the lady of the house features a gas-ignition wood burning fireplace.
The house is constructed of new handmade bricks, custom made to approximate the color of clay consistency in the Nashville area.  The windows, doors, and decorative hardware are all custom made as well to the specifications of John Tackett Design.  The roof is standing seam copper.
A portion of the service entrance to Nonesuch House, a new residence by John J. Tackett.
The fiberglass sculpture is a reference to a part of the owner's real estate investment portfolio, the land and buildings of a chain of restaurants.  More about this new house will be featured in future posts of The Devoted Classicst.

All the color photos are reproduced from the 2005 book by Frances Schultz and Paula S. Wallace, A HOUSE IN THE SOUTH;  OLD FASHIONED GRACIOUSNESS FOR NEW-FASHIONED TIMES available for purchase through The Devoted Classicist Library.


  1. It's a great house, I've been there. Definitely one of Nashville's finest new houses. The decorator friend is more a friend of a decorator, but, as you say, that's a whole other story. I realize you might not want to show the floor plan, but it is sheer genius! And the gate house is divine!

  2. To die for! I would have also liked to see the original house for the comparison, especially where the site is concerned.

  3. Thanks, Belle. Since it cannot be seen from the street or even another house, it is somewhat of a secret.

    David, I was in Nashville for another reason when I was interviewed for this job, so I am not sure that I even took a picture of the house, as I did not have the job when I saw it that one time. But if I did, I will include it in the future post. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Really enjoyed reading your post and loved seeing the original conceptual sketches. Bravo!

  5. Thanks, Michael. But I wish I could do watercolors like your fabulous colored architectural renderings!

  6. Simply wonderful.
    And I am smiling at your description of a bathroom being
    just another room that happens to have plumbing fixtures....

  7. I'm so happy to see your drawings and looking forward to more posts about this place. Alas, no Big Boy's are available in the Atlanta city limits.

  8. Toby, I think my design philosophy for bathrooms might stem from my early experiences in old houses where plumbing fittings were added to existing rooms. But the design concept does make an attractive bathroom.

    Terry, well at least there is no shortage of good places to eat in Atlanta!


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