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Old World + Contemporary



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Daryl Johnson and Polly Fisher Meld Styles in their 1930s Holston Hills Home

By Gay Lyons | Photography by Ben Finch

IT WAS LOVE AT FIRST SIGHT

Daryl Johnson and Polly Fisher remember the day they first saw the house they now call home. “We had looked everywhere,” said Daryl, owner and principal architect at Johnson Architecture. “We hadn’t really thought about Holston Hills, but our realtor told us about this house.” “It was a snowy day in February,” recalled Polly. “We drove up to it and said, ‘oh no.’ We just loved it. And we hadn’t even been inside.”

“I’d always been attracted to older homes,” said Daryl, “but I had never lived in one. The people who owned it before us took good care of it. They kept the good bones. It was dated, but that was an easy fix. Over the course of two years we’ve addressed infrastructure issues, stone work, electrical, the flat roofs. We wanted to keep the 1930s house but add modern conveniences.”

Polly credits A. J. Minnis Construction. “His team did the painting, the restoration and everything from plumbing to hanging the draperies,” she said.

The original oak floors have been refinished. Many are topped by Persian rugs from Harb’s. “The wood in this house is one of the things that sold us on it,” said Daryl. “The built in corner cupboard in the breakfast room had been painted green. Polly stripped and refinished it.”

They had hoped to be able to save the original walnut front door but were unable to. The door panels on each side are original--and yielded a surprise when they were removed for cleaning. “They were filled with newspapers from the 1930s,” said Polly. “Herbert Hoover was president.”

They removed the radiator covers except in the breakfast room. “It’s the nicest heat,” said Polly. “We have a boiler.” “In the spring we open the windows,” said Daryl. “You get good cross ventilation. I think this house was put on a hill for a reason.”

They kept the original floor, tile and countertops in the kitchen. “The cabinet boxes are probably original,” said Daryl, “but the doors are probably from the 1950s. The scalloped stove hood is from the 1940s. We would never change it.”

Decorating required compromise and some expert help. ”Daryl’s more contemporary,” said Polly. “I’m more Old World. Spatial planner Donna Diaz can fit an amazing amount of furniture in a room. She kept everyone happy.”

The living room holds a brown cowhide sofa, a buffalo plaid chair, two zebra chairs, Persian rugs, books, lots of art and a new sofa Polly calls “the little blue velvet sofa.” She recalled the first time she saw cowhide with a Persian rug. “ I visited a friend’s house in West Texas growing up when I first saw that combination. I thought it was so elegant.”

Daryl built the dining room table using hickory from a Blount County farm. The barnwood is complemented by a glass top and iron legs. Daryl drew the designs for built in cabinets in the dining room that were then built by Art Clancy.

A room adjacent to the dining room has been the perfect home office. “Who knew I’d be working from home for a year?” said Daryl. The former porch has plenty of room for a desk and a drawing table and has one of the home’s more interesting features: a world map on one wall. “We don’t know when that was added,” said Daryl, “but it was before World War II because Israel is not on the map.”

The second story of the home contains the primary bedroom, two guest rooms and a room Daryl and Polly considered too small to be a proper bedroom. They furnished it with comfortable pieces and a television set and christened it “the pajama room.”

The 3300 square foot stone house sits on 1.5 acres overlooking Holston Hills Country Club’s golf course. “We bought the right house at the right time,” said Daryl. “We have enjoyed the outdoor space and the screened porch. One of the first things we did is build the outdoor fireplace. The marble was a gift from Brian Pittman. We had it engraved: ‘There is no place more delightful than one’s own fireplace.’” The tennis court, which may someday be replaced by a pool, came in handy during the pandemic, Daryl said. “It’s been a socially distanced party patio.” 

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