If the entryway is a home’s first impression, the front hall in the Germantown, Tennessee, country house of interior designer Rhea Crenshaw’s good friends and longtime clients offers the ultimate welcoming experience one will not soon forget. Designed by architects Bobby McAlpine and John Sease, the stone house could seem formal, but instead offers a sense of relaxed familiarity from the second you enter. “It feels like you stepped into your favorite novel,” Crenshaw says.
After being approached by the clients to warm up the entrance hall, which was previously all-white and sparsely appointed, Crenshaw set about adding layers to help distinguish between the room’s extraordinary details. The structural space features a double staircase that flanks each side of the front door, as well as enormous windows, columns, and moldings—all of which ran together in its previous monochromatic iteration.
While some formal entryways are less frequently used by the family in favor of casual side doors, Crenshaw notes that everyone uses the front hall, which also serves as the axis of the house. “You can’t go anywhere without going through it first,” the designer says. “Day and night, you’re constantly moving through this space.”
When it came to furnishing the hall, Crenshaw’s first exciting find was a trio of locally sourced, French-made Yoke lanterns, which helped drop the coffered ceiling and added an ambient glow. To set the space apart from the living and dining area, which is done in mostly neutral hues and shares the length of the hall on the opposite side of the columns, Crenshaw wanted to give the thoroughfare its own identity, color, pattern, and texture, while still maintaining a cohesive flow. To that end, she selected a red and brown Ikat fabric from Carleton V. for the windows, which inspired the dark umber brown walls—a choice that added much-needed contrast and allowed the trim details to shine. The runner, which features a tribal pattern in worn reds and indigos, anchors the center of the hall and front door, and, Crenshaw says, “Gives the entrance the laid-back, timeless feeling all country houses seem to have.”
With the palette and foundations in place, Crenshaw completed the space with furniture and objets that are a mix of collected antiques and treasured family pieces. The end result is a truly inviting and eclectic entryway that’s a perfect reflection of the owners, whom Crenshaw describes as “Experience-seekers with a love of art and all things curious and thought-provoking.”