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The Tale of a Forever Home



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Story by Lee Rennick | Photos by Erin Kosko

Once upon a time in a place not too far away -- called Missouri – an energetic young girl with chestnut curls met a water purification system salesman named Mark and fell in love. She was sure he was THE ONE. He ignored her. For two years, she’d periodically block up the new water purification system in her family home so he’d have to return and fix it. Then she could see him again. Finally, he asked her out on her very first date ever. He bought her a lovely dress, took her to dinner and a movie, then told her to date some others. A year later, after she had dated a few other guys, they went on a second date. And, a year after that, just after her graduation from high school, they were married. But, unlike so many fairy tales, this was not the end of their story, but just the beginning. 

Theresa and Mark Robertson, both raconteurs of note, know how to amusingly draw out the telling of the tale of their life together, and the home they have been remodeling bit by bit since they bought it from the original builder and owner, Harvey Higdon. 

“Twenty-two years ago, I was on my way to a meeting in Lewisburg when I saw this house with a for sale sign in the front yard,” said Mark. “I immediately called John Jones. He told me that there was already a contract on the home and that it was sure to close, but there was a 48-hour contingency. I met John on the front porch that day and put in a contract anyway.”

He handed Jones a check for the full amount of the home, but he didn’t have the funds at the time. 

“Earlier, Lee Moss had taken me to Stones River Country Club to a fancy lunch and picked a bunch of gimmicked up food I’d never heard of before,” said Mark, “trying to impress me. He told me that I was the kind of client that they wanted to work with at his bank and that he’d cover any check I wrote. So, I called him right after I handed that check to John and told him what I had done. He asked me what I had in my bank account. I told him nothing. He covered it.”

The potential buyer was a doctor from Nashville, he was supposed to be selling his Belle Meade home, retiring and becoming a gentleman farmer. In the 47th hour, the deal fell through. 

Mark had never said word one to Teresa about buying the house, and all they had done previous to the sale was to drive by outside of the home. 

“After he bought it,” said Theresa, “he brought me by and we sat out front.”

“I told her that I had always loved this home and wanted it to be our forever home,” said Mark, “and would she live there with me.”

“Not very many men could buy a home that their wife would love without her seeing the inside,” added Theresa, “but he did. We have been remodeling it bit by bit ever since.”

They started the remodeling by putting a bar into the garage that would eventually become Mark’s Man Cave. Their daughter wanted to have a rustic wedding at home with a tent in the field by the barn and a reception in the yard. Just as they were finishing up the remodel of the garage, she changed her mind and decided to get married at Bel Aire Baptist Church. 

“The liquor over the bar has been there since the remodel, since we don’t drink much,” said Theresa with a chuckle. “Then the space slowly turned into a place for Mark to go when I holler at him.”

A converted four car garage, the Man Cave now houses Mark’s office and his collection of Corvettes. With HVAC, custom cabinets made by Richard Worick and a complicated alarm system, its crowning glory is a pair of mannequins – male and female -- dressed in Harley Davidson riding gear. They are amusingly called “Harley” and “Bitch.” They reflect another of Mark’s interests, Harley Davidson merchandise. The room is filled with it and items with the black and white checked pattern associated with Corvettes. 

“Once, when we were away, the alarm went off,” said Theresa. “We have a camera system that we can see what is going on, we saw the police officer that arrived draw on the mannequins. I felt bad for him, but we laughed. It was really funny.”

While Mark has his Man Cave, he has made sure that Theresa has her special places in the home, too. He began by creating a baking kitchen from a former sunroom about nine years ago, and most recently her “Cinderella Kitchen” created by Leroy Wells of the award-winning Wells Custom Homes. 

Theresa spends about 75% of her time either in the baking kitchen or her new double island kitchen created from the couple’s formal dining and living room. Baking and cooking are her passion. She baked the cake for Governor Lee’s first inauguration and made a cake in the shape of War Memorial for its 90th Anniversary. 

“While we were re-doing the kitchen,” said Leroy Wells with a laugh, “she fed my crew lunch every day. She spoiled them. Now, they are asking me who’s going to feed them lunch at the next project.”

The kitchen is spectacular. It is bright and white and gold with lots of custom features. 

“It is better than I could have imagined it would be,” said Theresa. 

Mark wanted to do something special for Theresa for all of her years of devotion to him. He gave her carte blanche on creating her dream kitchen. She designed the space based around a fancy farmhouse sink she found on Amazon. Wells sat down with her and together they got on his computer and using his Chief Architect program, they developed 3-D drawings of the final product. 

“She told me that she wanted lots of light,” said Wells, “a double island, a big stove and beams in the ceiling.”

Wells’ shop created all of the woodworking, including the intricate coffered ceiling, picture rail trim and crown molding. He built lots of special features into the kitchen, including pull out spice racks on either side of the range, a large pantry with hidden small electrics storage, a coffee cubby with a drawer to store Keurig pods, a special silverware drawer, a special pot filler moved to the side of the stove and pop-up plugs in the kitchen counters. But, the counter in which the inspirational sink is now set is the kitchen’s show-stopper. The dark-stained countertop is trimmed in white ash, which has a goldish cast, a suggestion of Wells’ wife, Cheryl. The finished product is coated in a commercial and food grade resin. 

“We put in 53 recessed lights,” added Wells, “and set them to make sure that they lit up the islands and countertops.” All of the glass-front china cabinets are also lighted. They provide space to show off the pink floral china that once belonged to Mark’s grandmother.

All of the fixtures are gold, including the three pendant lights, which were a present from Theresa’s father-in-law and found on Amazon. Amazon is a favorite resource for Theresa, as is Etsy, the source of the artwork in her kitchen. 

“Every day, I have to tell our Rottweiler not to bite the delivery man from Amazon,” said Mark with a smile. “Every day.”

Robertson home projects all evolve over time. Another of those projects is a cabin that was originally planned to be a playhouse for their grandchildren when they were younger. It was built over nine months on nights and weekends. It started with a cement floor, and then grew after a conversation on the front porch over a couple of beers with the guy who was doing some of the work. 

“He asked if we wanted electricity,” said Mark, “I said yes. Next, he asked if we wanted plumbing. I said yes. We ended up digging a 750-foot trench, drilling through rock, to run the utilities. Then I added some dormers, and a bathroom for my granddaughter. Pretty soon we added custom cabinets and granite counter tops in the kitchen. A king-sized bed in the loft. The ladder up to the loft is designed to look like railroad tracks. It has internet and smart TV. We call it the Copper Mine Cabin.”

“Our niece lived there for a year when she was going to college,” added Theresa. “It has everything she needed. There is even an outdoor shower.”

The cabin sits next to what Mark calls his small lake, which he admits is a pond. He has filled it with bass, blue gill and three four-foot long koi named, “Ninja,” Sushi” and “Egg Roll.”

“I had a guy who was going to throw them in the river when his wife got tired of the koi pond in their back yard,” said Mark. “I took a five-gallon horse trough over to his house and picked them up. There were about 50 of them. They were little then. I put them into our pond. The large-mouth bass got most of them. Once upon a time we also had horses, donkeys and barn cats on our eight acres.” 

Still a work in progress, the next project is a second master suite. Two small bedrooms and a guest bathroom are going to be remodeled into a feminine space, as the current master is filled with Mark’s collection of swords, knives, guns and chainsaw sculptures. 

“It’s a guy thing,” said Mark, who grew up hunting rabbits with his grandfather. One of his prized possessions is the gun that his grandfather used to use on those hunting trips when he was a kid. He received it as a gift from an uncle after his grandfather’s death. 

Other family memories fill the home, including Theresa’s collection of Precious Memories figurines, art given to her by her mother-in-law, a painting made by her granddaughter when she was five and the dresses her granddaughters wore when their parents renewed their wedding vows on their 10th anniversary. 

While the home is filled with old memories, the couple also loves to entertain and create new ones. They recently opened their new kitchen to a group taking a charcuterie class. And, they had an open house to show off their new kitchen in early June. 

In July, they will celebrate 43 years of marriage. Theirs is a long-time love story that began by eloping to Murfreesboro from Missouri. 

“I married by best friend,” said Theresa. 

They had two daughters within five years, two years after they married. Now, they are enjoying their grandchildren who are now teens, remodeling and continuing to collect more stories and tall tales about their fairytale forever home. 

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