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. :)



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