Villa Collina Renewed: Illuminating Luxury 

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 has thousands of lights – indoors, outdoors and within the numerous water features on the property and inside the mansion. When homeowner Dr. Eric W. Barton set about the task to update the lighting, he wanted to make the lightscapes within Villa Collina more visually appealing and energy efficient. After an undertaking involving close to 7,600 new lights, the beauty of the home is now accentuated by an efficient and comprehensive light system.

The upgrades were twofold. First, the fixtures in the home, including the chandeliers, recessed lights, accent lights and outdoor lights, were upgraded to accommodate LED bulbs. Second, all of the switches, dimmers and controls were upgraded with new HomeWorks QS technology and incorporated into the home’s master control system.

Converting to LED bulbs is beneficial across the board. The light is superior and flexible in that it can be manipulated in different ways and colors. The bulbs also last far longer than traditional bulbs; consume less power; provide substantial cost savings; produce less heat, making them safer; contain no mercury, making them environmentally responsible; and produce virtually no harmful UV emissions, which can degrade artwork and other UV sensitive items.

With 86 rooms in the home and tens of thousands of square feet of indoor and outdoor environments, upgrading the lighting required a commitment to the project. Many of the fixtures had to be retrofitted to accommodate LED light bulbs with new ballasts, switches and other electrical modifications.

It was trial and error at times to find the right brand of bulbs that worked best for the existing and new lights. Dimmers on many switches posed another challenge since some bulbs flickered when installed and dimmed, creating the need to find the perfect match of dimmer and bulb. Technicians from local electric companies Edison Electric and McGaha Electric worked diligently to get it all right, resulting in a reduction of energy consumption that helped cut the home’s electric bill in half.

Home settings are controlled by the Lutron system, which can be manipulated with a few touches on the homeowner’s smartphone. Mark Midyett, an audio and lighting specialist, president of DFASolutions and co-founder of @home Audio Video Technology, installed the original Lutron system in the home when it was built. During the recent renovations, he returned to incorporate new technology, including a new Lutron HomeWorks QS system.

The processors and switches were replaced, and power interfaces and panels upgraded to accommodate new lighting themes and controls. Utilizing radio frequency (RF) technology, the wireless series does not require special or additional wiring to install, making it ideal for existing homes or expanding a system. HomeWorks is a smart system and learns the homeowner’s habits, making it easier to manage day-to-day operations of the lights. Even large areas or zones of the home and grounds can be set and turned on or off with the system, such as the back terrace or the grand foyer. Every light on the property can be turned off with one touch.

Motion sensors installed in many rooms will turn on the lights and then off after five minutes of inactivity. This is especially helpful in restrooms and common areas when guests are in the house and may be unsure where to find the switch.

The pool area had no electricity for lighting, so Barton installed electricity for new lights. Fountain and water areas were upgraded with new lights that can produce any combination of colors imaginable with a touch of a button in the WiFi-104 app. Custom color themes for holidays or special events are simple. The Lutron app sets timers for the light features.

There are plans to finish the lighting scheme outside the home when Barton undertakes the landscaping upgrades in the spring of 2019. New up-lighting around trees and landscaping beds and other areas will further embellish the exterior appeal of the home.

Inside the mansion, Austrian Swarovski crystal chandeliers adorn the formal dining room, Venetian chandeliers are found in multiple rooms, and a copy of a Versailles chandelier is in the Presidential Suite. An intricate Venetian glass custom grape chandelier illuminates a hallway in the cellar. A circular stained-glass light fixture created in Istanbul brings color and scale to the kitchen. (You can imagine the challenge to change a light in that fixture!) In another dining room off the kitchen, a Venetian glass chandelier depicting Tennessee’s state flower, the iris, hangs in beauty. The fixtures were upgraded with new technology, while protecting their considerable charm.

With every detail attended to in the lighting upgrade, Villa Collina will shine brightly for years to come.

Up next: The library in Villa Collina is reminiscent of a bygone era – but with all of the modern-day comforts. With three stories, dark luxurious paneled walls, impressive architecture, stunning circular staircase, thousands of tomes and cozy nooks, one could retire there for days and never get bored. We’ll share more in the next installment of Villa Collina Renewed.