An 1800s Nashville House Becomes a Home

This story appears in the Spring 2015 issue of Eidé Magazine. Read it here, or click to read it in the issue below. 

Story by KENDALL MITCHELL GEMMILL | Photography by BROOKE MORGAN 

The line appears proudly underlined in a newspaper article, framed and hanging in the kitchen of a Princess Anne-style cottage in Nashville, Tenn.: “... the house exemplifies the basic historic fabric often overlooked.” Architect Hugh Cathart Thompson, who was most notable for designing Ryman Auditorium — home of the Grand Ole Opry — built the house in the late 1800s. The article is accompanied by a photo of a couple standing in front of a house, beaming at the camera. It was published in 1988, during the days when moving to East Nashville was “the new thing,” as described in the story. The couple had purchased the home and performed a complete renovation while maintaining its integrity, earning them a Metro Historic Commission Architectural Award.

It’s like déjà vu standing in front of the same Lockeland Springs neighborhood home, with the next generation of homeowners staring back having their photo taken. Chet Weise, of publishing house ThirdMan Books, purchased the house in 2004. The framed, newspaper clipping came with it. That, and carvings in the basement foundation reading “1899” and a separate one carved underneath it — “1999” — presumably by the couple in the newspaper photo. Weise’s girlfriend, cloth- ing designer Poni Silver, recently moved in and the pair braced themselves for what many couples experience at this important relationship juncture: the meshing of the two styles. “I already knew that Poni has style much more refined than mine, so I basically told her to do with it what she willed,” Weise says. Silver, however, did have quite the canvas to work with — several, in fact. “It was a gallery space,” she claims. “We weren’t even using the rooms, just walking around looking at all the art on the walls.”

Their worlds, in actuality, have more similarity than they thought. Weise collects quirky art and Silver just happened to come with an arsenal of salvaged, vintage furniture and decorative accents perfectly compatible with his eccentric collection. The living room houses two Keith Harmon paintings — one being displayed on the hood of a ’72 Corvette Stingray placed above the mantle. “Keith’s main thing was to paint musicians as they performed. The Stingray isn’t really representative of his work; I just love it,” Weise says. Silver accents the bold, colorful paintings with more modern, geometric furniture. There’s a pentagonal coffee table offsetting the sectional with the long, arc-shaped lamp extending over it. The dining room transitions to works by Tim Kerr and other accents reflective of the couple’s personal interests. Kerr’s painting of a Japanese samurai hangs beside other artifacts, signifying Weise’s love for martial arts. Beside that, Silver keeps a bar cart stocked with a collection of Dorothy Thorpe drinkware she’s been hunting to complete. “I just found the ice bucket in a thrift store in Florida!” she exclaims. On the other side of the mantle a guitar is displayed in pieces. “It was signed by James Brown and I smashed it in Athens, Ga., in a hot-blooded moment,” Weise says. “I felt really guilty and ridiculous about it so I had a friend turn it into an art piece.”

The pair float through their home, laughing and beaming at each other, much like the newspaper couple. They jokingly refer to their shared love of panthers and Mamajuana (an herbal, red wine and rum concoction that claims medicinal properties, as well as being a powerful aphrodisiac). It’s almost humorous how seamless their personal styles have merged. Weise’s two cats are even starting to warm to her precocious, rescue pup, Gigi. 

“Poni moving in, means it’s not my own little world anymore. Not just figuratively, but literally. I never thought about it until neighbors would tell me, but that before she came along, I had, like, one couch to sit on and nothing else in there. If someone was already on the couch, everyone else got the floor. Poni has made it much more of a welcoming house- hold.” -Weise 

“Poni moving in, means it’s not my own little world anymore. Not just figuratively, but literally. I never thought about it until neighbors would tell me, but that before she came along, I had, like, one couch to sit on and nothing else in there. If someone was already on the couch, everyone else got the floor. Poni has made it much more of a welcoming house- hold.” -Weise 

"When I first moved to town I worked at Savant Vintage. The owner, Beverly, gave me these silver-rimmed roly poly glasses from the ’50s and ’60s by Dorothy Thorpe. I instantly became obsessed and started collecting them.” -Silver 

"When I first moved to town I worked at Savant Vintage. The owner, Beverly, gave me these silver-rimmed roly poly glasses from the ’50s and ’60s by Dorothy Thorpe. I instantly became obsessed and started collecting them.” -Silver 

"Almost all of the art in here is artists from this neighborhood or friends.” -Weise 

"Almost all of the art in here is artists from this neighborhood or friends.” -Weise 

 "A local artist named Rachel Briggs designs the ‘Poetry Sucks’ (a hybrid reading/live music event founded by Weise) posters for me. I imagine we’ll have another one in April ...” -Weise 

 "A local artist named Rachel Briggs designs the ‘Poetry Sucks’ (a hybrid reading/live music event founded by Weise) posters for me. I imagine we’ll have another one in April ...” -Weise