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VIP at Home: The Next Chapter



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Jeannie Bennett, owner of BENNETT (formerly Bennett Galleries), has transformed the home where her children were raised into an art-filled retreat for the next chapter of her life.

The contemporary West Knoxville residence was designed in the 1930s by Alfred and Jane West Clauss, for the J.T. Mengel family. The house was one of the first examples in Knoxville of International Style Modernism. In 1987, Jeannie and former husband Rick purchased the home from Mary Beth Montgomery and Sam and Mary Ann Beall, neighbors who had purchased the property to ensure it would be preserved.

“I loved Sam and Mary Ann and Mary Beth and wanted to be near them,” said Jeannie. “There were only a few houses then. It was like a little forest with oaks, pines and rhododendrons. I loved how unique this property was. Stephen, now 35, was four when we moved in. Max, age 25, was born in 1993.

“We’ve renovated over the years, small projects, big projects. The first renovation was so painful; it was everything you can’t see: plumbing, electrical, HVAC, saving everything we could of the original structure. It had been sitting empty for years.”

“The living room is original to the house. It has pecan floors, which is rare for a house,” Jeannie said. “The front entry is an addition. It was just a covered porch.”

A back porch was turned into a light-filled room which Jeannie lovingly refers to as the "back gallery."

“It was going to be a gallery, but I’m kind of an outdoor person, and the view is so beautiful, we put in the doors and windows,” said Jeannie.

The next big renovation came in 2004-2005.

“I waited 17 years for my dream kitchen,” said Jeannie. “I really wanted a family style kitchen, but with appliances a chef would love. I wanted to be able to drop a piece of bacon on the floor and the dog not be able to find it [because of the slate floor selection]. I love to cook. I love duck, rabbit, gamey stuff. When I got the new dining room table, I asked Max, ‘What do you think?’ He said, ‘It’d look great with a duck on it, Mom.’”

“We renovated the kitchen and the butler’s pantry,” she continued. “I like things hidden. The microwave and toaster oven are in ‘appliance garages.’ In the butler’s pantry, one drawer is ‘coroner’s size.’ I could hide a body in there!”

The original home was L-shaped. The addition of the master suite created a house that doesn’t match any letter of the alphabet but still flows well from one room to the next.

The master suite was inspired by a villa Jeannie visited in Italy. “It was a lot bigger,” she said, “but it had a seating area that overlooked a sleeping area that just felt like home.”

The seating area also leads to a master bath with access to an outdoor space Jeannie calls "the garden room.’’

“I’m a big bathtub person,” said Jeannie, pointing to a soaking tub that is the dominant feature in the master bath. “The garden room is where I spend a lot of time. I may go out there with a blanket. It’s my sanctuary.”

Recent renovations have focused on the downstairs areas. “Upstairs is the next project,” she said. “But I’m still working on downstairs.”

The color palette is similar throughout the house.

“If you took everything away, there’s a consistency in the palette,” said Jeannie. “I always choose yellow-based colors. I like warmth.”

The art collection includes pieces by Richard Jolley, Andrew Saftel, Maggie Taylor, Akira Blount, Julie Warren Conn, Marcia Goldenstein, Patsy Gilbert, Robert Van Vranken, Toots Zynsky, Ilya Zomb, Carl Sublett, James Rizzi, Bennett Bean, Ying Zhao Liu, Lanie Gannon and many others.

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