Jimmy and Betty Barton Blythe became enamored with the Monteagle Mountain community while their daughter was a student at the University of the South.
The Alabama couple retired to Sewanee, Tenn., in 1998, settling into a home that seamlessly blends with the beauty of its wooded surroundings. Four years ago, they began a remodeling project that repurposed rooms and increased living space to accommodate their love for entertaining as well as treasured collections of antique furnishings, books and photos.
Mrs. Blythe turned to Susan LeSourd, whom she had met through a mutual acquaintance, for assistance in sourcing fabrics and redecorating her rooms.
The result of their collaboration is a savvy juxtaposition of natural materials (wood and stone), textured fabrics and soft, serene tones. The decor neither detracts from the exterior grandeur of the mountain setting nor the interior’s elegant Federal and English antique pieces.
Making It Work
Here are four ways the Blythes created a home that interacts with its environment.
• To fully capture the impressive view at the rear of the house, the former screened porch was replaced with a spacious living room whose back wall is an impressive expanse of glass from floor to vaulted ceiling.
Oak flooring was installed throughout the house during the remodel. The Blythes expanded the use of oak in the living room, incorporating oak paneling and custom built-in shelving. The result is the illusion of little break between the wood of the room and that of the mountain forest beyond the wall of windows.
• LeSourd chose a linen velvet sofa in a rich chocolate brown to anchor the spacious living area. The sofa’s color complements upholstered accent chairs in creams and earth tones. A bold Shumacher Tree of Life fabric on side chairs and pillows ties all colors together.
“The beautiful berry-red Oriental rug told us to add a large, inviting sofa in a luscious brown ... mossy greens and vibrant golds were also added,” LeSourd said.
The room is an interesting blend of textures.
It combines glass windows, oak floor and paneling with marble insets in a wood-and-metal-framed sofa table. Nearby the sofa is a massive, 8-foot French cabinet that Blythe believes probably held priests’ vestments and altar pieces.
• Blythe adds warmth to her home by prominently displaying family treasures. The first artwork visitors see entering the new entry foyer is an oil piece by their daughter, Ellen Fennel Blythe.
The Blythes removed everything from the living room’s built-ins, then LeSourd organized and replaced books intermingled with interesting accent pieces. The result is a look that’s uncluttered, functional and a showcase for a collection of volumes.
A bedroom hallway was transformed into a photo gallery when the couple had more than 50 family photos framed for hanging.
• Antique furnishings passed to the Blythes from their parents add elegance throughout the house, but the heavy statement pieces are softened with judicious fabric choices in light neutral shades.
Layering old with new adds visual interest to every room.
“Incredible antique chests are next to new upholstery. Botanical prints are next to original oil paintings by the Blythes’ daughter. Delicate bird nests sit next to antique books. It’s layered but not cluttered,” said LeSourd.
“It’s this mix — sophisticated yet inviting — that gives this house soul.”
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...