The 1929 home that would eventually become Patrick Lowry’s residence always had charm. Reminiscent of an English stone cottage and located in the desirable Belle Meade neighborhood close to downtown Nashville, it boasts a historical appeal that’s nearly impossible to manufacture. “It was owned by the same family since it was built in the 1920s,” Patrick says. “It had been through three generations and hadn’t been updated since 1955, when the family added on to it. Talk about character.”
To preserve that nearly-century-old allure while elevating the home’s functionality and style, Patrick called on his friend and designer, Jason Arnold, who had also designed his previous home in nearby Green Hills. “Patrick wanted a clean look, a livable feel,” Arnold explains. “He loves to entertain, so we needed to create a layout that could accommodate a lot of people or feel good for just an intimate little dinner party.”
Arnold’s team recreated a set of as-built plans based on the home’s existing layout, then set to work reimagining the floor plan and flow. He preserved the location of the front door and the original black and white marble floors in the entry: “Those historical details are something you can’t replicate,” Arnold explains. “When you walk into the house, it has a sense of presence and age.” He also kept the location of the living room but swapped out most of the remaining spaces to create better circulation throughout. From that striking entry, for example, guests can peer through the dining room to the oak- and maple-shaded backyard, which was subtly finessed by landscape architect John Thompson. And though Arnold expanded rooms, openings and passageways to give the residence a more modern feel, he eschewed an open floor plan to preserve a sense of intimacy in each space.
With the layout puzzle complete, Arnold enlisted help from residential designer of record Dale Gabardi and builder James Maciuk to execute his vision. After Gabardi handled drawings required for permit approval, Maciuk brought the blueprints to life. “James always says, ‘We can figure that out,’ ” reveals Arnold. “I can draw it and dream it, but unless you have someone who can actually do it, you’re dead in the water. James can always make it happen.”
The team delivered on this combination of innovative style and careful construction throughout the home, but it’s perhaps most notably on display in the handsome kitchen. One of the first decisions Arnold and the homeowner made was to forgo upper cabinets. (Well, the designer talked his client into it: “He said, ‘Trust me; it’ll be more dramatic,’ ” Patrick recounts, adding, “And I do love it.”) Less of a cooking and prep space and more of a service area, the room gets functional support from a large pantry that houses the oven, ice maker, sink and extra storage. On the kitchen’s back wall, a large slab of dramatic Danby marble, which Patrick and Arnold favor for its warmth and veining, appears almost as an art installation.
The marble also covers the sleek brass island, a showstopper in the room. “I love brass. I’m a brass person,” Arnold says with a laugh. Tired of the typical “marble waterfall” island, he conceived an idea for “something to give the room more patina,” he adds. The island hides a couple of appliances and provides additional storage, all while offering excellent space for serving up appetizers.
The approach Arnold took in the kitchen—timeless materials, clean lines, a few surprises—extends to every other room of the house. The tonal, textural aesthetic begins with pieces the client brought from his previous home, which Arnold complemented with sumptuous new fabrics, an earthy color palette, antiques and art. In the dining room, which opens to the kitchen, a simple but elegant grasscloth wallcovering in a muted tone defines the space without drawing too much attention. “When you put texture on a wall,” Arnold says, “it envelops you, wraps its arms around you.” The same rang true for the main bedroom, where Arnold advocated hard for preserving the original wood paneling. “I think James and Patrick were scheming to tell me it was damaged during construction, but it survived,” the designer says. Victorious, he painted the walls gray to give them a more modern feel; now, they lend a sophisticated backdrop to the velvet-upholstered bed and wood and metal décor.
With fresh style poised to last 100 years more, the home delights both its owner and designer. Patrick says he especially loves the quality of natural light, the way the house welcomes his guests and the main suite with its warm, relaxing aura. For his part, Arnold relishes the way a person experiences the home: “It’s a big house, but it doesn’t feel big,” he explains. “It has an intimacy to it, and that’s just right for a home with such history.”