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June 2012
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A Southern Belle's Home

Story by Elizabeth Neelley Photography by Amanda Cross

For second generation business owner Paige Dennis, picking out just the right pageant gown for a client has been just as rewarding as finding and decorating her historic Fulton, TN, home with her husband, Zach.

Built in 1892 by original owner Joseph Commodore Brann, the light gray-sided Federal/Neo classical style home was later inhabited by his daughter, Cordelia. Around Fulton, the home is affectionately called "Cordelia's Place."

Sitting at the center of a 5-acre parcel, including a large pond, the home is framed perfectly with large, old trees in the front yard. It is graced with six tall white columns in the front and a welcoming front door encased with wide moldings and crowned with a triangular pediment and finial. Its Southern panache beckons one to enter.

Between the last owner and when Paige and her husband, Zach, bought the house in 2013, it sat vacant for quite some time and fell in to disrepairâ ¦until Paige and Zach gave the house a little TLC.

Just like the home, however, Paige has a unique story of her own.

Paige is owner of Joann's, a prom and pageant dress boutique in Union City, Tenn., a regionally known, as well as nationally acclaimed, business in the pageant dress world. Paige's shop has fitted many excited prom goers, beauty queens, and pageant contestants throughout the years, and is the official wardrobe sponsor for the Miss Tennessee Scholarship Pageant, among others.

Her shop was even the location of the recent Lifetime TV reality show "Glamour Belles," which still airs in syndication.

In addition to owning Joann's, started by her mother over 30 years ago, Paige traveled internationally for many years as a fashion designer and creative director for Mac Duggal Dresses. During her career, she has helped provide dresses for members of the hit TV drama "Nashville," as well as a gown for Gwyneth Paltrow's character in the movie "Country Strong."

During one particular work trip abroad to mainland China and Hong Kong, Paige became very sick with a pulmonary embolism and had to be hospitalized for many days. Doctors said the risk of flying back home to Tennessee was too high, which left her with few other travel options. Still very weak, Paige chose to travel home via a container ship.

But she wouldn't have to travel alone. Her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Zach (whom she had only gone out with "a few times," according to Paige) flew over to Hong Kong to accompany her home. Says Paige of the 17-day voyage, "We were either going to hate each other after the trip or decide to get married."

Obviously, the long trip home proved beneficial to the couple's relationship. A short time later they would become engaged. But not before "Miss Cordelia's" home would come into their lives.

One day after the trip back, while still recovering at her previous house in Woodland Mills, Tenn., a woman knocked on her door and asked if she would consider selling her house. Her first reply, says Paige, was "It's not for sale," but a short time later, she found herself looking for a new home with her soon-to-be fiancé Zach.

After searching for an historic home, fate led them to their current house.

That was January of 2013, and later that year in August, Paige and Zach would get married on the front porch with family and close friends in attendance.

Paige says she likes to call her current home "The house that healed me."

A lot of care and attention has gone into the home, starting with updated landscaping in the front. They wanted to let people know that someone had purchased the home and was fixing up the place, giving it some love. The bones of the house were good, says Paige, so most of the work done to date has been more cosmetic and aesthetic in nature.

Upon entering the home from the large covered front porch, complete with rocking chairs and various sized planters full of bright flowers, one immediately enters the formal living room.

Noticeable right away are the home's high ceilings with burled walnut beams and tall floor to ceiling windows. Topping each of the windows are brown textured velvet cornice boards with finials, which Paige purchased from a New York estate sale and modified to fit her windows. Hanging from underneath each cornice board are long, bronze silk taffeta curtains, pulled back on each side with large tassels.

On the wall at the end of the living room is the home's original burled wood fireplace mantel with vintage grayish-blue hearth tiles. The window treatments and fireplace help set the tone of the room, which is full of warmth and rich colored, lush upholstered furniture.

Adjoining the living room is a formal dining room, which has the same walnut fireplace mantel and tile hearth as the one in the living room. Atop the dining room mantel sits a large Castilian porcelain swan bowl containing an arrangement of white roses and calla lilies, flanked on either side with gold greyhound bookends, very stately in their appearance.

On the opposite side of the dining room are dark wood, built-in corner china cabinets, probably genuine to the home. Paige has enjoyed filling them up with china, crystal and other serving pieces.

"I have china for every season," says Paige.

Her love for china is evident from the way she has decorated and set her dining room table, set as if she were preparing for a family celebration complete with six full place settings of Lenox's "British Colonial" china pattern; Lismore crystal stemware by Waterford; silver flatware, all set around two five armed silver candelabras (which Paige found at Market Central in Memphis, Tenn.), and an almost too pretty to eat two-tiered strawberry cake at the center of the table.

Hung above a rectangular wood dining table and six pierced splat-back dining chairs is one of the room's main focal points, a crystal chandelier original to the house, but relocated to the dining room from another room. Much of the home's lighting was already in the home when Paige and Zach purchased it, or they have been purchased to fit the period of the home.

On the front wall of the dining room, between two large windows, is a side board with a silver serving tray and silver set, as well as crystal champagne glasses and a bucketâ ¦set and ready for a festive meal!

In both the formal dining and living rooms are the home's chestnut wood plank floors, which have been in the home since its construction. The floors stand out well against the eggshell white stippled plaster walls. Also accenting both rooms are multiple Asian and Persian style rugs in various hues of reds and blues, all purchased by Paige at estate sales.

Just off the dining room is the home's kitchen, decorated in a blue and white theme. The previous owner had already renovated the kitchen with light blue, solid surface countertops, white cabinets and a blue and white tile backsplash, so as Paige says, she "just went with it."

From the blue and white toile window valances (one of which is monogrammed with a "D") to blue willow plates and blue and white porcelain containers hanging on the wall and arranged in various settings, the kitchen has enough of Paige's antique Southern flair for it to feel right at home with the rest of the home's historic charm.

The kitchen is not the only blue and white room in the home. Up the staircase off the home's back hallway to the second floor is a recently and completely redone full bath.

Situated to the right when you walk in is a dark blue vanity with a white quartz vanity top. Inset down in the vanity is a blue and white Asian inspired porcelain sink basin. The sink and bath fixtures are 24K gold-plated Sherle Wagner faucet sets, including a swan designed faucet and handles to match at the sink.

The 12" x 12" marble floor tiles contrast well with the blue and white botanical print Thibaut wallpaper. The soaking tub opposite the sink is encased in a dark navy blue trim - the same color as the sink vanity - surrounded with marble subway tiles.

Hanging above the toilet is a Picasso inspired contemporary painting, elegantly framed in gold, which matches well with the other gold and brass fixtures and cabinet knobs, including the pineapple shaped vanity lights above the bathroom mirror.

Paige and Zach have other art from their travels, including several framed Asian silks hanging in the upstairs hallway outside the bathroom. The framed silks are hung above a marble topped antique table with a Victorian style lamp and an oblong shaped castilian porcelain dish, which gracefully holds vintage ladies gloves.

About the castilian porcelain, Paige mentions that she especially loves this style of container, as in addition to the dish on the hallway table and the swan themed castilian bowl on the dining room mantel, she has a castilian planter that sets on a table beside her living room couch.

While Paige points out that not every room in the home has been updated yet, a guest would be hard pressed to find a room in which he or she would not feel at ease. Off the upstairs hallway are three bedrooms, including a guest bedroom painted in a pleasant Tiffany blue which overlooks the front yard.

At the Dennis home, every piece of furniture and décor has been thoughtfully placed and helps to add to the overall feel of the home -- more formal, but yet equally comfortable and relaxed.

When asked how she would describe her decorating style, Paige says, "In the style of Ernest Hemingway." She says when you think of Hemingway, you think of rich, dark woods, colonial charm and pieces that have a story and a meaning. Paige and Zach's home reflects all these things, but with a little extra flair, hospitality and style that is uniquely Paige Dennis! n

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