Wow Factor

Story by Lee Rennick
Photos by Allison Elefante (interior), John Houston (exterior), Elizabeth Scott and Lee Rennick

Arriving at the gated entrance to the “estate” of Tonya and Chad Sweeney, beyond lies a standout iron ore colored, ultra-modern, farmhouse-influenced home with a sharp gabled roof, asymmetrical dormers, and light wood accents. Surrounded by minimalist landscaping, the compound stands out against the rustic farm land it sits upon. 

Designed by Tonya Sweeney, the five-acre homestead, now for sale, includes a main house; a detached guest house perfect for in-laws, a college age child or a nanny; a pool and pool house; an outdoor kitchen with a covered dining area; two garages that will hold five cars; and pasture land beyond perfect for horses. 

“I hand-drew what I wanted the house to look like, and then worked with an architect – Brent James of James and Associates in Murfreesboro, Tennessee – and he turned it into design plans,” explained Sweeney. “It all started with an idea for a dramatic entry hall.”

The blond wood fluted entry hall is accented with a black built-in credenza, an oversized white canvas painted by Sweeney, black accents and ultra-unique brass accented lighting from Ferguson’s. Natural light streams in through an oversized black steel framed aluminum glass paned front door. 

Captivated by the work of her favorite interior designer, Ann Marie Barton, Sweeney loves how Barton uses natural and textural elements to build her lavish, large scale designs. Barton believes in creating spaces that are simple, livable, timeless, and authentic. She calls her style “Organic Modern,” although she draws from many styles, including contemporary, modern, mid-century modern, Danish modern, industrial, farmhouse, rustic, and art deco. 

While Barton’s influence can be seen in Sweeney’s work, she very much adds her own twist. For one thing, Sweeney has a deep sense of scale. Her home has a more intimate feel than those designed by Barton without losing the sense of grandeur. 

Both designers share the love of using the interplay of textures and eclectic materials to build up the drama in a room, as well as an ability to give a sense of the vintage-inspired Grand Millennial while keeping things pared down to a minimalist essence. 

Sweeney is Driven by Creativity

“Tanya has creativeness like I’ve never seen,” says her friend and Realtor Talinda Vezina. “This is how she has to get it out. By designing a home, including all of the features, even the furnishings.”

Sweeney has designed, built, lived in, and sold five homes in seven years. She started by building a home on Threet Road in Christiana. It got lots of attention, so they sold it and built a second on Hughes. That one got lots of attention, too. So, they sold it and built another. Most of the homes she has designed have been sold with the buyer also purchasing all of the furniture.

“The first one we sold to a country music artist who didn’t have time to deal with furnishing their home, so they bought all of the furnishings and décor, too,” explained Sweeney. “The second we sold to a guy who admitted to having no idea how to go about furnishing his new home, plus he liked how everything worked with the design of the home. Buying the furniture saves the need to hire an interior designer as I have curated it specifically for each home. They are all different.”

Each home Sweeney has built, with her husband acting as the builder, has been unique. She likes to stretch herself as she pulls everything together – from every inch of the floor plan to every cabinet pull to every stick of furniture. 

Furniture and accessories for this Cedar Grove home were sourced from Anthropologie, Arhaus, Ballard Designs, Crate and Barrel, Pottery Barn, Surya Social, and West Elm. She has also found items at Quality Furniture, Restoration Hardware, Southeast Salvage, and Meridian.

Sweeney begins with a vision of an architectural element. The last home she built, which sits next door to the current one, was designed around a central atrium with a live tree growing inside. The current one was inspired by creating something for a family, and the dramatic entryway. 

“I like the architectural part of it,” noted Sweeney, “the space planning and things like that…Every detail of the home is intentional.”

Sweeney feels that she got her desire to design a home top to bottom from her mother, who was a “do it all” kind of person who was always re-doing their family home. Plus, she added with a chuckle, she’s a bit of a control freak. 

Making Every Inch of Space Work

Planning the home, Sweeney hasn’t let one inch go to waste, allowing for massive amounts of well-designed and thought out custom storage. Every element works together throughout the home, and yet each room has an eclectic feel. For example, uncommon pulls are used in each room, and in some rooms, like the kitchen, there are several different types of pulls. 

There are lots and lots of built-ins, including a floating buffet in the dining room and a floating credenza in the living room. All are custom made by the Sweeneys’ business, C & M Custom Cabinets in Smyrna, Tennessee. 

“What is neat about the floor plan is that there are three suites downstairs,” said Sweeney. “I designed one with lots of extra cabinets to store my extra decor accessories.” 

After passing the living room, featuring a built-in wet bar and rounded organic shaped furniture with textured fabrics, there is one suite to the left, which could be used as an office, and another across the hall from it. 

The kitchen features floor to ceiling cabinets with glass shelving, plus all of the appliances are cabinet fronted, including the ice maker, two dish washers, and refrigerator. 

Off the kitchen is a massive laundry room complete with dog-washing shower and a large central table that can be used for folding or as a caterer staging space when entertaining. There is even more storage in the “Harry Potter closet” under the stairs that leads up to the second level. 

“When we had an open house for real estate agents the other night,” said Vezina, “the laundry room was where everyone wanted to hang out.”

Tucked off the laundry is the master suite, a trend that Sweeney says she is seeing more and more. The closet in the master suite offers glass doors to keep dust off clothing and lighted hanging rods. 

Making Bonus Space Livable Space

While many upstairs bonus rooms are often a second thought space filled with a jumble of toys and mis-matched hand-me-down furniture, Sweeney has planned every detail. Her goal was to make the upstairs the true living space for the family so that the downstairs could be reserved for entertaining. Both the upstairs and downstairs boast ten-foot ceilings, with 11-foot ceilings in the kitchen and living area.

Upstairs there are two bedrooms for kids, lots of cozy spaces to sit and read, a double desked study area, a large office space, a media room with surround sound, a game room, an additional laundry, a large bathroom and, of course, lots more storage. It also offers oodles of natural light. 

One fun feature upstairs is a hidden passage that runs from one of the children’s bedrooms into the bonus room area. 

The detached second garage offers a full open floor plan suite above with a kitchen, living and dining area, a bedroom, a laundry room, and a large screened in patio. The two-car garage can easily be used as a mancave, exercise room, yoga room or more entertainment space. 

“We’ve seen a rise in requests for homes with detached apartments for family members to stay for an extended time,” explained Vezina. “[And what] makes this space special is that all the features and finishes are the same as in the main house.” 

Outdoor Spaces Have Not Been Overlooked

“A home is not just its interior,” said Vezina, “so the outdoor living spaces should not be overlooked. Well-designed patios and decks are important for entertaining and daily living.”

Sweeney once again acted as the designer, using a design program to create the grounds. She and her husband then went to their favorite Randall Walker Farm in McMinnville to choose the plants they wanted. After placing them, they hired someone to do the planting. 

The center of their outdoor living is a pool that was built by Dream Acres Pool Company. From this central area, the Sweeneys have built a wheel of transitional outdoor living and entertaining spaces. 

Using High End Quality Materials

Like her favorite designer, Sweeney likes the use of fluted natural wood walls, natural shapes, and the texture of organic fabrics. She also keeps to black and white, and earth tones. 

Experimenting with trends, most of the furniture, including the built-ins, have rounded edges. Some with nubby fabrics and some with smooth surfaces. 

Sweeney’s end goal when designing this home was to create beautiful and engaging spaces for a family to live and grow in. As her favorite designer Barton says on her website, “By investing in beauty, you in turn live a more beautiful life.”
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