A builder and homeowner create a home that honors family — past, present and future

By Hollie Deese

Interior photography by Leslie Brown
Exterior photography by Reed Brown

Dionne Dewitte knew there was one element that had to be incorporated into the design of her Nashville dream home: the stone lion from her grandmother Marie’s garden, a heavy piece she had played on over and over as a little girl.

Family is important to Dewitte. A Lipscomb grad, she had left the Nashville area for a long time and then moved back from Michigan five years ago because of family ties — including her twin sister living here. She approached Alan Looney at Castle Homes about a custom build, and she worked with him to get exactly what she wanted and needed in a house.

“We have four children, and I wanted to have a space that was timeless as well as good for entertaining,” she says. “I wanted to have it very functional for our family with lots of storage, so I had them create walk-in closets everywhere — even in my family room. They don’t have as many choices as they used to, but there’s still a lot of games and puzzles and books and stuff like that. Where do people put all this?”

In addition to the walk-in closets, she also leaned on Looney and his team to install built-ins as many places as possible to avoid dressers and other bulky storage pieces. Plus it makes sense on a resale level. If someone wanted to convert just about any room into a bedroom it would be no trouble at all.

“Everything you see inside that house — flooring, cabinetry, tile, backsplashes, lighting, built-in ceiling details — we design in-house,” Looney says.

One of Dewitte’s favorite parts of her house is the prep kitchen with a second refrigerator and a bar that leads to the walk-in pantry. It’s the perfect place to get things ready, execute them and stage them for later when friends and family come over.

“I can have a kitchen mess in another spot rather than having it all out when I entertain,” she says. “And my mother thinks that my kitchen eating area is the prettiest she’s ever seen.”

Even the laundry room features a standout view and so much storage that the cabinet maker Castle Homes brought on site commented it was the nicest one he had ever worked on. With four children — ages 17, 14, 12 and 8 — it was the kind of everyday, utilitarian space that could easily be dreary but was made anything but with tons of space, windows and style.

It is also the perfect first stop for sorting everyone’s assortment of gear. Dewitte had a locker with a door made for each child with shelves and hanging bars inside so anything she finds around the house that belongs to them can be easily stashed inside.

Dewitte turned to friend and designer Melissa Howser for help making sure every room lived up to its full potential.

One space that does is the covered outdoor area. It’s great for entertaining almost all year round, and it got used to its full potential in the 2020 pandemic era.

“We want to be out there all the time,” Dewitte says, adding that they’re glad they decided to put so much emphasis on the outdoors.

Looney worked with Memphis-based Looney Ricks Kiss architects (some sort of distant relation) on the 7,000-square-foot modern English home, and Michael Baldwin of Outdoor Ink on the landscape design and hardscapes by the front entrance.

“This home is more of a contemporary retreat with smooth lines and architectural details, like the limestone around the entrance of the porch in front, and the landscaping,” Looney says. “One aspect that was really important to her was incorporating this stone lion she had.”

And so now her grandmother Marie’s lion gets prime real estate out front, greeting guests in the most grand fashion. And there’s more — in the backyard Dewitte has a standing lion sculpture that also belonged to her grandmother; it was one of a pair of 1970s lawn ornaments.

“They are very tacky, white marble stone,” Dewitte says. “But they’re a treasure to me.”

It makes Dewitte think of Marie every time she sees the lions, and she often wonders what Marie would think of the home her granddaughter is living in now.

“She was a champion cotton picker from Piggott, Arkansas, and was the hardest-working, most wonderful Christian woman. And she had a huge impact on my life,” Dewitte says. “My sister and I went through all the ways that our grandmother had influenced our life: She taught us how to work, how to cook for a crowd, how to study the Bible. She was just an amazing woman with a great legacy. So anything I have of hers I treasure, and the fact that it’s sitting out in front of this house — it’s very dear to me.”