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Retirement Party: Rick and Jackie Dooley Crafted A Custom Oasis



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Story by Gay Lyons | Photography by Ben Finch

Rick and Jackie Dooley’s Rocky Hill home sits on property that was “raw, a jungle” when the couple first saw it. “The ‘cat lady’ had a mobile home where the driveway is now,” said Rick. “There were two trucks and two buildings on the property. The community’s old general store was here. We put together four pieces of property--about four acres--in 2013-2014, some bought at tax sales.”

They kept the cherry trees, which they said the hummingbirds love, but they made good use of the walnut trees they cleared from the property.

“We had the wood milled and dried,” said Rick. “It was used to build furniture, mantles and doors.”

“Rick had the vision,” said Jackie. “Get rid of all the debris and there’d be a fabulous home site. There were four dump truck loads of debris.

“We didn’t anticipate how much earth building we were going to have to do,” said Rick, “but it’s a little oasis back here now. We entertain a lot. Our kids and grandkids live in other cities and
love to visit. We absolutely love our neighborhood and our neighbors.” Construction on the home started in 2016--with the couple doing much of the work themselves. Both are now retired--Rick is a retired anesthesiologist; Jackie recently retired after 30 years with UPS--but building the home was not a retirement project. They completed the home while still working full time.

“We found a floor plan we liked,” said Jackie, “but we needed to make some changes. Daryl Johnson of Johnson Architecture helped us in making practical changes to the design. There were two other homes in Knoxville using the same plan. We were able to look at theirs and see what changes they made.

A room off the foyer intended as a bedroom was turned into Rick’s office. The all season room off the kitchen was supposed to be a screened porch. “This is probably our favorite room in the whole house,” said Jackie. “I had to have somewhere to hang my deer heads,” said Rick.

In addition to design help from Johnson Architecture, the Dooleys sought help from others. Smoky Mountain Tops did the countertops. Dick Coffey of Dixie Kitchen personally did the kitchen. Mark Canaday of Southern Landscapes did the boulder work at the fire pit. Chaiym Construction did the interior trim work and the construction of the cover for the balcony off the master bedroom, which was originally uncovered.

Jackie said decorator Pam Bakos “helped us coordinate our colors and kept me straight. She kept reminding me this is a modern farmhouse, not French country.” Rick designed the irrigation system, and the couple did their own landscaping. “I think I’m a gardener, but I’m not,” said Jackie. “I stick things in the ground and they come up.” The “Sexton hostas,” courtesy of friends Jeff and Sandy Sexton, have flourished. “We transplanted a few from their old family homestead, which no longer exists,” said Jackie. “We started with just a few. The deer ate them. This is what they look like this year,” she said, pointing to the tall purple hostas lining a path from the house to the terrace.

Rick and Jackie still have projects to complete. “We live in 2500 square feet, plus there’s a 2000 square foot basement,” said Rick. “We’re not sure what we’re going to do downstairs. We’re working on an outdoor kitchen, and we’re getting ready to build a garage, workshop and hothouse in the lower back corner.”

“Building the house ourselves was a very positive experience,” he continued. “We had great help, great subs and very few complications. KUB, Knox County and the Health Department were incredibly good to work with."

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