Photography by Chip Pankey
I thought it might be interesting to look into what kind of house a young realtor with his finger on the pulse of this city’s “hot” properties for sale would purchase for himself and his family. In this case the realtor is Joshua Spotts of Crye-Leike, and the handsome historic house he and his wife bought a year ago is located on one of the most beautiful streets in East Memphis.
Built in 1917 by famous Memphis architect Noland Van Powell, the home’s provenance is impeccable. A number of prominent Memphians with names you would surely recognize have lived there over the years, and movie buffs might be interested to know it was featured in The Firm as the home of Mitch McDeere’s boss.
Josh Spotts and his wife, Dr. Caley Spotts, a physician with Inpatient Physicians of the Mid-South had not really planned to move from their Chickasaw Gardens house. It had been a warm and much beloved home for their three young children — Sophia, Hazel, and baby Miller — and Dr. Spotts admits she cried when they left. On the other hand, the good news is their new home, which is not far from the old one, has some of the same character and feel of the previous house. All of which has made the transition much easier.
Faced with a large, four-bedroom house on almost two acres with a pool and poolhouse, Spotts promised his very busy wife that they would “take their time” in decorating. But as it turned out — and somewhat true to form — he decided “to speed things up.”
The first order of business was to make the old home feel open and airy. In some cases the couple has used Belgian linen sheers on the home’s original, vintage windows — the better to take in the leafy outside views. Many of the plaster walls were painted shades of white to lighten things up a bit, with an exception being the navy color used in the handsomely appointed dining room.
(Josh Spotts told me that their wonderful painter, Monica Ferri, practically lived with them for three months since, for example, in the case of the master bedroom’s grey color scheme, Monica had to paint it six times to get “just the right shade.”)
Lighting is especially important to Josh — you could say that it is truly “his thing.” As a result he told me that he is indebted to Cory Wheat of Colonial Electric for all his wiring efforts to add ceiling lights inside the house. And where there was once little or no outside lighting, in Spotts’ words, there are now “hundreds of LED lights everywhere on the grounds.”
The Spotts' did not have an interior designer and instead bought what they liked in the hope “it would all come together.” Caley Spotts admittedly likes to have personal photos and sentimental items dotted around the house, while her husband is a bit more spartan. I attribute much of his decorative expertise not only to his intrinsic good taste, but also to his experience in staging homes for sale, which often calls for significant de-cluttering.
I particularly love the large, light-filled kitchen with its beamed ceiling, grasscloth-covered walls, and handsome pendant lights. Josh, however, is thinking that he would like to make some changes in what to me seemed a perfect space, so we must stay tuned. There is also an elegant little sitting room off the kitchen with metallic wallpaper and a silver sisal rug. It is also the home of “Tulip,” the family frog, who swims in an aquarium filled with Evian natural spring water (I kid you not!).
The family has accumulated furnishings and artwork from a number of different sources for all the rooms: rugs from Kiser’s; paintings by local artists including Paul Edelstein (they have three), John Robinette, and Ron Olson; chairs from Restoration Hardware; chandeliers from Horchow and a Junior League estate sale; and lamps from Worlds Away — the list goes on and on. I found, too, that Josh is a gold mine of tips when it comes to finding very affordable furniture. He mentioned in particular Cotton and Country Fabric and Home Décor Outlet in Hughes, Arkansas, and Frugal Home Finds on the new Highland strip here in Memphis as great sources.
Of course antiques are in the mix, such as the living room’s marble-topped table from Wildwood Antiques in Etowah, Arkansas, and the grandfather clock purchased from the home’s previous owners. There are cherished inherited family pieces — too many to name — such as the living room chairs, a piano, and the dining room table. The little rocking chair in the family room was a gift from a close friend and is dear to the heart of the lady of the house. She used it to rock Hazel to sleep and it’s still used to comfort one-year-old baby Miller. The Spottses became engaged in California’s Napa Valley so they both love the artwork on the dining room wall, which is made up of foils from wine bottles.
The three Spotts children are lucky indeed, as they have a large playroom upstairs not to mention the swimming pool outside. They were all home while we photographed the house, which was a treat and allowed us to have them sit for a family portrait. I have to tell you that observant little Hazel, when she took a look at our photographer and his lighting paraphernalia, said, “Daddy, what are all those umbrellas doing here?” Very cute!
There is a beautiful front porch with swings, while in the back are gorgeous gardens with old-growth boxwoods, azaleas, and magnolias. There is also a blue slate patio, washed brick pathways, and a fountain. An especially magical effect is that the property just seems to stretch back endlessly. The Spottses say they were particularly excited “to unearth” parts of the large garden, including a low brick wall, that had become a bit overgrown over the years, and they have plans to do more work in the future.
The Spottses love to entertain, and this home along with its magnificent grounds is a perfect party house. I can attest to having been a guest at some of their memorable Christmas parties where Joyce Cobb joyfully entertained us. In fact, on the day after we photographed the house they were having a big pre-wedding party for Caley’s sister. This is certainly a taste of things to come.
And of course they are planning a 100th birthday party for their home next year. I do hope they will remember me on their guest list!