House Tour: Joel’s Hollywood Regency Mountain Hideaway
Joel and his wife Katie recently embarked on a major renovation project. Along with their life-long designer best friend they completely revamped their 1950s home in Chattanooga, Tennessee and transformed it into an amazing Hollywood Regency inspired BnB …
So Joel, tell us about how this renovation project came about?
Well, this was our family home for seven years where I lived with my wife and three children. I had been on a search for almost two years to find the perfect property to list on Airbnb. We finally decided that nothing could top our personal residence as it borders a national park, hiking trails, and is only 10 minutes’ drive to Chattanooga’s very walkable downtown area. So, we literally gave up our family home to do this.
Right at the time we decided to do the project, my wife’s closest friend, Cat Collier-Martinez, left her full-time job to pursue independent work as an artist/designer. The whole thing could have been a disaster without her directing the design and being a friend we trusted through thick and thin.
What skills did you collectively bring to the project?
Without question Cat brought the most talent and skill. She is a maker, artist, and creator. If you spend 25 hours a week for 30 years drawing, painting, and creating, you are rehearsed and ready to make things extraordinary. She’s also been a project manager for big renovation projects like turning 80 hotel rooms into studio apartments. So bonus points for understanding carpentry, plumbing, HVAC, electric, and even Wifi.
My wife, Katie, is also an artist and has been collaborating with Cat on all sorts of endeavours the past 25 years. They have a creative mindshare that allows the work to have extra flavor. Katie’s involvement kept our personality and aesthetic in place. Since she manages the day to day operations of our Airbnb, she helped make sure guest experience was considered at every turn.
For me, I was coming from a software development company that had design thinking as a core value. I knew that the investment in good design up front leads to a better product. So there is an understanding of how to work with a designer and give freedom to create, but also direction and guidance when necessary. Additionally, I was relentless at times finding and sourcing artifacts we needed.
Why did you choose Hollywood Regency, and what is it about that design style that you like?
We told Cat we wanted an MCM inspired look but to make something that would grab attention with photos. She had been watching Netflix’s The Crown series with a lot of admiration for the sets. So that was the regency influence. We had never heard of Hollywood Regency, but once we found it... it was the perfect combination of MCM and glam. It helped us focus on an aesthetic to capture attention and be totally different from what anyone else is doing. We call it being the “hotdog princess” and we want to blow people’s minds.
Where did you source your vintage pieces, and was it hard to find what you were looking for?
This was perhaps the most time consuming part. We wanted to be authentic and vintage as much as possible. We went to resale shops, thrift stores, and scoured Facebook marketplace for hours on end. It was like trying to curate a collection in two months that would take a lifetime to gather. One shop in particular here in Chattanooga called Anthology carried mostly MCM pieces. Special thanks to them.
Apart from the specific genre you were inspired by, did you have any other design criteria when sourcing items and making colour choices?
Cat was the judge. It was her instincts we went with as the final say most of the time. She picked out all of the wall colours and wallpaper. She hand painted a gold patterned feature wall. From the outset of the project she had a colour palette that we stuck with from beginning to end. Since the property is in a forest on a mountain she kept the florals, prints, and artifacts in line with the nature you see out the windows. Zebra prints or cowhides would have been totally out of place. But overall I would say the style guideline was created by Cat.
What was your favourite vintage find, or feature of the renovation?
This is like picking your favorite child, such an unfair question. Here are my contenders: The Murano teardrop glass chandelier in the master bedroom I found from someone I suspect to be a hoarder. The crystal chandelier in the sunroom was my grandmother’s and has immense sentimental value. Lastly the pink settee in the sunroom that the shop owner told us was in her house growing up and her parents NEVER let the kids sit on it.
I’m sure we all would love to know how working on such a big project with your wife and friend was … were there any tricky moments along the way?
Absolutely. There were lots of tears. A scream or two. But so much love. My wife and I developed a term called relationship capital. We used it up at certain points, but at the end of the day the balance was a net positive for all of us.
Where does your love of Mid Century style come from?
I have a general love of retro and vintage going back to my teen years. Nirvana came out when I was in high school, the fashion changed overnight and I was hooked on the new style. You could not find that look in retail stores, so I was always in thrift stores. I started buying all kinds of things like toys, records, and anything that caught my eye. Also, my wife and I got married young and almost out of necessity we shopped thrift stores for clothes and housewares. I’m creeping up on 30 years of sourcing vintage stuff with regularity.
Is your own home equally vintage inspired?
We do have a lot of vintage in our 1938 brick farmhouse that we just moved into. It doesn’t compare to the project we did with Cat, but when we moved I finally threw out some of our sad and boring furniture we were living with for years. A lot of the replacements were vintage and MCM finds. I love the quality of that era, too. Stuff was made to last.
What does the future hold, do you have any more renovation projects lined up?
I’m working with Cat now on a fairly different project outfitting a condo that is at the landing zone of a hang glider park. It’s more outdoorsy in style, and we did not have the time or energy to spend a couple months sourcing vintage stuff on this one.
I think we all have future projects in mind, and anyone who wants to work with us on your own dream vacation rental please reach out. We are interested in partnering with people who want to fund a home and have us handle set up and management. Or work with Cat as a design consultant for your personal home.
Since my childhood lasted from 1980-1989, I want to create an 80’s themed vacation rental. Picture making a mixed tape on a boom box, watching Saturday morning cartoons with a bowl of cereal, and lots of 80’s artifacts everywhere. Cat is interested in a more elaborate Hollywood Regency project that would have a bigger budget than what Katie and I could offer.
Joel’s fabulous property Mount Nouveau can be found on AirBnB
Photo credit: All photos kindly provided by Cat Collier-Martinez, whose Instagram you can follow here: @catcolliermartinez
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