VIP At Home: A Rustic Country Family Home



By Lee Rennick | Photography by Erin Kosko

On a cool and cloudy fall day, a small black and white dog frolics in the yard of a gabled brick and stone home with a front porch offering views of the long drive. He scampers down the drive, then runs back to the house in circles, ever increasing in size, until he is sure his home is secure before he walks in the front door with the self-assurance of a well-loved hound. This is the home of Whit and Lori Turnbow.

Two years ago, Whit and Lori Turnbow designed and built the home of their dreams. Located in the Barfield area and surrounded by eight and half acres of open spaces, they have created a warm and inviting house that is focused on family.

Family photos fill the shelves and walls telling their story from young marrieds to proud parents of two, daughter Reagan and son Connor. Sprinkled throughout are photos showcasing a shared love of sports. Lori is a physical education teacher at Discovery School. Reagan plays softball and basketball, while her younger brother plays basketball and flag football. Whit is the President of the Tennessee Golf Foundation, but he was both a player and a coach at Middle Tennessee State University for many years.

PRUDENT BUCOLIC STYLE

Building their home was a team sport. Whit and Lori worked with builder Jeff Wyatt of J.Wyatt Homes from a plan Lori created. The front porch offers plenty of protection on a cool fall day to sit on the porch swing and watch the kids play in the yard with their dog, Birdie. Or the family can gather on the back patio in over-stuffed couches and chairs by the gas fi replace to share cups of hot chocolate.

The front entry offers an immediate sense of Lori’s style, which she calls simple and traditional. A plain wooden bench with a tan tuxedo seat and an uncomplicated decorator cabinet with a French country feel provide opportunities to set the scene for the home and the season. An assortment of pumpkins are scattered among family photos on the cabinet. A pillow on the bench warns that dog kisses may be coming your way if you choose to enter. Her favorite places to shop for décor and accessories are Marshall’s, Kirkland’s and Hobby Lobby.

“I’m a little frugal when it comes to my shopping,” said Lori. She may be frugal, but she never skims on style. There is a rustic country feel to the home with lots of distressed and faded woods, as well as a few repurposed items handed down from family, which have been painted with milk paint. These include an old player piano that sits in the front guest room and a well-loved dressing table that can be found in Reagan’s bedroom. Both belonged to Lori’s grandmother.

One bit of whimsy that can be found not just in the entry, but everywhere, are pillows. Lori loves to use them in trios, changing them with the seasons, or the part of the house. On the iron daybed in the guest room sits a grouping of pillows with one reflecting the fall season. In Connor’s room, they are shaped like balls from various sports, as his room has a locker room theme. And pillow’s in Reagan’s room are glitter.

The main feature of the home is a large open kitchen and family room with an oversized island using cabinetry from Steve Westbrooks Custom Cabinets, tile from City Tile and floors from JJs Hardwoods. Next to the island sits a hand-hewn table made by Southern Table Company with plenty of room for friends and family to gather and enjoy each other’s company.

“Relationships are a priority for our family,” said Lori, “and we love entertaining, so we’re always looking for reasons to have family and friends over for ballgames, birthdays or just a great summer day! Once COVID settled in, we felt like we needed to do our part to help slow the spread, so for a couple months we stayed home. We have since had family and a few friends over, but only in very small groups.”

They have an extensive area for entertaining in their back yard with a pool, outdoor kitchen with a grill and a custom fire pit. Because they love to spend so much time outside, they also put in a great sound system from EnterSource, located in Whit’s hometown of Shelbyville.

“The grill is always hot in the summer months,” said Whit, “and we spend lots of time around
the fire pit in the fall.”

“We love being outdoors,” added Lori, “so from the very beginning we knew we wanted room to roam around, ride four wheelers, have bonfires, stare at the stars, swim and just enjoy being outside, which is why we bought eight and a half acres. Golf is close to our family, so why not have a putting green in the back yard?!?!”

Lots of windows and natural light inside bring that outdoor feel inside. While the hardscape, created by Matthew Neal of Tennessee Design and Construction, the pool constructed by Kevin Sparks Pools, the concrete by Dan Frantz Concrete and the putting green by GOAT turf, likewise flow with the design of the indoor living areas. All of the design and decoration was done by Lori.

Upstairs there is a large recreation room so the entertaining and family gatherings can continue during the winter. And the large screen television is where Connor can be found on lazy days playing Minecraft.

SPECIAL FAMILY OCCASIONS

Both Whit and Lori have small personal collections in the house and then there is their collection of family photos. Lori likes Willow Tree Collection figurines and Whit has sports rings that he has received from championships.

“I like the Willow Creek Collection pieces because they are simple,” said Lori. “Not a lot of color in them. They are scattered around the house and each one has a meaning. There is our wedding. The birth of our children.”

Another collection is of annual family photos taken by Kristen Jacks Photography. Going up the front stairs is a selection of their children’s photos, some of them are framed in barn wood from buildings on Carolina Farms, which belonged to her family but has since been sold.

One of the prized collections in the family is Whit’s game rings, which Connor just added to when his team won their league championship.

“It is fun and cool that my son got to put one in there,” said Whit. Whit has a number of rings in the case that are very special to him, especially the one from 2008, which was his first year as head coach of the golf team at Middle Tennessee State University. It was the same year they went to the national championship and placed 15th. The highest of any team in MTSU history.

IT ALL STARTED AT MTSU

“We met in an English class during our sophomore year at MTSU,” said Lori. “It was love at first sight! We got married and moved to Tullahoma right after graduation. I taught. Whit worked and played professional golf the first few years of our marriage. We then came back to Murfreesboro so he could coach the golf team at MTSU. After 13 years of coaching, he became the Senior Associate Athletic Director and has since moved on to the Tennessee Golf Foundation. We love MTSU and Murfreesboro and wanted to stay here, even though Whit commutes to Franklin every day to Golf House Tennessee.”

While Whit commutes, Lori works on the front lines as a teacher. It has been stressful being on the frontline, but she is so glad schools are open again and that she is back in the classroom with her kids.

“We have tremendous leadership in both the Murfreesboro and Rutherford County schools,” said Lori. “But things have been different since the loss of Linda Gilbert, she was definitely an advocate for children.”

COVID has also affected the Tennessee Golf Foundation, suspending programs for almost 10 weeks. Whit was able to reopen the program right after Memorial Day. “We reach almost 40,000 kids each year from Bristol to Memphis,” said Whit, “so it was a tremendous challenge making sure staff and our kids were safe while reopening programming, but we
knew we needed to be active, so we went to great lengths to get reopened. Our numbers in 2020 are outpacing 2019 despite being closed in the spring. That speaks to the quality and work ethic of our personnel. I am blessed to be surrounded by so many great people. Golf in Tennessee is booming.” The organization provides affordable golf, including 36 First Tee locations that make golf accessible to at risk kids.

With the weekend giving the family a chance to relax and unwind from the stresses of modern-day life, they contemplate how they will spend the rest of the day. Perhaps it is time to prepare the fire pit for a quiet evening together looking at the stars. Birdie rushes out to check things out and give his okay as the afternoon moseys away toward evening.

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