A daughter helps her mother brighten up Belle Meade home

Story by Hollie Deese
Photography by Paige Rumore

Cynthia Hickerson and her husband were looking for a refresh on the five-bedroom Belle Meade home they had lived in for 17 years – no drastic changes to the bones of the house, just some mixing in of new colors and pieces with family treasures and collections.

So rugs, paintings and draperies were all updated by designer Blaire Murfree, who brought in some more contemporary pieces to update the traditional ones. Even the super-traditional wood-paneled library got a burst of energy with some Bohemian-influenced furniture and bold modern art.

“It was easy for them,” Murfree says of their making the bold choices. “They already used a lot of colors and a lot of pattern, but bringing in a few more modern patterns — they were on board for that, and for making the yellow more current. There was a time period when everything was maroon and yellow.”

It also helped that the empty-nesters trusted Murfree completely — after all, she is Cynthia’s daughter. Murfree knows Hickerson’s style, so when she did push her mom past the comfort zone, her mom was comfortable enough with her to just say so — no hemming and hawing with a designer you don’t want to offend.

“We’ll fight over something, but it’s in a catty way. For the most part, I just know her so well, it’s easy. She’s really blunt, but she’s pretty hip for a mom,” Murfree says.

That’s evident in unexpected pieces like the animal-print piano bench in the foyer of the colorful home.

The piano itself? That’s all Blaire, her mom says — a gift from her father before he passed away suddenly at the age of 46.

“Her daddy got it for her when she was five years old,” Hickerson says. “He died when she was 12, so it’s part of her. It is so special. Those things you just can’t let go of. And you’re not supposed to.”

Murfree is a believer in using things that you already have, things that have a story or have been passed down through a family. “I don’t think that we need to throw those out just so everything’s new in the house,” she says. “I think they make your house have character. They’re what makes your house a home.”

It’s definitely a sentiment she learned from her mother, who collects Herend porcelain and holds on to pieces passed down through her family.

“I love to collect things, because it’s my past,” Hickerson says. “It’s my upbringing. And it probably helped develop my style. I’m a big one on mixing old and new. Blair’s big at that. She’s also big at mixing old and new.”

That mix is done to perfection on a pair of French chairs in Fortini fabric that belonged to Hickerson’s mom, along with some modern art near a pearlized console that was painted by Murfree’s daughters, 7 and 4, for their grandmother for her 70th birthday.

“What’s better than to have a conversation starter in your home that’s either some unique thing that you found, or a great piece of art or some stuff that’s been passed down,” Murfree says. “And you can’t really say that if everything looks like it just came off of a shipment floor. I think, especially in the South, people love to hold onto history, and also that the people in our lives take part in our homes.”