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The House on the Corner

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Story by Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

On East Clark, the home of Emily and Shelby Hunton sits on a corner looking very different from those around it. It was the first house built on Clark Street. Perhaps that is what drew them both to the house at different times, before they first met.

“I used to pass what is now our house during my college years at Middle Tennessee State University,” said Emily, “and always thought it was so pretty. Shelby is a realtor with Parks and he toured the house many years ago with other realtors as a listing preview. He remembers a fondness for our home from the first time he entered the doors.” 

The summer that they got engaged, the home was put on the market again and Shelby was scheduled to show it to a couple they know. He asked Emily if she wanted to tag along to see the inside since he knew she had always admired it. 

“I absolutely fell in love,” exclaimed Emily “When the couple who were going to buy it decided it didn’t meet their needs, they encouraged us to pursue it.”

A Home with History

“It was originally built in 1947 by the Harrison family,” explained Shelby. “It was built as the wife’s dream home on part of their large farm that extended from Greenland, across what is now Leaf Avenue and over to Northfield. Their dirt road led from Memorial to the original farmhouse previously located down Leaf Avenue near Greenland. It has since been torn down. The Harrison’s lived here for only five years before the husband decided to move the farm down Manchester Highway and take advantage of land prices in town. He subdivided the farm and sold it for housing.

A Cape Cod style home on the outside, the house is immediately inviting with the laid-back feel of the beach, especially the Hunton’s favorite lowcountry around Hilton Head and Savannah. They glassed in the sunporch, which was originally just a screened in porch, themselves in 2008. It now serves as a front door for visitors giving an immediate relaxed vibe.

Lowcountry Southern Style as Inspiration

“We have a piece of our hearts in the lowcountry,” noted Emily. “We travel to Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, every chance we get. We have a boat we keep there and will go exploring year-round.”

Emily has done all of the interior design of the home with the place they love in mind. She grew up surrounded by her mother’s Southern Living magazines and the constant redecorating she would do. It was never unusual for her to come home from school to find a room painted a fresh new color or the furniture moved around. Emily also favors the design work of Ashley Gilbreath. 

“Ashley Gilbreath has always been a favorite,” explained Emily. “I was lucky enough to stumble across her store, Parish, while traveling through Montgomery, Alabama, around 2011. This was before the days of Instagram, so needless to say I have since enjoyed the ability to follow her career through those little squares.” 

Gilbreath is renowned for her casual, elegant spaces that are family-friendly gathering places. She uses lots of natural materials and earthy neutral colors, blending the new and the antique with comfort and flair. Emily also finds inspiration from the work of Maggie Griffin, James Farmer and Lauren Liess, all of whom blend ease and classic Southern charm. 

“Interior design has always been my passion,” explains Emily. “I would say I have a relaxed Southern traditional design style. Children are welcome in every room and nothing is off limits. Homes are meant to be comfortable and every room enjoyed as memories are made.” 

Shared Passion for Antiques

Ninety percent of the home’s furniture the Huntons have collected from antique stores, estate sales or on their travels together. There are a few pieces they hold close to their hearts, like Emily’s grandmother’s pie safe, which she fondly remembers sneaking cookies from as a child. And, Shelby’s dad handmade a bed and dresser that they still use. 

“We have artwork that is sentimental,” Shelby said as he pointed out an oil painting of Sam Paschal with his World Grand Champion Walking Horses, 1958’s Setting Sun and 1962’s Ebony Masterpiece. “I grew up around their family.” 

Emily gravitates towards these unique items to decorate her home. She loves antique stores and even thrifting everywhere they go. Gas Lamp and Canterbury Cottage in Nashville are favorites. Locally, she enjoys M&J Home, Hylabrook, the antique stores on Church Street and those in Woodbury. 

“We have favorites in Hilton Head and Savannah when we visit there as well,” said Emily. “Chain stores can be fun to pop in, but when everyone can buy the same thing it takes some of the character out of it.” 

Her style has always been about choosing classic colors and clean lines in furniture to keep those larger investments like sofas and chairs timeless. She uses lighting, accessories and pillows to bring personality to a room. This allows her the freedom to update a look more frequently with these more budget-friendly items. 

“Shades of blue, white and green are my go-to colors,” said Emily. “I inherited my grandmother’s love of blue and white Chinoiserie and I have a large collection, with some being her pieces. I firmly believe it’s important for each home to be a reflection of the people that live there. You should not be able to create a room in a day. To me, that means it isn’t filled with stories and one of a kind objects.” 

Design Using One of a Kind Collections

Emily and Shelby have filled their home with very personal collections of unique items filled with meaning and history. As a matter of fact, Shelby and collecting go hand in hand. 
“His lifelong friends will say he has always collected,” said Emily. “Growing up in Murfreesboro you realize the importance of the Civil War activities that took place right here. And most of us, including Shelby, had grandparents that served in World War II or Korea. Collecting makes him feel a little closer to his grandfather.” He even has a collection of his grandfather’s World War II metals and dog tags from serving in the Pacific Theater. 

Shelby has many other unusual collections reflecting local history. One special photography was taken in 1952 by local photographer Richard Shacklett, founder of Shacklett’s Photography. It is the first photograph ever of a trout catching a fly in its mouth. It was such a special photograph that President Eisenhower had Shacklett come to the White House and bring a copy of the shot with him. 

In a frame in the den, Shelby has a collection of stamped envelopes that were sent out of Sky Harbour, from which air mail flew out of Smyrna for years beginning in 1921. His envelopes are all from October 14, 1929, and one has a Murfreesboro issued postal stamp. 

“I love anything aviation and Civil War,” explained Shelby. “I have something with Ulysses S. Grant’s signature and another piece with Robert E. Lee’s autograph.”

Emily has her collections, too. One is of shards of old pottery she saves in large glass jars on her dining room table. The collection started years ago when she saw a textured piece of something in the sand when they were exploring the back creeks in Hilton Head. She thought it was the bottom of a broken flip flop until she saw a second piece further away. She picked them up and realized it was pottery. 

“I began to research and realized coastal creeks from Florida to Virginia are full of Native American pottery dating back to 500 AD and even older,” explained Emily. “It is fascinating to realize this. We also find broken pieces of stoneware from early settlers. Occasionally we will find a piece with a marking we can research and I am always on the lookout for blue and white. I found my first piece of delft blue pottery last summer.”

She also loves oysters and oyster trays. They are harder to find so Emily is always on the lookout. In Victorian times, oysters were seen as a delicacy and owning an oyster plate projected wealth and knowledge of the world. Emily finds this terribly ironic, because if you have every harvested or shucked oysters you know that there is nothing fancy or delicate about them. She even painted a picture of oysters that is on display at the house after taking a class from local artist, Mary Miller Veazie in 2016.

“I took my first painting class when Lori Sain Smith hosted a session at Daffodily Design,” said Emily. “I took it on a whim. I have since created some amazing friendships through this outlet and enjoyed workshops with ladies in Huntsville, Alabama, Nashville, Franklin and Leiper’s Fork. Painting offers a wonderful mental escape for me. I wish I allowed myself to do it more often.” 

A Unique Meeting

Another fun piece in their home is a set of photographs from the day that Shelby asked Emily to marry him. One is a photo of where Shelby mowed “Emily will you marry me?” in the back field of Dr. Robert Gamewells’ farm. 

“Shelby is a pilot and flew me over the farm one Saturday in July 2007,” said Emily. “When I looked out the window I was completely surprised. We subsequently got married on their Century Farm!”

“We were introduced at Dr. Robert Gamewell’s funeral by Chad Haynes,” said Shelby. “Dr. Gamewell was Aleta Tuma’s father. And both Emily and I are friends with the Gamewell/Tuma family. Dr. Gamewell and his wife, Kitty, were both dentists here in Murfreesboro.” 

Shelby and Emily are the parents of sons Jack, who is 13 and a seventh grader at Webb School in Bell Buckle and nine-year-old Gray who is in third grade at Campus School. Both Shelby and Jack are also Campus School alumni. The family has a Boykin Spaniel named Jake. Boykin Spaniels are the state dog of South Carolina, which is one of the reasons they got him!

“Clearly, we both love homes,” said Emily. “Shelby has worked with homeowners for over 20 years as a realtor and I have a passion for interior design that hasn’t changed since childhood. Being a realtor and designing is very personal and creates a bond with others. We both have such respect for that process, emotionally and financially.”  

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