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French Regency Keeble Home in Belle Meade

A Belle Meade manse embodies architecture’s finest possibilities.

Written By:  Karen Parr-Moody

Photographers:  Heather Durham

When a Nashvillian calls his or her home a “Keeble,” which is rare, a type of cultural shorthand is being used. It says, essentially, that one lives in a home belonging to one of the highest tiers of Nashville architecture.

The late Nashville architect, Edwin A. Keeble, designed Nashville’s Life & Casualty Tower in 1957, which was the South’s tallest skyscraper at the time, as well as many other landmark buildings, including Nashville's Westminster Presbyterian Church and Woodmont Christian Church. His work speaks for itself.

Along the way, Keeble designed a handful of grand homes through his architectural firm, Warfield and Keeble. Those who own a “Keeble,” including Kathryn and David Brown, know how lucky they are—so few homes hold that distinction.

The Browns’ French Regency manse in Belle Meade was originally designed in the mid-1960s for Keeble’s nephew, Sydney Keeble, and his wife, Sheila. It then passed into the hands of Mark Simmons, one of Nashville’s foremost interior designers, and his wife, Sissy. The Browns are the third owners. All of the home’s prior owners kept it meticulously maintained, so it was the perfect canvas from which to tease out even more beauty. This was done by a team that included interior designer Monty Smith, the able hands behind Phipps Construction, architect Jamie Pfeffer, landscape mastermind Gavin Duke, and arborist Tom Powers.

“When we redid the house, it had fabulous bones,” Kathryn says. “But we sort of updated it to the 21st century.” 

The 12,000-square-foot home is tucked away on a few verdant acres. Driving up to the entrance, with its regal bearing, feels like approaching a manor home in the English countryside. Its exterior is painted a creamy white and is surrounded with perfectly round hedges that hug up against the base. The front door opens into a grand foyer that features a sweeping staircase, covered in an antelope-print stair runner. It is reminiscent of Old Hollywood design, its curves creating visual drama.

“Edwin Keeble was known for loving curves,” Kathryn says, noting that the dining room and master bedroom are also curved. Round windows are another Keeble trademark, as are built-in bedroom closets that flank windows (a clever space-saving solution that is as aesthetically pleasing as it is practical).

On the grounds, Gavin Duke—who speaks about botanical species the way a perfumer speaks of fragrance notes—has coaxed nature’s best into delivering a magical tableau of greenery and color. Knowing that Kathryn likes flowers in the tones of white, pink, purple, and blue, Duke largely stuck with that palette.

“It’s soothing,” Duke says. “It’s still Southern, but with more mass plantings than a lot of little things here and there.”

For the site plan, Duke created various exterior “rooms” that create a symbiotic relationship between the indoors and outdoors. One such room is the manicured lawn behind the house, which can seat more than 200 guests under a tent. Surrounded by a circular stone terrace, it is perfect for hosting private cookouts or lavish events, such as the Swan Ball 2016 Patron Party, which the Browns hosted.

A roomy, screened-in porch looks out to the lawn, swimming pool, and a fountain. There is a lush screen of evergreens around the pool, which is punctuated with a chic pool house. Raised garden beds, filled with herbs and tomato plants, sit near the kitchen. “Tom Powers and Gavin Duke helped us choose the best trees that would flourish,” Kathryn says. Among these are cedars and varieties within the magnolia family.

Then, there is a sculpture that Duke calls “Moon Gate.” Made of rough-hewn Texas limestone, this showstopper could easily be at home on the grounds of the Cheekwood Estate & Gardens.

>>> Historic Belle Meade Home

 

Inside, rooms are sprinkled with tasteful antiques that were handpicked by Kathryn’s mother and grandmother; this adds to the home’s genteel personality. Several rooms are decorated in wallpapers or fabrics featuring botanical prints, including an exquisite Gracie wallpaper in the dining room that depicts tree branches dotted with birds and butterflies. “I absolutely love it,” Kathryn says of the print. 

Among the bedrooms, there are more than one half-tester bed—just one of the many hints of luxury that peek out from every room. The kitchen is outfitted with a luxury stove, along with an island topped with glistening quartz. The library is lined in gleaming mahogany and features an antique tapestry above the sofa.

On the dining room table is an ephemeral detail, which speaks to the heart of the home: a series of clear bud vases that display delicate, fuchsia-colored blossoms picked from the property. “We have a lot of things growing out in the yard,” Kathryn says. “It’s fun to be able to go out and pick them.”

To be sure—and it’s fun to return indoors, to a “Keeble” that occupies a glamorous page in Nashville’s architectural history. 

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