Putting on the pizzazz: a no-holds-barred home in Nashville | Interiors

A humongous, cloud-shaped cream lampshade made from paper plates hangs over an ornate, hand-me-down antique concierge chair and a mishmash of dining chairs in the dining area of Vadis Turner’s funky Nashville home. “I wanted something extraordinary for the space, but that can be expensive,” says Turner, a multimedia artist who moved from New York to this 19th-century townhouse with her husband, Clay Ezell, and their first son in 2014, “so I was, like, instead of me trying to figure out how to buy some crazy chandelier, I could trade with a friend.”

She hadn’t seen Christopher Trujillo, a production designer, since they’d shared the same studio building back in New York. She suggested she pay him to fly out to see her and trade pieces – and that was how the lampshade came to be.

Organic, dynamic, creative, funky and fearless, this pretty much sums up the vibe of Turner’s home, a three-bedroom, second empire-style building, built in Nashville in 1880. Traditionally boxy neighbourhood houses with porches, ornate flourishes and a mansard roof, this property was a curio. “All the surrounding houses had burned down in the great fire of 1916 and it was surrounded by warehouses,” says Turner. “It was kind of like the movie Up, that little house in the middle of downtown. And at some point, someone had chopped off the mansard roof, so it kind of looks like a castle with a flat-top haircut.”

Lessons in design: abstract wallpaper and a Saya Woolfalk sculpture in the study area. Photograph: The Selby

Unable to upgrade in New York, the couple decided to move back to their hometown, enticed by the size and potential of the mixed-use, two-storey white brick property. Plus, Nashville, known as “the bachelorette capital of America”, says Turner, “filled with cool but loud honky-tonks, tourists and young women partying all weekend”, was enjoying a cultural upsurge. Creatives from New York to Los Angeles were moving in, “giving it a whole new life and vibe. We wanted to come back and be a part of that,” says Turner, who also teaches mixed media and textiles at Vanderbilt University, while Ezell, a former literary agent, now runs a composting agency.

They have retained the ground floor as a commercial space and, upstairs, “kept all the cool old parts that we could – the brick, the wood floors”, and shaped living spaces within it. “I think pizzazz is a pretty operative word for how we approach the design,” says Turner. A magnolia tree in their “tiny front yard” grows outside the double-height sash windows within the dining space’s exposed brickwork. A cat climbs up one wall. “It’s a cement cat I found in an antiques mall in Alabama. So yeah, we’ve got cats climbing up the walls and we have bananas hanging from another chandelier,” she says of the chandelier she got from her mother-in-law, to which she attached 100 plastic bananas and spray-painted it yellow. The staircase here, which leads up to the roof terrace, is a pinky-red, handpainted by Turner and gradated from yellow as it climbs skywards. “I tell my friends I would never do that again. You can make yourself crazy trying to create a perfect gradation. You know, perfect is definitely not the name of the game., for how we live, how we design a space, or how I make work. I think our philosophy is more if we like it, it stays. Perfection is pretty overrated. We’re not that interested in matching, or doing things we’re supposed to do.”

Up on the roof: the terrace with bar/plant station. Photograph: The Selby

Throughout their home, greenery, colour and texture mesh together, creating a sense of vibrancy and of a visceral engagement with art and nature and all their potentialities. On the roof terrace, as in the kitchen, which is home to a living wall, Turner’s “plant problem” (“one of my healthier problems left over from the pandemic”) is unleashed, hanging baskets offsetting the red window frames. “We really like to host other families for dinner and throw parties up here. That’s why the planting station can easily turn into a bar.” The firepit isn’t for toasting smores, though. “We use it to collect rainwater so we just leave it out and then I feed my favourite plants – not all my plants, just the special ones. Is it bad that I have favourites?”

The family’s home no longer sits in splendid isolation. The area is growing fast, luxury apartments and towers are springing up all around them. “They’re really encroaching on us.”

Inside, there are two living spaces. One gestures to a southern belle aesthetic, a chintzy country club sofa from her mother-in-law holding its own against a wall papered in what looks like a study in abstract expressionism. Is it a mural, I ask. “I love that you question is it this or that? Because I kind of enjoy things that are hard to categorise. It is wallpaper. But it looks like a painting, right?”

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Light it up: the dining space with oversized lampshades. Photograph: The Selby

It does, and this Pierre Frey design, Arty, of red, yellow and blue spots, is inspired by contemporary Parisian artist Marie-Cécile Aptel. “It’s sort of out of style, which meant perfect for us,” laughs Turner. The globular sculpture on the wall by her friend, the multimedia New York-based artist Saya Woolfalk, made from textiles and papier-mâché, overlooks a child-friendly table for drawing in front of the window.

Most mornings, Turner is up on the kitchen counter, watering her beloved. In one corner, where others might store tea and mugs, she has positioned two sculptural urns, one in gold, the other in empire red, by the Italian designer Gaetano Pesce. In their bedroom, a piece of lattice work reclaimed from a Mississippi steamboat hangs above the bed – “I hate headboards,” says Turner – and the stained glass windows came from a Scottish bank. Of course they did.

“I think you just collect what you like – and make it work with confidence. I guess we sort of pack it in with gusto. We’re at capacity now, but it’s a very fun, eclectic home.”

Vadis Turner and Clay Ezell’s home features in The Selby Comes Home by Todd Selby, published by Abrams, £50

In Vadis Turner’s unique Nashville home, a massive cream lampshade made from paper plates hangs above a mix of dining chairs, including an antique concierge chair. Turner, a multimedia artist, wanted something extraordinary for the space without breaking the bank, so she traded with a friend, Christopher Trujillo, a production designer. This trade resulted in the creation of the eye-catching lampshade.

The home, a three-bedroom second empire-style building from 1880, stands out in a neighbourhood filled with traditional houses. Turner describes the house as reminiscent of the movie “Up,” with a unique charm due to its surroundings and history.

Turner and her husband, Clay Ezell, moved back to Nashville from New York to take advantage of the city’s cultural upsurge. They have transformed their home into a vibrant, creative space that reflects their eclectic tastes and personalities. The house features greenery, color, and texture throughout, creating a lively and engaging atmosphere.

Despite the rapid development in the area, Turner and Ezell have maintained the character of their home, blending old and new elements seamlessly. They have embraced a philosophy of pizzazz rather than perfection, allowing their design choices to be guided by what they love rather than conventional norms.

The home is filled with unique touches, from a chandelier adorned with plastic bananas to a staircase painted in a gradient of pink and yellow. The roof terrace serves as a gathering space for friends and family, featuring a bar that doubles as a planting station.

Each room in the house reflects Turner and Ezell’s love for art, nature, and individuality. From the abstract wallpaper in the study to the eclectic mix of furniture and decor throughout, their home is a testament to their creative spirit and fearless approach to design.

Overall, Turner and Ezell’s home is a lively and eclectic space that showcases their love for art, nature, and individuality. Their unique design choices and creative touches make their home a true reflection of their personalities and passions.