M emphis is a lot of things — a popular tourist destination, a major shipping hub, the birthplace of rock-and-roll, home of the blues and of two renowned sports teams, a city whose ethos has come to be defined as “Grit and Grind” thanks to our beloved Grizzlies. (I like to translate that phrase as something like this: Despite our struggles, we power through and we flourish.) But for tens of thousands of us, Memphis is more than the sum of its labels: it’s home.
Though I’ve only lived in Memphis for about eight years (some say that’s a blink of an eye, but for me, it feels like a lifetime), my love for the city and its people is great. There certainly isn’t another place like it on the map. And I’m constantly surprised by it, whether through meeting new people here or finding new (to me) places. A few months ago, a fellow writer and retired FedEx employee, Cindy Conner, invited a few of us at Memphis to come check out her neighborhood — a “secret” gem with an interesting history and culture. Our editor and publisher Ken Neill, our creative director Brian Groppe, and I accepted the offer, and on a warm, sunny afternoon in October, we met at Walnut Grove Lake. It’s in Cordova, but we, of course, still consider that part of Memphis. We hopped aboard a pontoon boat, cracked open a bottle of wine, and explored the little lake oasis with Cindy and her husband, Brown Burnett, as our tour guides. (Talk about a great day at the office!) The sun’s reflection sparkled like flecks of glitter on the water as the boat split the calm lake, leaving the smallest wake flittering behind us. Each house on the lake seemed to whisper the stories of its inhabitants: through yard art, architectural design, and somehow, though not terribly obvious, through the quietness and the soul of the neighborhood itself.
Perhaps the most interesting part for me was learning about this tight-knit community, tucked away in the suburbs, just outside the hubbub but very much within reach of big-city life. The residents have regular get-togethers — grilling out, drinking, and floating on the lake when the weather is nice. And on holidays, they throw big neighborhood parties complete with house and/or boat decorating competitions, depending on the season. You can read all about it in this month’s cover feature, “The Secret Lake,” where Cindy shares the story of the not-so-secret-anymore neighborhood she calls home.
Though the Walnut Grove Lake neighborhood is unique, it is just one of many great neighborhoods in Memphis. And the sense of togetherness among its residents reflects that of the city as a whole. We may not all celebrate with our neighbors in the same way they do, but we are brought together through the fandom of our successful teams, the support of our local businesses, a general love for our city, and the desire to constantly better it.
As much as location defines a home, so does its style, both inwardly and outwardly. And that’s something we explore in this issue, too, with our first edition of the Home Design Awards. Our esteemed panel of judges reviewed entries submitted in various categories, looking at architecture, renovations, outdoor spaces, and design elements to highlight some of the best-looking homes in Memphis.
Within these pages you’ll also find what has become the backbone of our Home Resource Guide — our all-things-home directory of home builders, interior designers, service providers, and more, which we compiled from scratch for our inaugural Home Resource Guide in 2013 and have painstakingly expanded and updated since. The directory is meant to provide you with a quick-reference list for any and all home-related projects, repairs, or improvements you set out to do. Hundreds of reputable businesses and individuals in our area stand ready to help make your house a home.
Sure, Memphis has topped a handful of national “worst” lists, but it has made several “best” lists, too. As they say, “Haters gonna hate,” but the proof of Memphis’ greatness is in the passion of its people and in the soul of the city — in the neighborhoods and homes we live in. And that’s what this issue is dedicated to. I am proud to call Memphis my home. And I am happy to share this home with all of you.