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Retirement Destination



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Story by Gay Lyons | Photography by Ben Finch

Indiana natives Dawn and John Skeens never dreamed they’d be living in Tennessee. “When we started thinking about what retirement might look like, we figured we’d end up in Florida like everybody else,” said Dawn. “But then we asked ‘what might give us a different pace? And a milder winter?’”

“Moving here is the best thing we’ve ever done,” she continued. “We’ve had nothing but positive experiences, the people, the way of life. We feel so at home. We’ve been so welcomed. This is it for the rest of our lives.”

The Skeens are still involved with Skeens Warehouse Services, their Indiana-based business. John commutes; Dawn works from home; and son Riley will take over the business some day. It took a while to find the lot at Promontory Point.

“We didn’t know what we were looking for,” said Dawn. “We wanted to stay close to Knoxville. We wanted to be on the water. We wanted as level a property as we could find. We were looking for an already-built home. John found this property online. When we came to look at it we realized it’s something you don’t find anywhere else.”

Daryl Johnson and Emily Haire of Johnson Architecture designed the home. Dawn decorated the home herself. “The first thing I did was the floors,” she said. “Because I have a lot of ‘stuffy’ things, I wanted a lighter, more casual floor. I wanted it to be very laid back, very Tennessee, very by the water. It doesn’t show dirt. I just don’t worry about it. I kept all the colors simple because I have so much stuff.”

One exception is the stools at the kitchen island: “I thought we needed a pop here, and I said it’s going to be green.”

“I told the [kitchen] cabinet maker I need lit cabinets to display the things I collect,” she continued. “I’m an auction idiot, mostly online auctions. My taste is very traditional, but then you’ll see a touch of whimsy--something they didn’t see coming.”

Dawn’s collections range from crests and mirrors to many items honoring Queen Elizabeth II, described by Dawn as “one of the greatest gals who ever walked the earth.” She has a replica of Jerry Seinfeld’s apartment accompanied by a signed photo of the cast of “Seinfeld.” Her newest passion is Catholic relics.

“I like things that have been kicked around, things that have life to them, things that look like they have been loved to death,” said Dawn. “Maybe a king owned this. Maybe George Washington looked into this mirror. I love history. It’s me having a little piece of something I wasn’t part of.”

There are two masters on the first floor, each with its own en suite bath. Upstairs there are three guest bedrooms. “I told Daryl [Johnson, who, along with Emily Haire, designed the home], I want as many rooms as I can get up there,” said Dawn. “Each guest room is slightly different: different layout, different colors. Each has a queen sized bed, a full bath and a nice closet.

One bedroom is done in aqua and orange, another in cream and gold; the one Dawn says is guests’ favorite is dark gray and rust. She chose to carpet the bedrooms because she wanted those rooms to feel “warm and quiet.”

“I like to think of it as a stone cottage by the waterside,” Dawn said. “By and large, it’s traditional in its design, but with an eclectic whimsy. I knew I wanted dual sofas [in the great room], and I saw these Union Jack sofas. Who would do that? No one but us, and we have two of them.”

The sofas are complemented by 200 year old end tables that Dawn purchased online and describes as “the most sorrowful things you ever saw.” French polish brought them back to life. “Because I started from scratch, it’s kind of me from the ground up--because we didn’t move into someone else’s dream,” she continued. “When I look around, I can’t believe we are here.

It’s more than a dream for us. It’s a happy reality. We both came from nothing. It’s the American dream: anything is possible.”

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