For more than a decade, the owners of this East Memphis Arts & Crafts-inspired showplace have collected Native American and Western art. Their love of the West guides everything from their choice of color palette — rich reds, dusty tans and earthy greens — to the materials they’ve chosen for their home renovation to the house itself.
“It was a ranch home built in the mid-’50s, and it had a lot of Frank Lloyd Wright-period architecture to it,” says the husband, adding that its one-story profile, high wood ceilings and Craftsman details helped the couple put a shape to their personal aesthetic. “It inspired me to do a lot of research,” he says. “Before we purchased it, I actually wound up sitting down in the yard and sketching out what I wanted it to look like.”
As for his wife, she knew the rich wood tones in the home’s existing structure would suit what was already, for them, a budding art collection. “It worked well with our love for Native American art and just the Western influence — its rich colors and darker colors really go well with that, compared to other styles that you see more prominently in the South.” Their collection, which began with an early work by Montana artist R. Tom Gilleon, has grown to include pieces by Rocky L. Hawkins, Billy Schenck, J. Allen and more, and it’s grown a touch more contemporary over time.
Their aesthetic has become more defined — and more subtle — over time, as well. Building on their family’s travels out West, they wanted their home to evoke the feeling of a ski lodge or a mountain retreat. “But when we first started doing that, we went a little out of control, and when you walked in, you really were in a ski town,” the wife says with a laugh, admitting, “We had a wagon wheel.”
The husband reached out to Michael Baty, owner of Germantown-based Chestnut Hall Fine Furniture & Interiors, to help the couple turn their love of Mission- and Arts & Crafts-style furnishings into a functional and livable home. “Everything was Mission,” Michael says of his first impression of the space. “He and his wife wanted some relief from all the Mission but still wanted a Mission feel.” Adds the wife, “He did a great job of redirecting the space and making it livable and comfortable. It just fit well. We really liked how he worked with us.”
Michael’s personal passion for Arts & Crafts and Mission-style pieces meant it was a design match made in heaven. When the couple first came to Chestnut Hall, it was in search of a particular piece — a chair by California designer Warren Hile, who produced a William Morris-inspired line. “I think he was really surprised when I knew about Warren Hile,” Michael says, adding that he commissioned chairs and a coffee table from the designer. “That’s where we got started.”
They were a long way from finished, however. The house has evolved throughout the time the couple and their two children — a daughter, 11, and a son, 10 — have lived in it. In fact, they’ve completed a full-scale transformation that’s spanned 15 years and at least four phases of renovation.
Throughout the project, they’ve collaborated with Chestnut Hall’s full-service design staff to design spaces inside and outside the house. “I’m the one who has procured special pieces for the home or had things custom-made,” Michael says. “And over the years, four designers from our staff have helped them execute on what they wanted to do.”
Chestnut Hall designed the den, which is one of the homeowners’ favorite spots in the house — especially in the winter. “We’ll have the fire going and get a book, and the kids will sit here and color or play,” the wife says. “It’s a comfortable room.” The room’s high, peaked ceiling is swathed in warm wood planks, and the imposing stone fireplace extends to the ceiling. Above it hangs an abstract portrait of four Native Americans by Rocky L. Hawkins. “I have to say this is my favorite piece,” the wife says of the work. “The eyes follow you. When you walk back and forth, it’s like it’s saying to you, ‘Are you protecting the earth like we want you to?’ It’s like it’s holding you to perspective. It’s a strong piece.”
Just off the den is a media room with a built-in bar, a table perfect for games and entertaining and a line of framed photographs the wife shot at Zion National Park. Past the light-filled foyer, the kitchen incorporates the same stone as the fireplace and exterior in the form of an expansive range surround. A central island is topped by a butcher block, and a breakfast banquette features two tables so the family and their guests can scoot in and sit comfortably.
For the dining room, Michael sourced a table and sideboard from a Slovenian factory that had launched an Arts & Crafts line. “The table is round and looks just like you would expect an Arts & Crafts round table to look like except the leaf stores and folds in half, and a system of cables and gears make the thing open and close effortlessly,” Michael says. “I’ve never seen anything like it. It’s German engineering by way of Slovenia, with French white oak. It’s a really cool table.”
In the living room, a Chestnut Hall designer placed a live-edge walnut cocktail table with Mid-Century-style legs. “It’s another really cool piece. It’s one of a kind,” Michael says. In that room, the large-scale painting of a butterfly by artist J. Allen began the couple’s venture down a more contemporary path in their collecting.
Last summer, the family extended their renovation work into the backyard, adding a stone terrace with a pool and multiple seating areas to their wooded backyard. And several years ago, the husband added a two-story treehouse in the backyard for their kids, with an enclosed, furnished second story and screened downstairs room with a drop-down desk for their daughter to use as a workspace for creating art. The wood structure itself has a Craftsman feel.
“I think it was a desire of our daughter and son at first,” the wife says of the treehouse. “They’d always wanted one, and my husband had one growing up. He just has a love for building and design, so it took a turn of its own. It was meant to be a small little structure and … ” Her husband finishes, “It turned into a tiny house. It was just another way of designing something that feels like a retreat, like you’re not in the city. When you’re up there in the trees, you see the birds flying and it’s just peaceful. You don’t feel like you’re in Memphis.”
Though it borrows plenty of inspiration from the American West, the house also embraces its site and maintains the spirit of its original Craftsman architecture. “I’ve been in a lot of pretty homes, but theirs is unique,” Michael says. “The house is really set up for living. It’s not set up as a museum.”
It’s also constantly evolving – and that’s because the heart of the home is art. “The art collection has been a work in progress,” the wife says. “And it still always is.”
Thank you to Julie Wage Ross for today’s beautiful images!
And thank you to Michael Baty of Chestnut Hall Fine Furniture & Interiors for sharing his work on this unique Arts & Crafts-style home.
Want to peek inside some other stylish Memphis homes? Check out StyleBlueprint’s Memphis Home & Decor page.