In an area filled with growing families and young professionals, there is a delicate balance between kid-friendly homes and well-designed spaces. Mom and dad want a home they love, but also need the interior to be durable and child-proof. For Tanya Hembree, Founder and Principal Designer at ONYX & ALABASTER, this home located in Thompson’s Station offered the perfect backdrop to create a chic family dwelling. “We love building relationships with the community around us by hosting events and inviting people into our store and offices, and we met the clients at a special event we hosted in Franklin. We just clicked!” she explains. “They are a young, artistic couple who had brought special pieces with them to their new home, but were having a more difficult time pulling together a complete look with their busy, family-filled lives.” Design geared towards families, especially those with younger children, begins with deciding what a home should be. A home is a place where the most important life events occur, and a sanctuary for each family member. Design plays a big role in that comfort. “When creating elevated, yet kid-friendly rooms, I always suggest using patterns and textures to hide the inevitable wear and tear. However, thanks to high- performance fabrics and stain-fighting fabric treatments, we aren’t limited to dark colors. A white sofa can be comfortable, stylish, and totally kid-proof if you choose a high-performance fabric or add a fabric protector,” she explains. “The last thing you want to do is panic every time a child walks by your couch with juice or enjoys a snack on your favorite chair.” She also suggests choosing items that are easy to wash like slip-covered chairs and sofas, or pillows with easily removable pillowcases. Storage is key as well. “A home with children can quickly become cluttered, so I love to provide stylish and multipurpose storage options so toys and games have a home after playtime,” Hembree says. Soft surfaces are safe surfaces and make playtime more fun for all. With a wide range of beautiful, durable, easy to clean rugs, available both pre- made and custom, there is no limit to colors and patterns you can use in your family home. For Hembree, it’s important that she listens to clients and collaborates with them to create their perfect interiors. One of the ways she does this is through a willingness to utilize existing items clients love and feel comfortable with. “I never want to push someone into getting rid of something they treasure. Augmenting or repurposing an item creates a comfort level not only with the finished product, but also with my work and my team,” she explains. Clients trust her to look out for their best interests and budget while designing beautiful spaces. This home is a wonderful example of her ability to weave family items in with new finds as she shifted existing elements to more fitting locations, creating a space that felt highly personalized for her clients. The front porch is a beautiful launching point for the design inside. Hembree and her team refreshed the landscaping and selected the tall planters flanking the dark wood front door. She then used the homeowners’ existing furniture to create a modern seating area on the porch and accessorized it with new accents and live plants. Whitewashed brick complements the use of arches and dormer windows which are all familiar, traditional elements that have been brought together in a modern way.
In the dining room, Hembree was happy to find the charcoal walls already in place. “When we walked into the house for the first time, I loved the walls. It was a design choice I would have made, so seeing that bold color was confirmation that this was going to be a fun project and the owners and I were on the same page,” she says. The room was originally furnished with items that were too small for the scale of the space. Hembree brought in a larger table with a modern concrete tabletop that sits on a distressed wood trestle. Custom white end chairs with nailhead details add substance and height. The table is flanked by gray rounded barrel chairs and a neutral-toned bench, which keeps the grouping more casual and open. “The goal was to create an interior that was high-end while still being completely approachable,” says Hembree, “The homeowners are both kind, down-to-earth people, so establishing spaces that reflect their personalities was key.” Against the wall, the hutch and mirrors were repurposed from other areas of the home and now fit perfectly in their new location. In each room, real plants are used to inject a punch of green and in the dining room, the healthy Ficus Elastica plant housed in a natural fiber basket adds life and texture.
On the other side of the foyer, the sitting room is an elegant and comfortable space with feminine touches and unexpected elements. Applied molding in a geometric pattern provides texture and the perfect backdrop for the custom velvet sofa with nailhead trim and the unique shearling pillows which tie the dining and sitting room together. Next to the sofa, a Fiddle Leaf Fig continues the organic elements in the space. A linen-wrapped ottoman features a taller wood portion that glides along the length of the ottoman. Underneath, a neutral hide rug anchors the room. The art displayed here, and most of the art found throughout the home, is made by the homeowner. “She is a talented artist and I love that we were able to use her own works to even further personalize their home,” says Hembree. The two armchairs were brought in from other parts of the home and now match the volume and proportions of the room. Custom curtain rods and drapes were added for visual interest and privacy.
The home’s open concept connects the kitchen and living room in one seamless entertaining space. Hembree balanced the kitchen by accessorizing the counters. “Kitchen counters don’t have to be stark or overly cluttered to be beautiful. A few beautiful, but practical items can really dress up a kitchen and establish a finished look. This is an important room that is used constantly for many different activities, but that doesn’t mean it has to read utilitarian,” she explains. At the island, the natural, woven back bar stools were the owners and now fit well with the curated countertops and white, black, and brass pendant lights. White cabinets with farmhouse panel doors offer plenty of storage space. Double ovens and a gas range provide the perfect cooking hub.
“There are so many wonderful shelves in this home, perfect for displaying family keepsakes and decorative pieces. I wanted to combine items they already loved with new accents,” comments Hembree. “Keeping the color scheme consistent creates a curated and sophisticated feel to the items. It also minimizes the feeling of clutter.”
The owners wanted to keep their comfortable white sectional, so Hembree incorporated a mix of elements to complement it and tie the rest of the room together. Anchoring the space, the white and gray geometric patterned rug with a fringe edge quickly became one of the owner’s favorite elements in the home. “When I design for a family, I like to include a variety of soft textures, especially in the rugs,” explains Hembree. “So much family time is spent on the floor, so I wanted to make sure this room was comfortable for everyone, including mom and dad as they spend time playing in front of the TV or fireplace.” In the middle of the room, the coffee table’s round shape represents another way Hembree likes to keep things safe for little ones. Rounded edges and surfaces tend to be safer for the inevitable bumps and falls that come with children playing in a well-loved home. The table’s beautiful, distressed wood perimeter is connected to the top with pie-shaped planks that join the edges in an almost herringbone pattern. In the background, adjacent to the living room and kitchen, the light and bright breakfast nook is a comfortable space for casual family meals. “The original table setting was great for the room, but I felt it didn’t fit with the style of the new, reworked spaces. I needed to provide a more layered look that integrated the new elements we brought in with their existing pieces,” says Hembree. She started by rewrapping their pre-purchased tabletop with metal and added decorative rivets. Additionally, gray velvet head chairs to give the table more weight and scale. A bench and two matching cream side chairs mirror the seating arrangement in the dining room, lending continuity between the two eating areas. The table is accessorized with a hand-carved wooden bowl.
The focal point of the master bedroom is the beautiful bed wrapped in luxurious sherpa-like fabric. The soft cream tone stands out against the greige walls and the large scale of the king bed matches the size of the room. Mismatched end tables now host a pair of brass lamps with leather bases and black shades. “The sitting room at the front of the home is feminine because it’s her special space. The master bedroom is a shared space, so bringing in more masculine touches was important as I crafted a room that felt comfortable for both husband and wife,” Hembree explains. One way she accomplished this mix of masculine and feminine was to move the leather chair now sitting in the corner of the bedroom in from the sitting room. The mid-century modern lines, black tucked leather, and warm, wood frame made the chair much more suited for this space. Next to the chair in clean and modern pots, a snake plant and ZZ plant add color and help define the seating area. Custom lucite rods and elegant drapes finish the space.
For the homeowner’s new baby, Hembree created a nursery with a subtle lamb theme that is soft and sophisticated for the new addition. “Their new little boy was born two days after we finished the room so we were working with a tight timeline,” she laughs. “The room was designed around the photo of the adorable Highland sheep taken by a family friend.” A dark green accent wall was painted by the homeowners, a sweet and personalized touch. The new gray and brass statement crib stands on its own as a functional design element. On the floor, a soft rug with textural geometric patterns brings in light gray and cream tones. A reading lamp provides dim light for the cozy seating area with a linen covered chair and a fuzzy stool.
The oldest boy’s room was redesigned to create a space for a child moving from crib to bed. “This new room was all about giving him something fun during a family transition and to get him excited about a ‘big boy bed.’ The low profile canvas tent really speaks to his adventurous and playful personality,” Hembree explains. Here, the artwork features a cute Highland cow. “Both bedrooms are on the same floor so choosing a second Highland animal with a different energy creates continuity,” says Hembree. A soft rug with modern shapes provides a great surface for playtime. The seating area was created by repurposing an existing chair accented with a new gray cube pouf, chrome reading lamp, and storage baskets for a wonderful reading nook for bedtime stories.
Since the home is in a new construction community, giving the owners a private place to enjoy the outdoors was vital. Hembree added outdoor drapes to the lanai, a beautiful and functional touch. Custom outdoor furniture and a modern, concrete coffee table facilitate a comfortable outdoor seating arrangement and mimic the colors and textures found inside, providing continuity between indoor and outdoor living areas. On the other side of the lanai, a daybed swing is a fun alternative to a hammock and offers the perfect place for kids to play or adults to relax. One of the ways Hembree designed a finished family home was through styling the shelves and nooks, and outside was no different. Glass, wood, and greenery add an elevated earthy feel and help to break up the expanse of painted brick. Even here, items already owned by the family were used to personalize the outdoor living room.