Danny Gilbert started visiting auctions years ago to fill up the one-bedroom home where he lived after a divorce.
"Auctions were the cheapest place I knew to buy furniture," he chuckles at the memory. "I got to where I liked antiques. I started going all the time, buying pieces until I didn't have space to put any more."
Gilbert, assistant principal at Signal Mountain Middle-High School, a math teacher and wrestling coach with 36 years experience and a former high-school wrestler, is well-known in sports circles for his coaching success as well as 28 years of referee experience.
Imagine his friends' surprise when, in 1998, the single coach bought a three-story, 3,800-square-foot home on Missionary Ridge to ramble around in.
Visitors will find it quite an anomaly: Half the home is done in the expected bachelor decor (big-screen TVs and recliners) which contrasts wildly with bedrooms that could be sets from "Downton Abbey."
The guy who lived in the world of half-nelsons has proven just as knowledgeable about half-testers, four-posters and antique armoires. He has gradually been building an impressive collection of vintage bedroom furnishings.
The focal point of each bedroom is a four-poster, which can all be summed up in one adjective: massive.
All stand between 71/2 to 8 feet in height and each easily weigh in at several hundred pounds, with the largest being nearly 500 pounds, says Gilbert. Three of the beds have tester frames to convert them to canopy beds.
Steve Henry, assistant principal at Soddy-Daisy High School, will attest to the size and weight of the vintage furnishings. He helped grapple with them up two flights of stairs.
"They are monstrosities to say the least. I've helped move those things in and set them up. But they are definitely eye-appealing," says Henry.
"Danny is my girls' godfather, and we're all old wrestling coaches. Once a year, we all have a get-together, usually at Danny's house. Since we live way up in Soddy-Daisy, we (his family) usually stay over there that night," he adds.
An antique half-tester fills one-third of Gilbert's master bedroom. Its half-canopy features tufted cream damask, overhanging an ornately carved headboard with cartouche.
"I remember walking in and seeing it and going, 'Wow!' I'd never seen one like it before," Gilbert recalls.
He says he got "a steal" on the antique because its 8-foot height made it too tall for most homes, but perfect for his 10-foot ceiling.
Gilbert angled the bed between two windows "because one of my old girlfriends turned her bed like that and I liked it, so I tried to copy it. Being a guy, it's hard to figure out what goes and doesn't go."
The beauty of each four-poster is found in the design of its vertical bedposts. A mahogany, pencil-style four-poster features rope-twist bedposts. The walnut, 400-plus-pound canopy bed in the guest room stands sturdily on thick bedposts designed to resemble Corinthian columns.
The design on the mahogany rice bed in the upstairs guest bedroom is elegant and stately. Rice beds, or plantation beds, were introduced in the 18th century to signify a planter's principal source of wealth, such as rice or tobacco, according to americanheritage.com. Gilbert's rice bed features a garland of tobacco leaves spiraling up its fluted bedposts.
The majority were purchased at auctions at Lawson's Antiques in Hixson, Gilbert says.
Although these vintage beds are investment pieces, Gilbert says hasn't built his collection for resale.
"I'm different from a lot of antiquers. I'm not buying to sell. I just see something I like, I buy it."