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VIP At Home: The Wilson's

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“Just come on in,” says Ellen Willson, wearing a kind smile followed by her usual offering of a hug. It’s a greeting she gives to just about anyone entering her and her husband Paul’s home, nestled in downtown Murfreesboro. The nearly 100-year home may not be perfect, but it sure is beautiful and filled with lots of warmth.

Built in 1921 by David and Flo Goldstein, the home at 1001 E. Main is an American foursquare that served as the house in which Ellen grew up. After changing hands a few times following the home’s construction, Ellen’s parents Kay and Henry Huddleston purchased the home in 1969.

Originally, the land on which the house sits was part of Oakland’s Plantation. It was sold off as part of the Jordan House, which was built in 1881 and still stands on Cherry Lane. The land was sold to the Goldsteins around 1919, and the house was built in 1921.

Ellen grew up in the home and has fond memories of life in the downtown area. Thirty years after buying the home, Ellen’s parents built and moved into a Georgian style home across the street. At this time, Ellen and Paul were living in Nashville, had one daughter and another on the way.

“My mom would come to Nashville and beg us to buy the home,” said Ellen. “It had been on the market a while … Eventually we started to really think about it.”

Today, after 18 years in that very home, Ellen and Paul are glad they made the deal. They’ve raised their two daughters Emily and Mary Martha at 1001 E. Main and have made a life-time of memories. Ellen and Paul rejoice in the home and embrace its imperfections.

“I love this home,” Ellen said. “What a blessing it was for us to move back here and be able to live in my childhood home and across from my parents, Kay and Henry Huddleston, for many years. There’s always work to be done with an older home like this, but that’s not what it’s about. Life is about people and fellowship. So many young people obsess about their homes and want things to be perfect, but why? Life’s too short … Just come on in!”

Ellen learned from a young age to enjoy the people that fill up one’s home. Four at the time her parents bought the home, she says her memories of her childhood include lots of activity among the streets downtown.

“We had people everywhere,” she said. “It’s all I really know. I can’t imagine living anyplace else.” The Willsons admit it takes a special person to live in an older home where spaces can be confining and projects plentiful. The kitchen, for example, is a far cry from the open and airy kitchens found in modern homes, but they still spend most of their time there.

Many additions and renovations have been made to the home over the years, with the kitchen receiving its last facelift in about 1988. Ellen points out its dated oven and stove top and laughs as she says her dream is to have one that’s big and new one day.

“The kitchen was done in 1988 so it is ‘new’ so to speak,” she said. “I’m stuck with a galley kitchen and I absolutely love it.”

Next to the kitchen sits a cozy butler’s pantry, which was the original kitchen. Ellen still recalls eating cookies in the nook after school as a girl. The butler’s pantry was the original kitchen, and Ellen still eats cookies there today, just like when she was a little girl.

The Willsons use the space in nearly every bit of the home, including the formal dining room, where they eat dinner regularly.

Though many projects have taken place over the years, a good bit of the home’s style remains reflective of Ellen’s mother’s taste, which Ellen says mirrors her own. A home should reflect things in it the homeowner loves.

“Who cares what other people think?” she said. “When decorating your home it should be about what you love; what makes you happy … Life is too short to worry about things like that. And no one notices anyway. It’s just stuff.”

Even so, the Willson home is elegant and has served as host to many events over the years, including last year’s fundraiser for the Discovery Center of Murfreesboro, the Secret Garden Party. Ellen welcomes guests and loves hosting when she can, explaining her job in those instances has mainly been to sit back and welcome guests with a smile.

She recalled one time years ago when she hosted a friend’s engagement party and a big storm blew through the area changing her idea of how the night should have played out. All the tables had been set outside but when the storm came through it was lights out.

“Everyone ended up inside and it was like a fraternity party,” she laughed, explaining inside wasn’t “set up” for the engagement party. “But you know what, it all worked out. People still remember that night and that’s what it’s about, making memories. When “things” happen you just have to own it and know it’s going to be OK. If you’re uptight everyone will be uptight. You just have to greet guests with a smile, welcome them and tell them to ‘come on in!’”

The Willsons explain there is always a challenge when it comes to older homes. The upstairs, which includes several bedrooms, is a work in progress. They tackle one project at a time.

“Ron Hall at Farrar Construction is on speed dial,” laughed Paul. Regardless of the project, Ellen aims to make the feel of the home her family’s “happy place.” Whether it’s painting the laundry room the color that makes her happy — she says she spends a lot of time in it — or
letting their daughters make their rooms their own, Ellen and Paul’s approach is with loving and patient hands.

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