Tuesday, February 3, 2015

A House Fit for a King (Estate sale at a 1940 Tudor riverfront house)

Good morning!

Hope you all are staying warm wherever you're reading this, as it is positively glacial in Nashville, Tennessee! It's been a great long weekend for me-- I took Friday off to visit friends in Memphis, who showed us the BEST goldurn time the 901 had to offer. However! As I was going to miss a whole weekend worth of estate sales, I managed to squeeze in two just before I left Davidson County. One was a little forties' house off of Nolensville Road, chockablock with vintage clothes that were all about a size two (darn that dream), and the other....well, the other was this one.

(("Theme from Tara" here))

I had my mind made up to skip both sales in the interest of travel time, before my mom called me the night before. The conversation went something like this:

She: What time are you leaving tomorrow?
Me: Early-ish.
She: Like after eight?
Me: Definitely after eight.
She: You're gonna to want to see this one house before you go out of town.
Me: I am?
She: Uh, yeah, I'm pretty sure you will.
Me: Where is it?
She: It's in Madison down by the river.

Madison? Down by the river? I scoffed. While I spent many of my formative years in this suburb of Nashville, lo-o-o-ong before the East side became popular, the idea of crossing over to "the wrong" side of Gallatin Road in Madison did not hold much appeal. Behind the commercial district is a labyrinth of sixties' and seventies' apartment complexes and houses on streets with weird fairytale names like Peter Pan Road and Cinderella Drive. It's almost like the subdivision people were trying to add insult to injury-- here, live in this shoebox of a fifties' house on a street you don't even want to print on a Christmas card. "You live WHERE?" This house had a nondescript, Perrault-less address, just beyond the apartments, and on a dead end street, the property line terminating in the Cumberland River. "Wouldn't hurt," I thought, and after appealing to Matthew's better nature ("Do you want to go? Well, I guess we'd better go then!" quoted my favorite partner in crime), we drove up past a pair of wrought iron gates and were already pretty impressed.

And that was before we went inside. Whoooo boy. Fasten your seatbelts.

Now, being a dyed-in-wool estate saler, I have been to a LOT of houses over the last ten years. Small houses, big houses....million dollar addresses in Franklin and musty four square Victorians in Belmont, cottages in Old Hickory and once a penthouse condo in Bellevue on the twenty third floor (though the elevator button was haughtily labelled simply "P"...didn't I get a kick out of pressing it, like I was on my way up to Franchot Tone's 1930's abode!). AND YET, I don't know that I have ever been so surprised by a house in all my estate saling days. It went on, and ON , and on, and each room was just as elaborate and extravagant as the last.

Remember how I want to live exactly as say our-Joan-Crawford-who-art-in-heaven did in 1936? Um, this is the house I would need to execute that dream to the fullest extent of the law (barring time travel and/or a six million dollar time capsule style house in Holmby Hills). Get Matthew an ascot and a pipe, let me slip into something bias cut, put some Fletcher Henderson on the phonograph, and LET ME DREAM. I can't even describe this next picture to you without bursting into tears, so just look:


((Anguished cry)) IS NOT EXACTLY AS I DESCRIBED IT? I would axe the giraffe and replace the couch with something boxier, but are you seeing the lighted chandelier style wall sconces? The high, dark overhead beams and the dark windows leading out to the patio? The dadblamed arches? Judas wept. Let's take a closer look at the back wall there:

Yep, still perfect. Davidson County Webpro data (my go-to site for finding out about other-people's-houses) dates the building to 1940. I love thinking of the swellegant people who would have lived here at the time and what their furniture must have looked like. Even these latter day tenants were kind to the house, putting a kind of Hollywood Regency spin on the interiors. While, owing to the many treasures from the Orient and wild exotic fabrics in the basement rooms and an addition, this one estate sale attendee in track pants kept breathing, "Musta been some kinda foreign people lived here. Nobody from around here would have stuff like this...", he was actually dead wrong-- the folks who lived here for several decades were actually from a tiny rural town north of Hendersonville and (from what I could find) lived in middle Tennessee all of their lives! You don't have to have a dramatic lineage or origin story to have dramatic flair (see: yours truly). The woman of the house ran a relatively famous nightclub in the Madison area for many years-- and if the house is anything to judge its owners by, she and her husband had a lot of vim and vigor to them!

Missing: threadbare Persian rug, movie screen that is hidden behind a tapestry....me.

This is one of enclosed patios with a full-fledged view of the Cumberland. My dad mentioned while we were gossiping about how impressive the place was that a) that was a million dollar view of the river and b) the people who lived here must have loved to entertain, as there were probably forty chairs in ten or twelve different seating areas complete with wet and dry bars! Again, I want to be this person.

This room actually made me suck air through my teeth. OH. MY. GOD. It looks like something from one of those David Hicks books on interior design, maybe Decorating with Fabrics? Because that's exactly what's going on here-- the walls are the same fabric as the drapes, as the settee, as the accent pillows:

Something about the wood tones and the white, white ceiling with all this pattern is so jaw-droppingly gorgeous...at one point looking around, Matthew, impressed, stage whispered, "I wonder what they're asking for this place?" I guess he was given hope by the down-at-the-heels neighborhood that we'd been through to get to the riverside mansion area. That and my sweet Bub has no idea how much houses cost. Already having looked it up on my phone out of curiosity, I balefully rejoined, "Wellllll, it's $550,000, and it's already under contract," ((cue me singing "I Can't Live" by Harry Nilsson while performing a sorrowful supercut of all the wonderful times I would have had in this house)). Oh, it's cool. That's just like, over twice our reach price. In for a penny, in for a pound, right? I'm still staying out of the real estate market this year, but good God, why can't I live here.

Here in the bedroom, I once again stifled a gasp. Ok, those ruched curtains, that brocade wallpaper, MORE CHANDELIERS, and a quad-fold baroque mirror in front of a dainty little settee.

Which leads us up to the main focus of the boudoir. Um, excuse me, while I start listing all my furniture on Craigslist in the vain hope that I can redo my entire room to look like this. UUUUGH. Do you see...I mean, where do I even start? Crystal-roped headboard thing, sconce above the bed thing, and those tall, thin mirrors? The little bombe chest/nightstands? My tears fell like rain (not really, I'm super brave, but this was A TRIAL) :

I've packed my bags, I'm #ready2livehere.
My mom really didn't like the kitchen but I thought it was charming. Plus, who besides me do you think can reach those toppermost shelves with only a little help? I'm not sure what color I would paint them but some color, or maybe a less oatmeal, more white shade? If you thought you were impressed with the wallpaper reaching to the ceiling, in the words of Al Jolson, you ain't seen nothin' yet:

See, I could hide Christmas presents in the higher up cabinets. I hope our
kids are smaller like Matthew so I can retain my vertical advantage...
BAM. This room is fully committed to that wallpaper and it's so wingding it works! Update the appliances, lend me a couple hundred thousand dollars, and I am ready to move in!

Again, if this were my house, I would lay Spanish tile in this room and have it be the ballroom. A bantam sized one, sure, but how swank would it be to throw parties and instruct guests to "follow me into the ballroom for dancing and light refreshments." And with a house like this, it wouldn't look one jot out of place. Pappy kept mentioning Sunset Boulevard in his descriptions of this house and he's not wrong-- what an old world charm and new world verve the place must have had in 1940...and still has some almost 80 years later!

Have castanets, will travel.
One of like eight places you could eat dinner...again, a house after my own heart.
There were plenty of rooms in the bottom of the house where the basement was finished and a catacomb of bedrooms and sitting rooms and an office set up, along with a newer addition, but the top floor of the house was really the heart of the house. And was it ever still beating. I hope the new owners have a lot of happy years in these to die for rooms!

Want to see what I got at this sale (or that matter, things I've been hoarding up since the last)? I'll do a swag post soon! In the meantime, here I am via the She Was a Bird Instagram in one of the lady-of-the-house's many out of this world accessories, a hubcap sized vintage [Incan? Aztec? Meso-American?] pendant, which I am loathe to take off for how much I love it:

I both looked and felt that tired after a day at work, but I can't
resist a selfie!
Anyway, let me leave you with Fats Domino telling you how I feel about this house! I hope you're having a wonderful 2015! Any crazy estate sale finds? If you're a Nashvillite, did you go to this one? Have you ever been to a sale that you stepped back and went, "OH WHY do I not live here?!" Which room in this house is your favorite? Tell me all about it!! I'll be back before you know it with more vintage tips and quips. Stay warm!! We'll talk soon. :)



  1. What an unbelieveable house. If you would have said half of the pictures are scans from a mid-century magazine or insights into a musealized celebs-house, I would have totally believed it.
    What a great mixture of styles and epoques, now you made me want a patio with elephants in the windows above the doors and coats of arms in my dining room. Wait, this would presuppose an own coat of arms...oh, and a dining room. Oh stuff it...

    1. Haha, I would gladly borrow someone else's coat of arms! I kept walking around like "WHY. WHY DON'T I LIVE HERE." It was so gorgeous!! Sulk of the century. :)

  2. Oh, I am SO glad you took pictures so that I could see this house--I never made it out to Madison and now I'm deeply regretting that decision. We bought a white Hoosier for the booth at that condo sale in Green Hills....and a big fat pile of tiny vintage clothes at the Nolensville sale after the Mister threw elbows for some jadeite but didn't manage the Pyrex...ugh...we should have gone to Madison; I'm glad you enjoyed it and that necklace is a KILLER!

    1. I should have said, these photos are from the real estate listing...I wish I was that good of a photographer! ;) But I do credit my former reference librarian skills with finding these mostly-deleted pictures eventually through a Youtube video the realtor put up. I was going to link back to it but couldn't decide if the current owners would think that was tacky. Who can say!

      That Nolensville sale was a doozy, wasn't it? That one room full of clothes! I love the things you've had up on your instagram lately!!! There was a LOT of stuff at the Madison sale but not a lot of vintage... I ended up with that necklace, some other jewelry, and an insane...cape? Coat? I'm not sure what it is, but I bought it! I thought of you because the preview photos had a leopard skin rug, a real safari item like the zebra skin rug you told me you have...it was gone with the wind by the time I got there, though. Dommage!

  3. Wow!!! That house is definitely fit for Hollywood royalty! I'm with you; there is very little I'd change save the color of the cabinets. In CA, depending on the neighborhood, the house would easily be in the millions. $550K is way out of my reach but from the prices out west, it sounds downright affordable!

    1. I know! This house is SO PERFECT. I love how I won't pay more than $20 for pretty much anything but then when you start talking in the hundreds of thousands, this place sounds pretty reasonable at half a million! I'm going to have to get Matthew to have some smash hit single on the charts with a bullet so we can live somewhere like this some day...I didn't even know I wanted a house like this until I was in it and swooning away over the arches! All I need is this house, a leopard print turban, and a little cigarette pinky ring holder so I can live out my Norma Desmond fantasy life...

  4. oh man i took a week off (well i said i would, but there were two within walking distance of my house so i HAD to). i really really really wish i would have looked at the listings, that house is AMAZING

    1. Like I said to Lauren in the comment above, there wasn't a lot of our kind of smalls there but it was totally worth going to see the house. As I will no doubt see it in my dreams. I wish I had somewhere to put some of the furniture...and am a little sore I didn't get a shot at the (for real, glass eyes and everything) leopard skin rug in the preview pictures! Maybe next time.

      When I was driving to the Nolensville one I kept thinking, isn't this like RIGHT next to Rae and Travis's house? I hope you found some treasures!!

  5. Yes!!! That place was amazing! I can't remember if we went Thurs or Fri (haha) but at the time we were there it was overcast and gloomy so I didn't get great photos. Yours turned out wonderful! The only thing we picked up were some vintage 40s cocktail napkins. To be honest I just wanted to see the house after seeing it on estatesales.net! ;)

    1. I appropriated the pictures from a real estate listing, but as you can attest, it was just that attractive in real life! Wasn't it neat that they had like eight separate places to have friends over for cocktails? One should be so lucky!! I bet those napkins are cute!!

  6. oh my....I'm pretty sure that is all I'm going to be able to say in this comment section lol! That house and all that was in it, is amazing! What an estate sale. I seriously cannot wait to see what goodies you found.

    thanks for sharing this amazing home with us.

    Liz :)



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