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VOL. 44 | NO. 2 | Friday, January 10, 2020

No shortage of ideas in tour of East Nashville homes

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“I feel like I’m going to a party at a stranger’s house,” Kayne said as we approached the first stop, which was understandable. That’s pretty much exactly what we were doing.

But not just one stranger’s house. There were, potentially, eight dwellings for us to roam through and gawk at over the course of two days while making appreciative small talk, nibbling on the various food offerings and quietly comparing other people’s digs with ours.

Officially, we were participants in a home tour in East Nashville sponsored by our neighborhood association. Unofficially, we were real estate voyeurs.

The prospect was irresistible. I’ve often wished I could simply knock on the front door of an appealing residence and be allowed to scope out the interior. The rules here didn’t even require that we knock.

“These homeowners are warm and welcoming and can’t wait to meet you,” a brochure for the tour stated.

Warm they indeed proved to be, and proud of the residences they were putting on display. As well they might have been: These houses, the oldest thought to date to 1889, had all undergone serious renovations and/or additions to make for comfortable, upscale living in the current century.

We got to inspect them all for $15 tickets, dutifully purchased and never once asked for. What a trusting lot these folks were.

Styles on display included several Victorian cottages, a side-gabled bungalow, a historic brick bungalow and a Craftsman.

One, we learned, had been featured in an episode of “Nashville Flipped.”

Another played a starring role in TV’s “Masters of Flip.” Even those without television credentials had some interesting storylines. One set of owners were playing a video of their reno, which included a full gutting and more than a year of work. I shuddered to think of the cost.

Because of course you think of the cost when evaluating someone else’s home, from the construction work right down to the appliances, furnishings and decorative trappings. You assess the result and compare it with your own house, for good or ill.

We both took mental notes, and Kayne mentioned the possibility of snapping pictures. I wondered if that would be kosher, under the circumstances.

“Well, I’m not going to be posting them online,” she said. Still. No pics.

I was making the rounds with a specific goal in mind. Our new house has a couple of non-working fireplaces that I want to transform with gas-burning insets, preferably resembling the actual coal-burning models found in some English pubs.

Alas, I found no such inspiration. Owners of the housing with gas-assisted fireplaces generally had no idea how they got to be that way. And a fair number of fireplaces served no heating function. One house had potted greenery, appropriate to the holiday season, displayed within. Another had two fireplaces with books – books! – stacked in the fireboxes. We flinched.

“It’s amusing in its symbolic wrongness,” Kayne said.

As to those comparisons we were making, I’d been a bit worried that I’d end up feeling out of our league, overmatched by residences whose owners had clearly sunk a lot of money into their places.

I didn’t.

What the tour did do was to inspire us to consider some fine-tuning of our own. Outdoor heaters like ones we saw could extend the useful season for our screened back porch. That intricately carved 3-D wooden map of Nashville would look as good on our wall as on those other folks’.

And a compromise began to take form in the delicate negotiations that have been going on about how to furnish what I call our front parlor.

“If we had a comfy sofa like this, I wouldn’t mind chairs like these,” Kayne noted of one living room décor, signaling a concession.

All in all the tour made for an instructive look into how we might put some of our neighbors’ ideas to our own use. Except, of course, for that not-so-little matter of the fireplaces.

I’m still open to suggestions on that.

Joe Rogers is a former writer for The Tennessean and editor for The New York Times. He is retired and living in Nashville. He can be reached at jrogink@gmail.com

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