It was the size of the lot that attracted homeowners Cole and Christen Barfield to a lush property near family in the heart of Nashville’s Belle Meade, complete with a gorgeous canopy of trees, well-established landscaping and an elegant motor court. Beyond creating a homestead for their three young children, at the core was their desire to establish a warm, exuberant atmosphere they could open up to others.
For the teardown and rebuild that would follow, they called on designer Rebekah Woodard, a longtime family friend to Cole. “They are the most generous people,” shares Woodard, describing how the Barfields have been known to open up their home at a moment’s notice for engagement parties, birthdays, weddings, church functions and long-term guests. “There are simply not enough nice things I could say about Cole, Christen and their entire family.” With Woodard having already designed several homes for Cole’s kin, he and Christen were confident in her suggestion of Catherine Tracy Sloan, an architect the designer has known since their shared childhoods in Memphis.
Sloan says her clients requested a design that would fit the context of the neighborhood, so she devised a classic residence featuring Southern influences and exterior dentil moldings. “The Barfields are very family-oriented and casual,” she notes. “They always have a full house—extended family, cousins, friends, children running around—so we wanted their home to be relaxed, cozy and inviting.” To that end, a modest façade keeps the approach to the home welcoming, while relatively low ceilings impart intimacy. An L-shaped layout allows for moments of discovery as one moves throughout the house, leading to an expansive rear courtyard that introduces sunlight and fresh air into its informal spaces.
To fit the context of the neighborhood’s distinctive vernacular, Sloan suggested general contractor and Belle Meade resident West Cook. From the start, Sloan and Cook insisted upon authentic materials such as wood clapboard siding, cedar shake shingles, local fieldstone and copper downspouts. To execute these details and others, the pair tapped a favorite cast of proven craftspeople—millwork specialist James Dunn among them. Dunn’s touch is apparent on everything from built-in bunk beds and bookshelves to cornices, stair parts and rooftop railings. “The millwork was such a big part of this house—interior and exterior,” Sloan sums. “We wanted so much to make it true to the history of the neighborhood. James had a big role in that.”
Working with another designer from her firm, Kelley McCarthy, on the interior finishes and decorative touches, Woodard inserted antiques and modern art amid a pale, neutral palette of white-washed pecky cypress, creamy limestone and reclaimed-oak floors. “We used pops of color and lots of texture,” Woodard explains. “Whether it’s mixing a nubby linen fabric with iron pieces, silk rugs or a stone bowl, I love to incorporate those elements that make a room feel grounded.” Choosing easy-to-clean linen-blend textiles was also key for keeping upholstered pieces durable in a household that routinely plays host to guests and rambunctious children.
To guarantee a show-stopping kitchen, the Barfields brought on family favorite Matthew Quinn. From the moment Woodard first met the designer, she was floored. “Matthew is such an artisan; the way that he pulled off our requests was so spot-on; I’ve never seen anyone come through like that, one masterpiece after another,” she effuses. “The walk-in pantry is perfection; the copper-topped lacquered cabinets have a sheen like a luxury car.”
Quinn also lent his expertise to the outdoor kitchen (complete with a pizza oven and grill), while Sloan’s plan for the pool terrace and covered porch—outfitted with a fireplace and screens that can be lifted or lowered on cue—fulfilled the family’s wishes for easy, alfresco entertaining. “It’s a backyard that can be enjoyed from April to October,” Woodard says.
Landscape architect Gavin Duke, whose firm has worked with Cole’s family for decades, was tasked with enhancing the convivial scenery, which he and another landscape architect from his firm, Mamie Finch—who served as project manager—achieved via sprinklings of Kousa dogwood trees; clipped Vardar Valley and Chicagoland green boxwoods; and what he describes as a “chartreuse carpet of creeping Jenny.” European Fastigiate hornbeams and native Arnold tulip poplars serve as proverbial exclamation points beside the Indiana limestone-bordered bluestone paths, forming beautiful sight lines best appreciated on the days when the Barfields can fling open their doors.
“Cole and Christen just wanted everything light and airy. A place where they can express their generosity with family and friends, where every room is filled with light,” Woodard sums. “That’s how they live; that’s who they are.”