Bill Lewis For The Tennessean
Visitors to Nashville’s newest tourism destination will not only experience the legacy of a beloved country music star, they’ll take home ideas about how to make their next home renovation or construction project as elegant as possible.
Between June and the end of the year, up to 110,000 visitors are expected to tour the Southern Living Idea House, which will showcase the latest in luxury home building and interior design. The house and its complementary structures are being built by Castle Homes at Fontanel, the 136-acre estate that was home to Country Music Hall of Fame member Barbara Mandrell.
Nashville’s selection as the location of the nation’s only 2013 Idea House is more evidence of the city’s influence on popular culture these days, from the ABC television show “Nashville” and the national attention being given to the city’s restaurants to the growing popularity of country music.
“Country is cool now,” said Frank Craige, who is managing the project for Southern Living, the Birmingham-based publisher of Southern Living Magazine. “You have a small-town feel (in Nashville) with the Hollywood, songwriting aspect.”
Idea Houses built in other locations have typically attracted between 30,000 and 40,000 visitors. Craig expects that number to double or triple at Fontanel.
“We’re at a destination in a destination city,” he said. “People plan their vacations around these houses.”
After the house closes to tours at the end of December, it will reopen as both an event space and the city’s only five-star bed and breakfast, said Marc Oswald, who along with business partner Dale Morris owns Fontanel.
“When I say five-star, wait until you see this. It’ll be in a league of its own,” said Oswald, who is perhaps best known as the manager of country stars such as Gretchen Wilson, Big & Rich and Cowboy Troy.
Guests at the bed and breakfast, which Oswald said will offer all the amenities of a luxury micro-hotel, will be able to enjoy hiking and biking on Fontanel’s forested grounds, visit the 27,000-square-foot log mansion that was Mandrell’s home, watch hand-crafted spirits being made at the new Pritchard’s Distillery on the grounds, dine at Café Fontanella and take in top-name performers at the Woods Amphitheater.
Guests can book individual suites or rent the entire retreat, he said. The Idea House will also become Nashville’s newest luxury event space.
“We’re already booking weddings,” said Oswald. “I would compare it to the five-star hotels at California wineries.”
The Idea House will showcase modern amenities and materials inside an authentic-looking farmhouse, said Alan Looney, president of Castle Homes.
“It’s almost like stepping back in time, but it’s a modern structure,” he said.
The tin roof, natural limestone foundation, locally made mahogany doors and solid cedar beams on the porches will contribute to the historic look. Under the roof, though, is LP TechShield, a modern radiant barrier that prevents the sun from heating the interior. The double-pane windows are filled with argon gas for insulation. The exterior walls of all five buildings contain Tyvek Therma Wrap to reduce heating and cooling costs, said project manager Brett Wright.
In the farmhouse, interior walls are wood-clad. They aren’t as smooth as drywall, which is exactly the point, he said.
“We don’t want it to be too perfect,” said Wright.
The aged-copper chimney and the fireplace constructed with half-sized bricks laid in a herringbone pattern will contribute to the historic look. So will the four 24-foot-long beams made with reclaimed wood in the ceiling of the great room.
The Idea House’s amenities are thoroughly modern and include a Sub-Zero refrigerator and freezer and a 48-inch Wolf dual fuel cooktop and range. Other suppliers whose products are featured include Lennox, Sherwin Williams, Sunbrella, Rinnai, Bevolo Gas & Electric Lights, and Shaw Floors.