Photos by Terry Sweeney story by Tonya Thompson
The best memories are always made with family, in color and to the sound of music. That’s why when Dr. Jon Robertson, a Neurosurgeon and former Chairman of the Neurosurgery Department at the University of Tennessee, and his wife, Carol Ann, chose their 1927 Georgian-styled home in midtown Memphis, they made sure it basks in the glow of color, music and family togetherness—especially during the holiday season.
Surrounded by mature white and red oaks, the Robertsons’ 5,500 square foot Georgian manor sits on two acres in stately elegance overlooking Memphis’ historic East Parkway. Chosen for its location that is situated between Jon’s job and the Rhodes music program, where all five of their children learned to play piano, the Robertsons bought the home in 1984 and became its third owners. Designed by Reagan and Weller for a well-known local dentist and his wife, the home was completed in 1926—three years after construction on it began.
From beautifully appointed French doors that help create a natural breezeway through the house to antique furniture that has been in the family since 1899, the Robertsons’ home contains many unique pieces of the family’s past. A round swivel vanity stool and an arm chair, both upholstered in the original cut velvet gold fabric, are some of Carol Ann’s most prized possessions—they were brought to the United States when her grandparents left Italy near the turn of the century.
“I have fond memories of my mother combing my hair as I sat on the swivel stool,” says Carol Ann. “I now do the same thing with my little granddaughters when they come to visit or spend the night.”
The couple’s mutual love of music is evident in the living room’s focal piece, an “H” model 1937 Steinway baby grand piano, made from solid cherry. Its original owner was a concert pianist from Mississippi but the family’s music history extends far beyond that. “My husband’s mother, a native from McComb, Mississippi, played piano by ear,” says Carol Ann, “and Jon inherited his musical ability from her. Every evening, he’ll sit and play his favorite songs.” The Robertsons’ five children followed in their father’s and grandmother’s footsteps and have studied music at Rhodes, and three of the Robertsons’ twelve grandchildren are also budding pianists. This year, their daughters and granddaughters will be playing their recital pieces at the Robertsons’ Christmas Eve family gathering.
As for color—it was one of the most essential decisions for the owners. Carol Ann owns and operates a small antique business called Cdesigns, and that niche, combined with years of experience as an event planner, convinced her that the color and ambiance of the main hall and foyer entrance would set the mood for the rest of the home. “I made the decision not to use wallpaper in this focal area,” Carol Ann says, “because I had seen this special technique called Venetian plaster. I contacted a very dear friend, Ellen Riney, one of the leading decorators in the MidSouth and the best color specialist in Memphis, and she immediately put me in contact with Wanda Walters, one of the owners of Mississippi Gold Leaf. Within one week, I had my color for the foyer—a soft gold with a muted undertone. The color was so perfect that I decided to use it in all the hallways—upstairs and down.”
This golden hue provides a muted and subtle contrast to the dining room, which is, according to Carol Ann, “painted the color of fine wine.” Here, a crystal chandelier hangs in the center of the room as windows, draped with Ann Daniel’s deep olive curtain artistry, allow light to filter in through ecru Belgian lace. Some of the family’s most wonderful holiday memories are created in this room, including Thanksgiving, when the Robertsons prepare a 22-pound turkey to serve with sweet potato casserole, deviled eggs, fresh salad with fruit, steamed vegetables, spinach casserole, homemade rolls, cakes, pies and cookies.
The family’s greatest memories, however, are shared in their living room, where their antique piano sits and is often played. Near it, an Austrian crystal chandelier, dating from the early 1900s, hangs in the center of the room and this exquisite fixture is, according to Carol Ann, “the focal point of our living room throughout all the seasons.” During the Christmas holiday, the Robertsons include a 10-foot Christmas tree that is lit with 1,500 little lights, with a spotlight placed directly on the manger, which holds the Christ child figurine. Carol Ann recounts the beauty that overwhelms everyone, adults and children alike, as her husband dims the lights on the chandelier. “We see the prisms casting reflections of lights twinkling on the ceiling,” she says, “and we are reminded of that holy night when the Christ child was born. It always helps us remember why we celebrate Christmas! We sit quietly and enjoy the breathtaking beauty of watching the lights flicker as stars. We close our eyes and find ourselves in the midst of that holy silent night.”
HOME DEC 2012
Home for the Holidays