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A Fusion of East and West

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By Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

Behind a lush screen of trees and bushes in Mirabella sits the Georgian style home of Paul and Tina Patel. Two of the first residents of the development, they built their home 18 years ago. And they have spent the time since perfecting their décor and grounds by blending elements of English, French and Indian style.

“Jimmy Malloy was our builder,” said Tina, “Jimmy was also a master carpenter and he built much of the woodwork. Larry Schumaker was our architect. He has since passed. He has since passed away, and I am not sure he was ever recognized for how talented he was.”

While Schumaker provided the details in the structure of the home, including the dramatic curved staircase in the foyer, the Patels have worked with several designers – including Janice Walls, Candyace Havenstrite and most recently Jerome Farris. These designers have helped them blend their collection of predominantly French antiques and Indian decorative pieces that reflect their heritage.

Every detail of the home is carefully curated to keep a balance between Eastern and Western style. “Both of our parents came to this country with $8 in their pockets as immigrants,” said Tina. “No furniture, no art, nothing old to hand down. We wanted to fill our home with pieces that had a history.”

Tina said that she has always seen her home as reflecting the India Raj period of architecture and design. Also known as Indo-Saracenic or Indo-Gothic, this style was most prolific in India in the later part of the 19th century when the country fell under English rule. However, the first building employing this style of architecture appeared in the late 18th century. The style is a blend of neo-classical European architecture with both India and Moorish stylistic elements in details and motifs, including horseshoe arches which are a part of the internal structure of the Patel home. 

Gardens Wrap the Home in Lush Green

This style of architectural design often includes structured gardens rich with sumptuous verdant plantings with leafy greenery and sensuous, bodacious blooms. Both avid gardeners, the Patels have used their talents to extend the epicurean feel of their home outside. It is the gardens that first catch the eye upon arrival.

After sending the plot to Paul’s uncle, Samit Patel, a landscape architect who lives in Dallas, he came up with the design, then Paul and Tina had to experiment with what plantings to use.

“This is our third version of the garden,” explained Tina. “We have had to experiment with what plants we could use due to Texas being so different from Tennessee. And we have had deer and other animals to plant for, like using purple cabbage because deer will not eat them. We have torn out 100 knockout roses, 32 cherry trees and all of our Leland cypress because they were dying, which we replaced with green giant arbor vitae to create a screen between our lawns because Paul dislikes fences.”

They also planted 300 boxwoods to create a parterre garden, which looks like a maze. Parterre gardens originated during the French Renaissance and reached their zenith at the Château de Versailles. They can also be seen at Kensington Palace in England. Here, it brings formality to one side of the garden, balanced on the other side with a more casual feel where a hammock hangs between two trees.

“We didn’t want a yard,” said Tina, “we wanted a landscaped garden.”

Just Finished Remodeling Parts of the House

While Paul and Tina spent the last year personally redoing their gardens, Jerome Farris from
The Peddler worked with them to give their back patio, kitchen, living room, sitting room
and front entry a face lift.

“The patio was finished just before the COVID-19 shutdown,” shared Tina. “And in January
2021, when it was 32 degrees, I was able to have book club out there thanks to the heaters.
It was very comfortable. And Paul could have friends over safely, too.”

Inviting and casual, the patio evokes the feeling that the Patels wish to express throughout
the entire home. The curved railing leading up to the covered patio from the garden is a
copy of that used on the old Rutherford County Public Health Department building, and the
conversation groupings are scattered with pots of summer blossoms in full blush.

But the patio is not the only room that Farris redid. The entry has a completely different feel. Now the entire foyer plays up the elegant front entry that Schumaker and Malloy created for the Patels almost 20 years ago with duplicate wood working both inside and out around the front door. Once having a blue ceiling and yellow walls, Farris chose a wall paper for the foyer that looks like limestone blocks, reflecting that used on the outside of the home. The design also makes the curved staircase stand out.

“Schumaker did the Delbridge home and Andy Adams,” said Tina. “I didn’t think we’d be able to afford his trims, but Jimmy Malloy found a way to keep it in our budget and make it work. He also created the floating curved staircase that our original architect said could not be done. And, Jerome made their work really stand out. The wall paper also runs down the hall both upstairs and down because there was nowhere to cut it.”

The wallpaper makes the house flow and feel like the walls of Jama Masjid in Delhi, an India mosque, of which they have a picture in their hall painted by well-known Indian artist K. Das. Also from the hall, visitors get a peek into another room that Farris updated -- the living room.

“Jerome told me that he wanted to paint my living room red lacquer,” Tina exclaimed. “Paul and I were not sure about that. He told us to trust him. We did, and the color really made everything ‘pop’ as he said it would. The only thing he did other than paint the walls red was recover our couch and add the drapes.”

Filled with many favorite French and English antiques, the living room is two stories high, with a second-floor balcony that looks into it from above. It also boasts an extensive collection of art, much of it from India. With additions painted by their daughter Mira, who is a talented artist.

Another favorite room recently redone is the sitting room. Tina loves fabric walls, and Farris graced the walls of the sitting room, where the family often watches television, with flame stich fabric installed by Diane Preston. 

Finding the Perfect Pieces Has Been a Labor of Love

One of the downstairs powder rooms also has fabric walls of raw silk that looks like it is painted with henna. The sink was built into an antique French dresser.

“Tom Heinsel found me a damaged dresser,” said Tina, “because I could not destroy a piece of French history. He fixed it so it would work as a base for the brass sink. I love this bathroom.”

Just down the art filled hall from the powder room is the newly remodeled kitchen. Tina says that Farris made the whole room flow better by increasing the size of the island and adding a bar area next to the patio, which makes entertaining much easier.

While there is now lots of space to have a casual meal in the kitchen with friends and family, both around the island and in a casual seated area, one of Tina’s favorite pieces of furniture is the dining room table she saved for 10 years to buy. She has pared the simple round table with an outstanding marquetry armoire and a breathtaking crystal chandelier.

Tina loves finding the perfect piece for each room, no matter how long it takes, or what trouble she has to go to get it right.

“Anything we have bought in haste is gone,” said Tina. “It’s the things you deliberate over to find the right thing that stays.”

The set of twin beds in the upstairs guest room is a case in point. In January of 2003, when she was seven and a half months pregnant with her son Eshan, she set off on a trip to Northgate Gallery in Chattanooga to buy twin beds that she had seen online. She had already had the room painted with a color chosen by Jane Jones of The Peddler.

“I never thought I’d be able to get the beds, but it snowed and not many people showed up to the auction. Denny and Thesa Hastings saw me at the auction and would not let me drive back over the mountain in the snow alone. I didn’t know them well, but they were very protective. Denny drove my car and I rode with Thesa back to Murfreesboro.”

One problem with the beds is that much of the fabric had decayed. While it matched the newly painted walls of the bedroom perfectly, much of it had to be matched. Tina looked everywhere. Then, in Atlanta at L&N Fabric, one of the owners told her that the fabric no longer existed, but that it could be recreated. He said with a 100-yard minimum that the fabric could be woven to order, and that he’d buy 40 yards if she bought 60. She had the rotted fabric replaced and no one can tell the original from the fabric that was reconstructed.

Gifts of Furniture, Art and Design Advice

Many of the Patel’s friends understand their taste in furniture and love of art. The table in the library was given as a housewarming present, and artist friend Mary Miller Veazie has painted them a number of pictures, including a special one of a back view of the Taj Mahal.

Other friends who have provided the Patels with works of art including Sharon Kolli, who has also provided design advice.

“Sharon was trained in art,” said Tina, “and she has such an eye for color and texture.” Kolli helped Tina create the master bedroom she wanted. The room is built on a pallet of warm creams, tans and browns with feather accents, especially peacock feathers, which have always meant a lot to the Patels as they were used in their wedding décor. Feathers can be seen as a motif throughout the house.

John Neal helped Tina with the venetian glass lighting in the bedroom and master bath. She collects venetian glass and has a real love of its beauty. Other art in the home has been a gift from daughter Mira including a picture of ginkgo leaves that she painted, which can be found in the living room and a Monet inspired piece that hangs in the hall.

“Mira attended the Art Institute of Chicago’s summer program,” said Tina, “and one of the assignments was to paint a picture inspired by Monet’s ‘Bridge at Argenteuil.’ She was given one and a half hours to do it. She entered her finished paining into the Beta Convention competition and won first place both regionally and nationally. She wanted to sell it, as many of her pieces have sold, but I said no.”

Tina also inherited some fine oriental rugs from her parents. Once they established themselves in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Tina’s father began collecting antiques and rugs. One rug from his doctor’s office can be found in the bonus room upstairs. Also in that room are other memories from her childhood, a photograph of elephants that Eshan took on a trip to Africa and many photos from Paul’s office of their travels.

Home Reflects a Lifetime of Collecting

“I love to create a cozy room,” said Tina. “I have found art and furniture pieces all over, although mainly from Tom Heinsel. He used to go over to France and acquire antiques then dress them up before selling them on the high end market. He offered many pieces to me before he took them to market.”

Other places Tina has found furnishings include Cheekwood’s Annual Antiques and Garden Show, at White Oak and at auctions in Hartselle, Alabama. Art that has not come from friends and family, has often been purchased on their travels.

Keeping to their vision of blending the cultures of Eastern and Western design, the Patels have taken this lifetime of collecting the perfect pieces and have created a home and gardens that are both elegant and inviting, soothing and stunning both visually and sensually. 

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