photography by Andrea Zucker
A baronial “dream house” designed by the late Lavelle Walker stands on the perfect East Memphis property.
In a leafy, quiet corner of East Memphis, one overflowing with stunning homes, Darrell and Susan Doane’s abode is a standout. With its beautiful architecture, spacious interiors, pool and poolhouse, landscaped grounds, and iron gates, this home has the feel of a baronial country estate (even down to the family crest carved over the front door) right in the heart of the city. Fresh from a fall trip to Florence and Lake Como in Italy, the Doanes graciously took the time to give us a tour of the house, the interior of which had just been painted top to bottom in their absence. The couple had previously lived in Germantown but were looking for the perfect place in East Memphis to build a dream house. Clearly they found it.
The limestone fireplace, dramatic series of beams overhead, and a wall of windows give the home its country estate feel.
In 2008, the Doanes called on the late Lavelle Walker, a very talented Memphis architect known for reviving classical design, to build their house for them. Susan Doane tells me she coaxed talented interior designer Carolyn Cochran out of semi-retirement to work with her on decorating the house, and that together, “they bought just about everything” from area furniture stores, primarily Bartlett Home Furnishings and Chestnut Hall in Germantown. The oriental rugs came from Kiser’s Floor Fashions and the elegant chandeliers from Graham’s Lighting. The kitchen’s Viking appliances came from CenWood. Susan Doane tells me that Cochran used grid paper to plan and place every single piece of furniture in the house (a tall order indeed!), and in the end her efforts “were spot on.”
Natural light streaming into the house from its many windows, coupled with the glow of polished cherry wood floors, gives luminous warmth to the large rooms. The walls are painted throughout with Benjamin Moore’s creamy “Sailcloth,” and the décor is Tuscan in feel with textured upholstery, an earthy color palette of golds, reds, and rusts, reclaimed wood in beams and door frames, and three fireplaces. The large, more formal entry hall makes quite an entrance with its piano from Amro Music, travertine floor, and faux-painted walls. The home has four bedrooms and seven bathrooms, with a master suite on the first floor that includes a bedroom, bath, Darrell Doane’s study, and Susan’s cozy little sitting room.
Susan Doane likes to cook, and her open-plan kitchen is sleekly modern with a Tuscan texture in its rich leather stools, stone flooring, and handsome granite-topped island.
As we photographed the home, I learned the Doanes were both children of military families and had met and married in Florida. They moved to Memphis in 1986, and Darrell Doane is the owner of the Home Instead senior-care franchise here in town. As an interesting aside which resonates all the more in today’s world, Darrell’s father was in the Department of Defense, and there was a “red phone” in their house at all times. (As a hint I will tell you this was not a “decorative” item.) Darrell and Susan Doane both agree they love Memphis, and they are certainly two very engaged and busy people. They have two grown children, with daughter Courtney Drzyzga living here and son Josh in Boise, Idaho. Susan tells me that Courtney met her future husband in Australia when she was studying there, and naturally her parents were thrilled the young couple decided to make their home in Memphis. A devoted grandmother, Susan Doane helps her daughter, a busy physical therapist at Semmes-Murphey Clinic, by picking up her two children every day after school — Fallon is 8 and Finn is 5 —and taking care of them in the afternoon. This seems an incredible commitment, but clearly Susan Doane thrives on it, and she tells me that toys fill the keeping room on most days. All I can observe is what lucky children they are! The Doanes love to entertain and often have wonderful parties upstairs in their expansive game room with its wet bar, ping-pong table, cushy red leather recliners (the grandchildren just love to play with the mechanisms that make them recline), and large-screen television. Susan Doane comments that the colorful glass tile and quartz used in the bar area is called “disco inferno” — which gives you a clue to the family’s mindset in fitting out this “playful” room. The Doanes love the outdoors, which is evident in the expansive views of green from every room in the home. They are very sporty people and tennis at the nearby Racquet Club with friends is a particular passion. In addition, Darrell loves fly-fishing, and the family has “a cabin” (it actually sounds like more of a real house) on the Little Red River in Heber Springs, Arkansas, which they retreat to whenever they can. At the same time, this fortunate family makes time to give back to the community. Darrell Doane is co-chairing the American Heart Association’s gala Heart Ball in 2017, which is, needless to say, a major commitment and an indicator of the generosity of this wonderful family.
Down-to-earth and modest, Susan Doane tells me that she is not really very attached to “things.” But what she does love about her house is the beauty of its surroundings and the woodsy, peaceful solitude it affords her, notwithstanding the fact it is located conveniently close to the bustling Poplar corridor. She loves to lie in bed and look west out the window and see the bright lights and flag high atop Clark Tower in the distance.
How blissful that sounds to me. Happy holidays to all!