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Easy Modern Southern Charm

Story by Lee Rennick | Photos provided by Erin Kosko

Harkening back to more laid-back days when afternoons meant iced tea and lemonade on the veranda, Sonya and Terry Leeman’s double balcony plantation styled home can best be described as casually elegant. The easygoing front porch features a swing and plenty of rocking chairs to sit out on a warm summer night with a chilled beverage and watch the world go by, but the entry way has a warm sense of elegance with a spectacular circular staircase that curls along the wall up to the second floor. Rounded arches can be found as part of the entry into the Wedgewood blue dining room, reflecting the rounded staircase. 

Awash with color, the home’s interior was designed with the help of Miller Caudle of Carpets by Ozburn. The Leeman’s designed the layout of the home themselves, sketching out the most important details on a piece of graph paper and then turning it over to an architect to make it viable. It was built by Shane McFarland. 

“We were living in Breckenridge when we decided to build here,” said Sonya. “We loved where we were, but we had friends moving into this neighborhood, so 11 years ago we built this home. We love it here. Cathy Ownby, a friend since elementary school, lives down the street and my sister lives next door.”

One thing they knew they wanted was a big family room, as they love to have people over and when their kids, Brad and Jacquelyn, were growing up, the house was full of their friends. Now grown, their daughter is married and lives in Nashville. Their son just returned to the area and opened Happy’s Sports Lounge in downtown Murfreesboro. 

Loving the outdoor life, the second floor has openings to the upper balconies from just about every room. The back yard has a swimming pool and lots of places to sit for intimate conversations. It also features an outdoor kitchen and entertainment area. 

Even though their kids are grown, Sonya and Terry enjoy opening their grounds to different groups. On warm weekends, they invite their church youth group to enjoy the space, and their home will be the site of Charity Circle’s 2023 Duck Ball Patron’s Party on Saturday, April 15. 
Charity Circle was formed by a small group of unmarried women in 1910 when they saw an opportunity in the community to help others. One of the first things they did was open a daycare to help working mothers. The organization grew over time, and more than 55 years ago they created the “Ugly Duckling Ball” as their flagship fundraiser, which was formatted after the successful “Swan Ball” in Nashville. The Patron’s Party was added several years later and it always offers an opportunity to enjoy some of the lovely homes in the area. 
“We feel like we are blessed,” said Sonya, “so we like to share our home with others.”

Designed for Sharing with Friends, Family and Community

Because they designed their home around their way of living and their open hospitality, it has lots of well thought out details that make it flow when entertaining. The entry way has an easy flow to the back yard and the upstairs bedrooms are at either end of the floor, with the bonus room set between them for easy access for casual time with friends and family. This room also looks out onto the pool area.

On the first floor, a fun movie room has a wet bar across from it, conveniently tucked into an alcove in the wall. The movie room sits across from the master bedroom so Sonya and Terry don’t have to walk to far to “crash” after late-night film viewing, but it is also not too far from the family room, so movies can also be viewed with company. 

“We designed the kid’s bedrooms to be a little larger so they each had a sitting room,” explained Sonya. “And, both rooms have access to the upper balcony from their sitting rooms. I love the colors in my daughter’s room, the combination of hot pink and black.”

Sonya keeps the room set up for visits from her daughter and husband if they decide to spend the night instead of drive back to Nashville after a family get together. It is still filled with a lot of memorabilia, including her daughter’s crown from being the Seigel High School Homecoming Queen in 2012. 

Home Filled with Family Memories

Jacquelyn’s room is not the only place where family memories are present. On a side table in the dining room is the Lladró bride and groom topper from Sonya and Terry’s wedding cake and in a wooden box made by her parents, their silver toasting goblets are stored. 
“We have a family tradition that you receive a silver toasting goblet when you are born,” explained Sonya, “and when you are married, your spouse receives one engraved with the wedding date. When my daughter got married, my father also presented her with a handmade box to store hers in, then he gave one to both me and my two sisters. My mother put in the fabric the goblets sit on. I didn’t even know my father did wood working, so it is extra special to me.”

Her parents also gave her a desk that now sits in the family room. It is filled with a collection of Lladró figurines that she was given by her parents over the years. 

Love for Antiques Expressed in Furnishings

Throughout the home, Sonya, with the help of Miller Caudle, has scattered antique pieces both from family and purchased. 

Besides the desk located in the family room, there is a marble topped table in the dining room that was her grandmother’s and a rocker in the master bedroom that once belonged to her husband’s grandmother. At the top of the stairs sits her grandmother’s Singer sewing machine. In the guestroom is a boudoir table that once belonged to her great grandmother. Other antique pieces were purchased, like the dresser in the entry hall. 

“I love antiques,” said Sonya. “I love the stories they bring to a home.”

Her grandmother loved to give members of the family pieces of silver, and Sonya doesn’t hide them away in a closet, but makes a point of displaying them. In the kitchen, she has a collection of items related to her family, including a silver coffee pot from her grandmother and her grandmother’s cookbook. They are displayed with a cutting board in the shape of a pig.
“My uncle was a pig farmer in Cannon County,” Sonya explained. “We have pig decor in various places in the house. The story is that he used to let them run free in the house and you could open the front door and one would come running out.”

The family’s sense of fun can be found in other places in the home, also. In the bonus room upstairs, a plastic Viking helmet and horn beer stein sits on a shelf. 

“Terry recently did one of those DNA tests and found out that he has Viking blood,” said Sonya. “I got the hat for him because he is rather proud of that heritage.” 

Another piece that brings fond memories to Sonya is the candy jar that sits on an ottoman in the family room. Filled with tiny jelly bean eggs for Easter, it sits on a round gold tray with a candle and a vase of mini roses. 

“When we were growing up,” said Sonya, “my grandmother always had a dish of candy that us grandkids would run to when we got to her house. When she passed away, my Aunt Joanne got each of the grandchildren a candy jar in memory of grandma.”

Family Room Full of Memories and Fun Times

In the family room are built-in book cases filled with family photos and a display case with travel guides from their family adventures. There is also a selection of collectables from The Write Impression and M and J Home, as well as art and memorabilia from their life and travels. 

“We love to travel,” added Sonya. “When the kids were growing up we always took a New Year’s trip as a Christmas present. Those travel guides are some of the places we have gone, like Italy, London, Paris, Canada, Maine and the Caribbean.”

Of course, being at home is one of their favorite things. They like to sit on their inviting overstuffed modular couch in the family room and watch sports on the big screen television.
“We’re very casual people,” noted Sonya. 

A Few Recent Updates

Because so much thought went into the original home design, they have only made a few updates. One room that has recently been changed is the office. It was Terry’s office for many years with dark wood bookcases and a dark wood built-in desk. During the pandemic, Sonya converted it into her office, as Terry was using the desk in the bonus room. The room is now white, light, bright and fun with a creamy tuxedo couch, a Boho fuzzy chair she “borrowed” from her daughter, an oversized gold light fixture Sonya found online and bold artwork. It is so airy and comfortable, that Sonya often gets extended visits from her dogs, Zoe and Sumner, when she is working. They like lounging on the velvet couch. 

Statement Walls and Bright Artworks

Brightly colored artwork can be found throughout the home. She has several pieces by Paige Moorehead that she purchased at The Peddler. And, much of the art collected on their travels has bold coloring, like a print of a gondola in Venice in one of the bathrooms. 

Art is not the only way Sonya has brought bold colors to the house. With Miller’s help, she has used very bold Asian-inspired wallpaper in both the main bathroom and a downstairs half bath. 

“Miller found them,” said Sonya. “We put them in when we built the house, but wallpaper is coming back in style. I am glad he narrowed down the choices. I like to have no more than three options to choose from.” 

The patterns are bold, with deep orange and red backgrounds. A similar bold color choice is the rosy paint used in the breakfast room. It is a warm and wonderful color that changes with the time of day and amount of natural light. 

In the kitchen, Terry wanted an exposed brick for their backsplash, which blends well with the dynamic breakfast room walls. 

Easter will Give Away to Duck Ball Theme

Straw bunnies in the dining room and Easter themed pillows on the front porch will soon be giving way to decorations that are “Honoring the Past, Celebrating the Future,” the theme for this year’s Ugly Duckling Ball. Guests will be welcomed to the Leeman’s comfortable back yard with dining under a large tent. Food will once again be provided by Five Senses. Mitchell Murphree and his staff will be providing the salad and entrée for the evening, while the ladies of Charity Circle will be using their culinary talents to create the appetizers and desserts. The salad will be a romaine wedge “Caprese" with cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, grilled onions, cucumbers and basil balsamic vinaigrette. The main course will be Beef Bourguignon made from red wine braised beef, carrots, garlic, bacon and green onion mashers.

Allison Lumpkin of Five Senses describes the entree as a "Mediterranean meets comfort food” type of menu, which also provides a new twist on a traditional dish. 

More information about the 56th Annual Duck Ball on April 29 and the Patron’s Party on April 15 is available online at or by emailing [email protected]

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