Story by Hollie Deese
Photography by Jay Winter
Portrait by Anthony Scarlati
It’s your typical story of boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl move to a place they pinned on a map. Or something like that.
Samantha and Eric Coghlan met at gemology school in San Diego 14 years ago, and their connection was instant and strong. He was a third generation jeweler by trade and she had started her own jewelry company at 16, so after school they started a family – sons Cash and Ozzy – and moved to Santa Barbara where they opened a jewelry store inside a wine tasting room.
But they were also in California to care for Samantha’s ailing mother, so after she died they were ready to leave and try something new. And they were in a position as independent business owners to go anywhere in the world.
“We had a bunch of pins on the map, from New Zealand to Sun Valley, where I grew up, Boulder, Austin, and we went and the only place we didn’t look at was New Zealand,” she says.
Well, New Zealand and one other place. Eric is from Kosciusko, Mississippi, right off the Natchez Trace and often spoke of an idyllic Tennessee town he visited as a teenager – Leiper’s Fork.
“We actually had an offer on a house in Boulder, Colorado, and Eric said to me ‘There’s one place that we haven’t been,’ which was on the map, which is Leiper’s Fork. We had agreed we were going to look at all these places, and he had talked about it for as long as I’d known him. It had always left a big impression on him.”
And so it happened some friends of theirs had purchased some property and they packed up the family and came to visit for the Fourth of July in 2013
“And not two hours after stepping foot in Leiper’s Fork, I looked at Eric and said, ‘You know this is it, right?’ They started looking for houses that trip and moved two weeks later.
“I can’t imagine calling anywhere else home,” she says.
They purchased their first home on Joseph Street, a 1,200-square-foot farmhouse that for four people and three dogs was a little tight. So when they sold their place out west they bought a larger home down the road and began getting that cottage ready for Eric’s parents to stay.
Then Eric’s father suddenly passed away and instead they tested the waters renting it out as a vacation property.
“It is walking distance into the village, less than five minutes, and it’s a great, cute house so we thought we’d see how this goes,” she says.
It went well, and about eight months later one of the guys who was cleaning the property for them came flying up their driveway to tell them the house across the street was for sale by owner and they had to look – while they were also in escrow on another property that had recently come available on the same street.
“We just got an accepted offer two days before that. So we went down and this house sold furnished, and ultimately how we would want it to be in the end. They had done really good job in updating it and renovating it and on a handshake, we bought that house.”
So they closed escrow on those two cottages within days of each other and that was the beginning of Pot N’ Kettle Cottages, consisting of Coda Cottage, Tin Roof Cottage and Pickers Cottage.
A little over a year ago they purchased Leiper’s Fork Inn too, which they felt was the missing puzzle piece to the whole thing. Larger, with capabilities as an event space, it was still within walking distance into Leiper’s Fork and draw for weddings, girlfriends meeting up for a weekend getaway or a group of cyclists traveling the Natchez Trace.
“We even get people in Nashville who just want a weekend in the country. A staycation, a little getaway where they can unwind and hear crickets and not worry about the city for a couple of days,” she says.
Samantha and Eric worked very closely together on the design of the cottages themselves, and did the majority of the work too, including completely updating the Inn.
“When we purchased that property it had changed hands several different times,” she says. “Every time furnished and every time unchanged. So it was pretty dated. It had been a vacation rental since it existed. It was well worn; well lived in.”
So they gutted the kitchen and built the cabinets themselves, Eric building the vanities for the bathrooms and repurposing some of the original fencing that was falling down around the property as a wall treatment inside the house.
“He’s great, because being a jeweler – I think we’re both creative and visionary – but he’s also very mechanically inclined and handy, which is great because sometimes I come up with these wild things.”
Like taking a World War II military tent she bought it not knowing what she was going to do with and hanging it up in a very small room.
“A lot of what I hear from guests is that they love the eclectic feel and that the homes make them feel happy when they walk in them,” she says. “They can tell that there’s a very personal touch put on them. It’s not your average hotel room. There’s stuff found locally and pieces that we’ve made or repurposed. I like a mix of modern and vintage.”
Fully booked they can accommodate about 34 people across all the cottages, and even host their own family reunions and friendly gatherings now. Musicians come to stay and can walk to a nearby recording studio, and everyone gets tips and referrals about all the best Leiper’s Fork has to offer.
“I definitely try to be somewhat of a concierge service for people,” she says. “I deal with every single guest. I answer every single phone call and email and I love it. I truly enjoy it because I love where I live and I love for people to come and experience it. I want it to be the best it possibly can because it’s not just my houses, it’s the whole community that’s going leave the impression on them. That’s going to want to make them return so I want them to have the full experience.”