Not long after a story on Lorie and Gavin Duke’s former Nashville home appeared on a lifestyle website, they received a note in their mailbox with the proverbial offer they couldn’t refuse. With no plan in place for their next move, serendipity stepped in when days later they attended a charity event and struck up a conversation with a couple they’d met for the first time at the dinner table. “We mentioned that we were about to be temporarily homeless,” remembers Gavin, “and they replied they might have the perfect house for us—theirs.” The new acquaintances invited the Dukes over for a tour and a glass of wine, and as they wandered through the rooms and yard, Gavin and Lorie saw the potential to make it the right fit for their family. Soon they tendered an offer of their own.
The 1925 Cotswolds-style house nestles on a one-and-a-half-acre lot in the neighborhood of Belle Meade, a leafy haven of stately houses with expansive green lawns and impeccably manicured gardens. Some of those gardens happen to be designed by Gavin himself, who as a partner in Page|Duke Landscape Architects, shapes the land for clients not only a stone’s throw from his own backyard, but also all across the South. Whether working on a landscape design for a contemporary house or a historic one, he roots his approach in classicism, always adapting for the built environment and maintaining that the garden should reflect what’s going on with both the architecture and the interiors.
“Gavin and I have an agreement—he obviously drives what happens outside, and I take the lead on the inside,” says Lorie. Although not a designer by trade, she works in sales and marketing at G & G Interiors and frequently chairs stylish affairs for philanthropic organizations, such as the Antiques & Garden Show preview party and the Nashville Symphony fashion show. Describing her look as classic with a modern twist, she cites influences that include Slim Aarons, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy, along with a “love for anything from the ’60s and ’70s.”
Fortunately for this couple, who often finish each other’s sentences even when they sometimes playfully disagree, their aesthetic partnership works as well as their personal one, resulting in a seamless blend of indoors and out. “The house has patina, with edges that have been knocked off over time. It feels comfortable, as if you’re going to somebody’s grandmother’s house,” says Gavin.
“Oh no, it’s far from grandmother’s house,” Lorie counters, with a laugh. “But houses with great bones like this one embrace you in a way that new construction can rarely do.” Just as Gavin layers the garden with flowering plants against an architectural structure of evergreen hedges and a collection of mature boxwoods, Lorie uses a mostly light and airy backdrop for a medley of textures with accents of color and pattern. Pieces that she has had custom made mingle alongside contemporary finds and antiques both inherited and collected.
Gavin acknowledges that the house and its garden often serve, in essence, as a living billboard for his professional work. “A plain white box with a couple of boxwoods in front wouldn’t sell or tell as much about our firm as a house with character and a landscape that speaks the same language,” he says.
Lorie adds, “What we love most of all is when our friends say our house wins the comfort award and that it’s elegant and relaxed at the same time. That means we’ve achieved what we set out do.”
When their daughter, Poppy, who Gavin describes as “11 going on 18,” wants to spend special time with her dad, she heads to their favorite spot, a seating area beneath a shady umbrella on a side terrace. “We’ve always had a thing where she’ll come and say, ‘Hey, let’s go to the talking chairs,’ ” referring to the 1920s metal spring chairs he collects. “That’s where we share a bit of our day and check in.” And ultimately that’s the best kind of offer, and one he’ll surely never refuse.
More from Lorie and Gavin Duke’s Home
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“When I discovered that this green mohair chair by Oly was named the 'Poppy' chair, I knew I had to design our daughter’s bedroom around it. —Lorie DukePoppy’s bedroom, a cheery mix of pink and green, is sophisticated enough to grow up along with her.
By Karen Carroll | Photography by Laurey W. Glenn
See Flower magazine’s Sources section for more design details from Lorie and Gavin Duke’s Nashville home.