From hand-painted wallpaper and finely stitched linens to the masterful blend of timeworn European antiques and cherished heirlooms, this meticulously decorated residence offers the ideal setting for gatherings.
Limestone balustrades delineate the front lawn of Claire and George Payne’s stately home, its slate-and-copper roof illuminated by the early morning sun. Designed by noted architect Jim Bargainer, the French-influenced façade was inspired by that of the American embassy in Paris, with large Palladian windows on the ground level and wrought-iron railings across the second-floor porch. Though the house is but a few years old, it has the regal bearing of a much more venerable structure. That impression is reinforced with Old-World character radiating from each elegantly appointed room, where black-walnut floors gleam underfoot and bespoke doors are made of the same unique wood. Muted Oriental rugs add color and pattern, and the dining room boasts exquisite hand-painted Gracie wallpaper that took more than a year to create, as well as custom-made chandeliers based on some the Paynes once admired during a tour in Europe.
Claire, who served as her own decorator, has filled the interiors with a sophisticated mix of beloved family heirlooms and exceptional antiques discovered on the couple’s trips abroad. One of the loveliest examples of the former is a circa seventeenth-century mirror from George’s late great-uncle’s estate, now the location for Chattanooga’s prestigious Hunter Museum of Art.The Paynes love to host dinner parties, and Claire has acquired an impressive collection of sixteen different china patterns. To make settings even more special, Claire commissioned tailor-made linens to match much of her dinnerware. She also inherited numerous sets of silver and auxiliary serving pieces—items she treasures and uses quite often.
Back doors open to a parterre designed by landscape architect Scott Gilchrist. An ideal spot for alfresco dining lies beneath the shelter of a pergola, and perfectly manicured boxwoods enclose gravel paths that amble through the plot. An accomplished floral arranger, Claire often clips fresh flowers and greenery to bring her garden’s botanical largesse indoors—just one more thoughtful way she makes her home an inviting haven for family and friends.
Text Karen Callaway
Photography Mac Jamieson
Styling Melissa Sturdivant Smith