Editor’s Note: “Villa Collina Renewed” is a 15-part blog series detailing owner Dr. Eric W. Barton’s work to restore the largest home in Tennessee to its original Italianate beauty. Each week we will discuss renovation projects across the 40,250-square-foot waterfront mansion, from geothermal upgrades and energy efficiency to state-of-the-art lighting, marble renovations and fountain upgrades. We hope you enjoy this detailed research on the jewel that is Villa Collina.
Villa Collina’s fountains boast beautiful artwork and add symmetry and another layer of ambience to the home. When homeowner Eric W. Barton addressed the restoration of the fountains, he intended to keep the artistic beauty provided by the centerpieces of each while elevating the surrounding area and technology to create soothing environments.
Greeting you in the front of the mansion is Carpe Diem, a bronze statue that holds court in the Grand Fountain. This fountain wasn’t restored; Barton brought it to life as a new structure in an area formerly overrun by unwieldy boxwoods and landscaping beds. From April through October of 2018, crews painstakingly removed the driveway pavers to make way for utilities, including water and electricity, and constructed the fountain from the ground up. Its look was to be grand and big, but not too ornate – a classical Italian fountain to complement the style of the home.
The Carpe Diem statue is talked about as if it were a person by Barton. Commissioned by Sylvia Schlie, a harpist and grand-niece of German composer, theatre director and conductor Richard Wagner, Carpe Diem pays homage to her famous uncle’s music by the harp he holds. Adorning the front of the luxury Carol Parc Hotel in Bucharest, Romania, Carpe Diem welcomed celebrities and dignitaries from all over the world from a perch high above the city. When the hotel closed and its contents were auctioned, Barton jumped at the opportunity to purchase the statue since he has such an affinity for the name and meaning of Carpe Diem – seize the day!
With an 11-foot, 9-inch clearance of the front portico, Carpe Diem was placed in the fountain so that he could be completely seen from inside the home. The 5-foot statue weighs 250 pounds of solid brass with a scale that is perfect for sightlines in the front of the property.
In a previous Villa Collina Restored post, we talked about the wishing well fountain in the wine cellar. It was a mysterious shell of a structure when Barton purchased Villa Collina but through interviews with the original homeowner, he learned it was intended to be a fountain to add humidity to the cellar. As part of the fountain restoration projects, the inside was painted a rusty orange color, and a lion head fountain, pumps, lights and speakers were added to restore and complete another fountain in the Villa Collina portfolio.
The remaining fountains were in various states of completion, and all were in disrepair. The pumps didn’t work, the surrounds leaked, and the fountains had been out of commission for a long time. Each one was addressed – being restored with new, energy-efficient technology and beautiful materials.
The nuts and bolts of the restoration is interesting, as is the artwork adorning many of the fountains – but most will be struck by the technology within the fountains. Every fountain is wired with timers, pressure and stream controls and LED lights – all controlled by apps on the homeowner’s phone. Any combination of colors can be created with a touch of a button in the WiFi-104 app, creating themes for holidays or special events. The Lutron app sets timers for the water and light features to turn on and off. Some fountains feature up to eight different water stream settings, which again can be configured with a few clicks.
Two fountains featuring statues of a young child with a fish flank the back terraces. Those statues are all that remain of the original structures. After demolishing the base, new Italian marble was ordered for the surrounding area that matches the stone in the front of the home. New gunite, which is concrete that is sprayed onto a structure of rebar for pools and fountains, was installed to match the pool, and a new pedestal for the statues was constructed. The statues were brought to life with beauty far beyond their original form.
The koi pond at the back of the property contained four feet of muck when the revitalization project began and is now a focal point and water feature filled with fish. New tile and gunite were installed after it was cleaned.
Two fountains on the east and west sides of the front of the house feature lion heads. These fountains were restored and now provide symmetrical beauty to the exterior of the home.
The fountain contractor, Barry Luzadder from Highlights in Maryville, Tennessee, was a great resource throughout the restoration of the fountains. Using local vendors as much as possible is important to Barton, who met Luzadder at a Tennessee Veterans Business Association (TVBA) mixer at Villa Collina. Barry and his son put in long hours to ensure every detail was perfect throughout the project.
Barton said, “I want this home to be part of Knoxville’s history and to share it with our community to show the care we’ve taken and all that we’ve put in to restoring this home. Elevating the details to become a beautiful, efficient, safe, smart home is the right thing to do for this iconic property.”
Up next: Villa Collina’s pools were innovative at the time they were built but had seen better days when Eric W. Barton purchased the home. Through careful attention to equipment, embellishments and materials, the pools and spa at Villa Collina are now gleaming and beautiful environments within the property.