Southern Living Idea House

Southern Living Idea House on Display in Nashville

Abounding in ideas for the homeowner and interior decorator, the Southern Living Idea House at Fontanel Mansion is an amazing showcase of inspirational design elements. DSC_0595

Every year Southern Living selects a team of designers and builders to develop an Idea House that will inspire people to explore new possibilities in their own homes and gardens. Nashville earned that honor for 2013 and Fontanel, the former home of country music legend Barbara Mandrell, was chosen as the location.DSC_0626

Nestled in the hills of northern Davidson County on White’s Creek Pike, the Southern Living Idea House sits on a corner of the 136-acre property that is a tourist destination in its own right. When you’ve finished visiting the Idea House, you can enjoy lunch at the Italian Café Fontanella, take a tour of Nashville’s only music celebrity mansion open to the public, fly the zip line, or follow hiking and biking trails. In the warmer months, the Amphitheater in the Woods draws A-list concerts.


Inspired by a 150-year old Tennessee farmhouse, the Idea House built by Castle Homes is filled with expansive and inviting porches, soaring ceilings, antique barn wood beams, and natural light flooding in through clerestory windows.

The 2,800 square feet of porches stimulate lots of entertaining ideas. Sunbrella- covered sofas in bold, fresh stripes blend with an oversized porch swing hung from rope-wrapped chain.


Seagrass matting and stainless steel cable railings give a nautical feel. Decorative rain chains will have you eager to run home and change your downspouts before the next thunderstorm. rain chainThe main house, guest house, his and her apartments and a garage apartment create a U shape overlooking a private courtyard. The living area is expansive, uncluttered and so inviting, the biggest temptation is to find a quiet spot and hang out with a friend for a while.

The whole concept of the Idea House succeeds beyond your wildest expectations. You may go to a home show and see an idea here or there that takes your fancy. The Idea House draws you in to experience every creative nuance personally.

DSC_0604 Sink into a soft sofa while admiring rough wooden beams overhead in the living room; pull a leather-bound book off the study bookcase and savor the quite intimacy; feel the restful ambiance of a white bedroom and see the effects of different styles of shades and drapes; sit at a bar stool in the kitchen and run your hand over the smooth black walnut countertop. Who’s serving breakfast? You can almost smell the aroma of sizzling bacon and coffee brewing. Feel the weight of the heavy sliding wooden kitchen door, reclaimed from a Tennessee barn built in the early 1900s.

In collaboration with Castle Homes builders, the house was designed by the nationally renowned interior designer Phoebe Howard, architects Historical Concepts, and Page/Duke Landscape Architects. Howard will surprise you with unexpected fabrics and trims used on window treatments, surprising colors on cabinetry, walls and ceilings. Each of the six bedrooms has its own distinct style, bound to offer appealing ideas for every taste.DSC_0619

The main house and cottages face beautifully landscaped gardens that welcome visitors as they enter the property. The gardens are a mixture of magnolias, boxwood, hydrangeas and indigenous plants that conserve water and require little upkeep.

You can pick up a handbook that lists the source of every design element in the house, enabling you to reproduce any part of it.

Chances are you will leave the Southern Living Idea House and see your own home in a fresh light, stimulated to experiment with new ideas gleaned. My laundry was first on my list for a complete makeover. The very next weekend it was well underway!

DSC_0585The Southern Living Idea House is open for tours Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-3 p.m. till December 29, 2013. Tickets are $12 and can be purchased on site. A portion of the proceeds benefits St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital and you can see artwork from patients in St. Jude’s hanging in the Research Center.

The home will be decorated for the holidays by November 8, and next year it will become a Luxury Boutique Hotel scheduled to open on February 7, 2014. If you fall in love with the Idea House at Fontanel, you’ll be able to come back and enjoy it as a guest!

What project does the Idea House inspire you to start?

Hi! I’m Dayle Fergusson. As a transplanted Aussie living in Middle Tennessee since 1986, I have been a freelance travel...Read on

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