A 1950s East Nashville tiny cottage is reinvigorated and customized

By Hollie Deese
Photography by Solomon Davis

After Denise Simons hosted Sean and Kim Feeney in her East Nashville Airbnb tiny house, complete with pool and indoor/outdoor living space, they were so impressed with what she had done they asked if she could help them redesign an old house they owned just three blocks away. The 1950s cottage dated, but it was the house Sean had grown up in, so it had a lot of meaning to them.

Everything about it appealed to Simons immediately, including the dated features.

“What I liked about the project is that it was a family home that he grew up in. And then the house sat vacant for a couple of years. So it still had green shag carpet in it when I walked in it for the first time,” she says.

The home had 8-foot ceilings in every room, so Simons had a draftsman knock out the ceiling to gain access to the attic space, raising the ceiling height to 22 feet.

And since this was the home they were going to live in and not one they were thinking about selling, Simons turned the four-bedroom, two-bath home into something with better flow — two master suites, each with its own en suite bathroom, walk-in shower, soaker tub and 12-foot-by-12-foot closets.

The idea of turning a four-bedroom into a two-bedroom would make most listing agents cringe, but it is one of Simons’ steadfast design philosophies to design for how you live, not for resale.

“I look at a home as a place of refuge, a place of comfort, a place of joy,” Simons says. “A place where you live real life, where you get phone calls from your family of joy that someone’s been born or sadness that someone has died. It’s the everyday sit, stand, lie down. I mean, you are living, truly living. And I want your home to be an experience.”

On one end of the house is the living room and kitchen, dining room in the middle and on the other end is Sean’s man suite, with a combination sofa and queen Murphy bed.

That bathroom is painted obsidian, so it looks like black velvet, and the silver-leafed chest operating as the vanity was something that already belonged to Kim. It was something she loved but had resigned herself to giving up because she could not imagine anywhere in the house it would work.

But Simons immediately thought of the bathroom. Combined with a slate countertop and backsplash and stone sink with waterfall faucet from Southeastern Salvage, it was a slam dunk.

And something the homeowner would likely not have thought of without help.

“That’s the kind of stuff I love to do,” Simons says. “What is it that you love or you just can’t get rid of? Let’s reuse it in a different way. If people allow me, because I’m a visionary, I see the end result. Then I work backwards. And I really do specialize in the end user.”

And in this case, that included Poppy, their dog.

“They’ve always had a dog or cat, and they didn’t want any wood flooring. They wanted all tile, so all of the tile flooring is done with planks that are the faux wood,” she says.

Simons loves mixing reclaimed with modern, so in the kitchen is a reclaimed door from an old factory on a big barn slider, and outside in the “she shed” are some trim and corbels Simons picked up from Woodstock Vintage Lumber before their devastating fire earlier this year.

“I also have this really cool 1960s door, a rounded door with funky lead glass — it’s an artist’s door we painted Peach Darling, and it is so cool,” she says of the custom outbuilding.

Creating drama

Throughout the main house Simons has cohesively mixed metallic gold with silver, including a metallic silver wallpaper, which makes for a sophisticated look that extends outside with the exterior colors done in PPG Bark, Walnut and Cedar. All of finishes are in a black iron, and the railings for the outdoor steps are cable rails with turnbuckles.

She closed in the side door and added space to the kitchen, creating two Pella doors in the front instead of one.

“It’s just dramatic, but warm,” she says.

Simons also used LED lights along the newly raised ceilings to create a modern chic vibe with a touch of the beach. Programmed with three settings, they can be turquoise, orange sparkle or pink – Simons’ favorite.

“It’s just a cool vibe,” she says.