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Navigating the Union of Art, Nature & Design



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By Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

The essence of a home is the blending of the design concept and the spirit of those who live within it, such that the minute guests set foot in the front door they feel the soul of their hosts. When you walk into the Mirabella home of Suzanne and Craig Harris, there is a sense of openness and lightness as the sun streams in from the large windows at the back of the house through which the lush garden peeks. The pale blue of the ceiling can easily be mistaken as a continuation of the blue sky outside and the natural elements that recur throughout the home blur the line between inside and out. A round oak table greets each guest with decorative items reflecting the home’s blending of art, nature and classic design.

“I am always happier outdoors, than inside,” said Suzanne. “I like to bring the sense of outside into every room.”

Suzanne acted as the general contractor as she and her husband remodeled their home and she has also been the interior designer. Influenced most by her love of the outdoors, Suzanne feels her style falls into the category of Transitional. She loves simple lines, solid fabrics and organic neutral colors accented with unique conversation pieces.

NEW WALL PAINT, BATHROOMS AND COUNTERTOPS WERE IMPERATIVE

“When we bought the home, all of the walls were a bright buttery yellow, with the light blue ceiling color which we kept,” explained Suzanne. “I also kept all of the medium hued wood cabinets in the bathrooms and the kitchen, but the previous owner had used gold granite for countertops and brown travertine in the bathrooms with sage walls that made everything dark. The first thing we did was paint the walls Anew Grey because the color is warm and changes with the light.”

They replaced the dark granite countertops with white quartz, the travertine with white marble and added a backsplash from City Tile in the kitchen that provides a dash of dazzle by blending mother of pearl, metal and marble. Warm Brazilian Cherry covers the floor in the kitchen, as well as the entire main floor and it is original to the home.

One place Suzanne did extensive remodeling was to the master bathroom and she made some changes in all of the other bathrooms, too. Rod Carillo laid new tile floors from Carpets by Ozburn in the upstairs bathrooms, plus Suzanne put in new lighting and new toilets from Fergusons. She removed the bathtub from one of the Jack and Jill bathrooms upstairs and turned it into a large walk-in shower. The other she retiled. A lovely decorative cabinet was repurposed from their previous home into a vanity in the powder room on the first floor with the help of Terry Bauer of Bauer Plumbing. And, one change that was an absolute must -- the removal of the master tub with its red chaser lights -- to be replaced by a stand-alone soaker tub they found at Ferguson’s.

“I hadn’t seen anything quite like that tub before,” said Suzanne. “Perhaps the red light had some purpose, but I just wanted something plain and classic for our bathroom.”

METAL-WORK BANISTER ADDS NATURAL ELEMENT TO HOME

Building in Puckett Station was their original plan, but when they discovered that they would not be able to build the home they wanted on the site they had chosen, they went looking for something else. They had their choices narrowed down to three, but their current home won out.

“We had already sold our previous home and we had to find something else quickly,” explained Suzanne. “The Greek Revival exterior was far from what we had in mind when we were going to build, but Craig really loves the ironwork on the central curved staircase and I love that pretty much every room in the house has access to a porch or patio. And, the layout of the upstairs is perfect for our sons, Trey and Seth. Each one gets their own half of the upstairs with plenty of room to study, to hang with their friends and for them to pursue their interests in music and gaming.”

The central metalwork banister curls up to the second floor like an oversized black vine of acanthus and exotic flowers. Suzanne has pulled in other black iron pieces throughout the house, several from Courtyard Gate in Nashville, creating a sense of harmony and rhythm.

FURNISHINGS ARE A BLEND OF OLD AND NEW

Almost every room has a striking piece of furniture that Suzanne has chosen carefully, blending items they have slowly collected over the years with some new pieces they had built for their new home.

“A lot of our old furnishings were able to meld well here,” said Suzanne. “The current entry table was not there originally. It had been in storage for 10 years, but I pulled it out and put it in the foyer and it works perfectly.”

To the right of the foyer is the living room. Suznne has chosen a neutral color pallet of solid linen, greige, dark browns and dusty blues with the occasional pop of rust, which she uses in both the living room and the dining room sitting to the left of the grand entry. In each room, she has placed a unique piece of furniture which draws the eye. In the living room, it is a curvy black dresser she purchased at Temptation Gallery that is accented with paintings of mermen, or perhaps they are half plant and half man. Her dining table from Scott’s Antique Market in Atlanta is stunning. It is hewn from heavy reclaimed barn beams of European pine and paired with a vintage teak bench and tufted linen chairs.

In the breakfast area, which looks out over the pool in the back yard, sits an old round wood table they purchased long ago at Sprintz in Nashville and Suzanne placed six mix and match chairs around it to make sure that there is plenty of room when the entire family descends on the room, including Suzanne’ step-daughter Raegan who lives in Nashville. Behind the table sits a bench shoved up under the window where their dog, Rocky, loves to take a nap in the sunshine or watch the world, in the form of the cat next door, go by.

Off the breakfast room, is the family room with a rusty warm, well-loved leather couch and two occasional chairs Suzanne had made for the room by Fabric House. Suzanne notes that the couch is a favorite of hers, but it will most likely transition to the cabin they are building up at Monteagle.

Many lamps and accent pieces have come from Murfreesboro shops like The Marketplace Home and Gift on the Square and JD’s All About the Home near Home Depot. Other decor Suzanne found in antique shops and unique gift shops on her travels. She sketched out all of the window treatments and turned the making of them over to Mary Sanders to bring them to life.

The built-ins in the family room are filled with family photos, collections of precious items and ephemera that Suzanne has carefully curated. Family is obviously important, as the photos, many by Alan Griggs of Alan Griggs Photography, capture happy moments as the kids have aged.

“Every Thanksgiving we go as a family to a cabin near Grandfather Mountain to hike and spend time together,” noted Suzanne. “At Christmas, the entire family comes here.”

As a matter of fact, the family loves to hike. They have hiked the Grand Canyon twice and part of the Appalachian Trail. In Tennessee, they like to hike around the many waterfalls. They also like to hike in North Carolina and Georgia. Trips to Biltmore are a favorite and a lion sculpture displayed on the screened porch is a souvenir from a visit there. 

COLLECTION OF ART FILLS THE HOME

While there are many collections throughout the home, like mercury glass pieces and two angels that were hand-carved in Costa Rica given to Suzanne by a family member, the biggest collection is of fine art. She loves to purchase the original work of local artists and she has commissioned several pieces.

In the living room hangs an original by Franklin artist Rodger Dale Brown of a Philadelphia street scene. Suzanne enjoys his work so much that she commissioned him to paint another cityscape which hangs in their bedroom. This picture was created from a photograph she found in the book Nashville Then and Now by Karina McDaniel. The picture is of a building in Philadelphia that inspired the Union Station hotel in Nashville where Craig and Suzanne got married.

“Rodger worked with the colors I wanted to create both paintings,” said Suzanne, “and we have another painting by him of a New Orleans street scene that I bought when I met him the first time.”

She also has two paintings by North Carolina artist Tracy Melton that hang in the dining room. Melton paints in many different styles and these two paintings reflect that quality of his work. “Cigar Man” looks like Winston Churchill caught on canvas by Picasso and the still life hanging on the opposite side of the dining room looks as if it is heavily influenced by Matisse.

Other art pieces in the house bring back great memories, like the print of a painting of Jerusalem bought to commemorate the baptism of her husband and youngest son in the Jordan River. And, a Blue Dog print by George Rodrigue hangs in a guest bedroom for her son’s friends as a reminder of fun times in New Orleans. 

NATURE IS ANOTHER RECURRING THEME IN THE HARRIS HOME

Throughout the Harris home are beautiful live plants, paintings of nature and other natural elements. Some of her favorite natural touches are the preserved palm leaves displayed in pots on the mantle in the dining room and the two enviously lush fiddle leaf fig trees that sit on either side of the breakfast room table.

“I know that they can be notoriously difficult to grow,” said Suzanne, “but they just love the light there. All I do is water them once a week.”

Every room has touches of green, either living plants cascading down their pots, or pictures of nature, like the prints of deep pine forests that can be found in her son Trey’s room.

“In the winter, when I bring in the plants from outside in, the house looks like a greenhouse,” said Suzanne. 

POOL AND PATIO – A HARRIS ADDITION

While Suzanne has brought lots of the outside into her home, her favorite place is the one she created around the pool that they put in. In the summer months, the area around their pool is an oasis decorated with Edison light strings that they put up for Trey’s high school graduation party a few years ago and kept up because they enjoyed them so much.

“The pool was originally going to sit the other direction, with the deep end up against the house,” said Suzanne with a laugh, “but when the boys got excited about the possibility of jumping off the upstairs balcony into the pool we changed directions. Still, they spend a lot of time out here and they will turn on the string lights up on the balcony and sit out there with their friends at night during the summer.”

Creating the garden area around the pool was one of Suzanne’s favorite projects. She worked with Jason Wanner, who maintains all of the public green spaces in Mirabella and together they created a lovely green space using the shade trees that were already there and adding flowering bushes and dense groundcover.

“I did the research and told Jason what I wanted it to look like and he made it happen,” said Suzanne. 

MURFREESBORO IS HOME NOW

Suzanne and Craig originally lived in Brentwood before moving to Murfreesboro 15 years ago to be near family who had migrated here. While Suzanne was originally from Springfield, she went to Middle Tennessee State University and Murfreesboro feels like home to her.

Both of her sons have attended Middle Tennessee Christian School, where Seth currently plays football. Craig has volunteered as the Defensive Coordinator for his son’s team, but is best known as the County Commissioner for the District 15 and the owner of Construction Concepts.

While the house was designed after a home in Mississippi that the original owner loved and built by Hatcliff Construction, Suzanne has let in the light, filling it with the touches of nature she loves and the art and décor that truly make it the heart and soul of their family.

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