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Modernist Mask House in Green Hills

A hidden home in Green Hills follows modernist design while providing the ultimate in privacy.

Written By:  Karen Parr-Moody

Photographers:  Supplied

In a Southern city where homeowners tend to appreciate the classical architecture of recent centuries, the Mask House, designed and built by Hasting Architecture Associates for two retired music-industry dynamos, blows the design paradigm to smithereens. Not only is it unabashedly contemporary, like all good architecture, it crystalizes a philosophy.

Tucked away in a Green Hills neighborhood, the sleek abode is almost unmatched in its individuality. “It represents the character and values of the couple we were designing it for,” Dave Powell, principal of Hastings Architecture Associates, says. Powell led the team that created the home for Phran and Joe Galante.

The Galantes’ home celebrates duality—there’s a masculine exterior that cocoons a feminine interior. A majestic concrete façade punctuates the home like a monument. The exterior’s concrete and weathered steel—intended to mimic the brutalist style that was popularized in the ’50s and has roots in modernist architecture—shelters the Galantes from the view of the street, maintaining their privacy.

The 6,500-square-foot home, designed in a U-shaped floorplan, wraps around a dreamy courtyard. Counterbalancing the steely exterior, the interior is warm and airy. There is a sinuous Ipe wood ceiling in the main hearth room, and Powell describes it as “a tissue floating down from the air.” A skylight allows sunlight and shadows to bathe a concrete wall, creating softness. Lights hang from the ceiling at staggered heights, mimicking the look of a constellation of stars.

The exterior was inspired by Venetian masks found in the Galantes’ art collection, as well as by their craving for privacy after decades spent in the limelight of Nashville’s music industry.

In 1990, Joe, who retired as Sony Music Nashville chairman in 2010, married Phran, who was an executive at Arista Records Nashville at the time. In retirement, the Galantes wanted a home inspired by the open, single-story architecture of southern California.

“We’ve both traveled extensively, so we have made notes on the architecture we have liked,” Phran says of their inspiration for the home. “We also love the outdoors, and we like the outdoors to flow into the inside.”

Joe adds that they both “wanted the house to be on one level and be simple, easy, and private—and to allow us to entertain the way we wanted to, without being out in the public all of the time. When we saw the initial design, we absolutely loved it.”

The house is a mélange of glass, wood, and what Powell calls “intentional points of lightness.” One such point is the massive front door, which Phran requested because she wanted a pop of color in the home. The door is painted in red, high-gloss automotive paint; has about 50 “peepholes,” made of scattered Lucite tubes; and has no exterior hardware (it must be opened from inside).

“We knew that, if we failed on that door, Phran would never speak to us again,” Powell says. “So, we went all out. It’s just fabulous with wonderful humor.” 

Powell says that whenever his firm begins a design process, the first step is to gauge how adventurous a client is going to be.

“It’s really hard to find clients who are that adventurous with their own home,” Powell says. “These two were just: ‘Bring it on!’ The wilder, the crazier, the more fun, the more interesting, the better.”

Photos by Albert Vecerka-Esto and Zach Goodyear.

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