French Country Comfort

Photo by Med Dement

Photo by Med Dement

Dick and Sarah Fowler say they each had a unique vision for their home: Sarah wanted a place well-suited to entertain family and friends, while Dick dreamed of a house “down in a hollar” near a mountain stream. Today those dreams meet in their family home that sits at the bottom of a hill with Chicken Creek flowing behind. With its customized layout, Sarah can welcome guests with ease. And for Dick, the soothing sounds of the creek below can be enjoyed during meals on the home’s covered porch or outdoor patio.

The Fowlers’ Warm and Welcoming Family Home

By Rebecca Rochat

Photography by Med Dement

Full PDF here.

The Fowlers have now been in their residence for a year, and while the house is new, the furnishings that fill it were brought from their previous home—a farm in Wildwood, Ga. The eclectic collection includes pieces that once belonged to each of their mothers, furniture and accessories from travels abroad, and furniture from Fowler Brothers Furniture in Chattanooga (now The Furniture Shoppe).

Dick, current Furniture Shoppe president, follows in a storied family tradition that traces back to the late 19th century. In 1885, his great-grandfather
J. Calvin Sterchi and great great uncle William Sterchi opened a furniture company in Knoxville. As the business progressed, his great-grandfather partnered with his grandfather, John O. Fowler, to open Sterchi Brothers and Fowler in 1911 in downtown Chattanooga. That changed to Fowler Brothers Co. in 1930 when John Fowler teamed up with his two brothers—Frank and Ben. In 1943, the company was passed on to Dick’s father, Richard Calvin Fowler Sr. Dick became president in 1981, and he celebrated his 50th year in the furniture business this summer.

Today, Dick and Sarah have three grown children of which they are very proud: Chappell Fowler, an interior designer and artist, R. Calvin Fowler III, a Baptist minister in Savannah, Ga., and Carter Fowler, who manages The Furniture Shoppe and The Patio Shop. Chappell and Carter have both used their gifts to bring the company into the 21st century as the fifth generation of Fowlers in the industry.

The stately exterior of the Fowlers’ home was designed by Jack Arnold, AIA, one of America’s leading architects of French Country style, and built by Dexter White Construction. In true country French style, the stucco house has steep, sloping rooflines and board-and-batten Hague blue shutters.

Sarah, an artist like her daughter, has also done interior design work at Fowler Brothers. She explains her color scheme for the house was inspired by two decorative accents: her grandmother’s china, featuring blue, red and orange patterning, and Oriental rugs in the living room and dining room, also featuring deep, vibrant hues of blue, red and orange. Sarah says she enjoys mixing woods, patterns, and fabrics all within this warm color scheme.

The formal dining room is a perfect example of this. Oak floors blend with mahogany and pine furniture to cast tones from dark to light. The rich woods of the furniture are complimented by “Terracotta” red walls and an Oriental rug with jewel hues of blue, red, and orange. At the center of the room, a Winterthur 18th century reproduction double pedestal table is paired with mahogany Queen Anne chairs covered in an 18th century French singerie motif. A handcrafted pine corner cabinet by Stephen von Hoen displays some of Sarah’s grandmother’s china, and a reproduction Hepplewhite mahogany sideboard by Arthur Brett features contrasting satin banding inlay. The room is also home to a beautiful black Oriental chest.

The living room also uses a mixture of furniture styles, woods, and patterns within the blue, red, and orange color scheme. “Dorset” cream walls contrast with the room’s vibrant textiles for an overall warm effect. A French-style sofa that belonged to Dick’s mother is covered in crewel upholstery with a blue carnation motif and topped with bright green, red, and yellow accent pillows. End tables in differing styles—one a pedestal table and the other a Sheraton-style table with floral parquetry—are placed at either end of the sofa, while a black Chinese-style table with a tray top serves as the coffee table.

Two matching sofas upholstered in a solid red fabric face each other in front of the fireplace, which has a custom faux limestone finish by John Lynch. Above the mantle hangs a pastoral painting by Russian artist Daud Akhriev in an elegant gilded frame. A recess on the right side houses a burl walnut cabinet, while another on the left houses an English grandfather clock. The room also has two beautiful pieces: an English pine Chippendale-style breakfront that displays a collection of figurines and china, and an antique walnut Queen Anne-style highboy placed just behind the sofa.

In the combined kitchen and den area, “Calke” green walls complement a ceiling painted in a cork color with beams contrasting painted the same color as the kitchen cabinets. Throughout the space, the Fowlers have blended country French décor and accents with English touches.

In the kitchen, cabinetry by Scarlett’s in a washed canvas color is complemented by Italian granite countertops. One wall houses double ovens, a dishwasher, and a farmhouse-style sink, while another has a second sink, and a gas range and oven with a custom French hood. A backsplash lined with glass tiles has a center motif created from four orange-toned French tiles that surround a scenic tile that Sarah found in Italy. In the center of the room, an island has an extended counter used for informal dining. Over the island hangs a whimsical green chandelier with rooster figures perched among the arms.

The den’s focal point is a stacked stone fireplace with a wooden mantle, over which hangs a portrait of Dick’s father—R. Calvin Fowler Sr. To the left, a Welsh dresser purchased by Dick and Sarah on one of their travels displays hand-painted Italian Deruta pottery. Guests can relax on a floral print sofa that faces the fireplace, or dine at an elegant trestle table that is paired with chairs that belonged to Sarah’s mother.

From the foyer, a small sitting area with green upholstered wing chairs and a gaming table leads to a guest suite and the master suite. Sarah’s mother, Sarah Carter, lives with the Fowlers, and her bedroom and bathroom are on the first floor. Next to Mrs. Carter’s bedroom is the master suite, which features a delicate coral-and-green color scheme. Walls painted “Chappell” green complement coral-colored bed linens and upholstery. The room’s furnishings include a French provincial bed and a wedding armoire—both by Pierre Deux. The bed has a quilted coverlet of white roses against a coral background that is topped with contrasting decorative pillows of blue Chinoiserie and coral-and-white floral. The bed faces another fireplace with a custom faux limestone finish crafted by John Lynch. The Fowlers’ master bath has marble floors and countertops and cream-colored cabinets accented in gold. Above the soaking tub, a wall of small, square tiles of glass, travertine, and marble was custom-designed and constructed by David Hulse.

The foyer stairway leads to two bedrooms and baths on the second level. The first, a guest bedroom, has a delicate rose color scheme, while the second, a bedroom for the Fowler’s grandchildren, has bright green walls, twin beds, and an alcove outfitted with a  sofa and a dollhouse.

A wooded area at the rear of the house offers both serenity and privacy for the Fowlers’ covered porch. The porch is outfitted with comfortable wicker furniture—the ideal spot to relax to the sounds of the creek below. At one end of the porch, a bench swing is topped with green and purple cushions. The other end houses a table and chairs for breakfast or evening meals.

When the weather is pleasant, a patio just to the side is all set for dining alfresco. Family can take their plates and relax on chaise lounges or another seating area centered around a fire pit. Nearby, a fountain trickles into a small fishpond. The Fowlers’ custom-designed the fountain from a copper pot they brought back from England. Just to the right of the fishpond is a playfield for the grandchildren—Dick knew his grandchildren would need a good place for outdoor games. The Fowler grandchildren also love the backyard “fairy garden”—a collection of whimsical figurines and mythical-looking dwellings grouped underneath a large stone boulder.

Now boasting seven grandchildren, Dick and Sarah Fowler have worked hard to create spaces that their kin can enjoy—from the upstairs bedrooms, to the fishpond, to the playroom above the kitchen that doubles as Sarah’s art studio. Today, Dick’s vision of a home “down in a hollar” where children and grandchildren can gather is now a reality. “We wanted to think about everybody when we planned the home,” explains Sarah. “It’s for the family, and it’s all about family.”

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