Few homeowners would describe the often complex process of ground-up construction as “invigorating and fun,” but Kent Shih, a Nashville oncologist and the owner of a newly built residence in West Meade, loved it. “Compared to what I do every day, which is life and death, building a home became a source of enjoyment,” Kent reveals. When he initially reached out to residential designer Preston Shea, Kent’s design needs were much different from today. But as his family with his wife, Stacey, quickly grew, Shea adjusted just as nimbly to requested revisions—tweaking the plans to comfortably accommodate a teenager and two babies under 2. “Kent and Stacey asked for a striking and updated take on the quintessential English country home,” Shea describes. “We’ve seen the Nashville market shift from very traditional to fairly contemporary in short order, and the Shih’s vision for a home fit seamlessly.”
Exterior materials such as cedar shake shingles and copper accents—distinctive architectural elements developed in collaboration with designer Natalie Hager—reinforce this classic ideal while adding overall curb appeal. Shea credits general contractor John Montgomery, who works on West Meade projects often, for his and project manager Ray Kash’s “flawless execution” throughout.
Beyond being large enough for their growing brood, the clients hoped for a home that would feel “open, happy and inspirational,” Kent notes. “Stacey and I both work with cancer patients, and one would think that would be sad and depressing, but it’s actually the opposite; I’m always inspired by their courage,” he explains. “I wanted a house philosophically in that same vein, consistent with my day-to-day.” Chimes Stacey: “I didn’t want anything dark, cold or clinical.”
For Kent, that translated to vast windows that capitalize on the view. Fortunately, Hager knew how to respond to these with interiors that quelled any potential for coldness. Her task was to scale down the home’s vast proportions, employing linen draperies for texture and acoustical dampening. “It’s a voluminous house with high, vaulted ceilings,” explains the designer, noting how Shea softened the abode’s vast dimensions by way of varied ceiling heights, then grounded rooms with her suggested cedar beams and trusses. “We wanted the interiors to feel cozy and warm.” Hager strove to make the Shih’s home highly personal, too. “I like to start with a written narrative of who my clients are and how they want to live,” the designer explains. “In a way, I think of my role as interior storyteller.”
With Kent’s tastes skewing traditional, Hager was initially keen to retain nods to the modern farmhouse: an appropriate reference considering the neighborhood’s historical status as farmland, as well as Stacey’s agrarian upbringing. But as the project progressed, Stacey pushed for something more contemporary. So, taking stock of Kent’s time spent on the East Coast, Hager presented a concept that beautifully marries the couple’s contrasting aesthetics while melding with Shea’s architectural hallmarks. The result? “A buttoned-up, Cape Cod-inspired approach,” the designer notes.
From there, Hager installed statement light fixtures to balance rooms’ proportions and impart jewelry-like sparkle. With her clients diverging on their preference for color, Hager found another opportunity to split differences equitably: Rich green was relegated to the primary bathroom cabinetry while blue makes a major statement in the kitchen—starting with its “French blue” refrigerator. “I studied in Provence, so that resonated with me,” says Hager, who matched the finish of the lower cabinets to the appliance’s cool hue. “It’s a rich, bold color, but still timeless.” Plus, those subtle Provençal influences interfaced nicely with the Cape Cod-inspired scheme. “It was important that this kitchen feel current today and 20 years from now,” continues Hager, who incorporated Stacey’s penchant for pattern via a playful backsplash tile that offered “the artisanal feel she wanted.”
So, too, has the kitchen become a stage for Kent’s own fancies to take flight. “I enjoy cooking, so I love getting in the kitchen on my day off to create some gumbo,” he says. “I grew up in south Louisiana and like to cook Asian or Cajun dishes; sometimes both.” By the same token, finishing touches throughout the residence were selected with the family’s unique background in mind. “The way Natalie decorated was very heartwarming,” Stacey expresses. “The mirror in the dining room was the first antique my grandparents ever bought, and Natalie incorporated it in such a loving and gorgeous way.”
And that’s exactly what Hager finds rewarding as a designer: “This home tells their story in a way that feels fresh and modern,” she says. “I thought it was important to celebrate and honor their personal journey.” In this case, it was a journey that culminated in everything they’d hoped.