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.
The library in Villa Collina is reminiscent of a bygone era – but with all of the contemporary comforts. Featuring three stories, luxurious paneled walls, impressive architecture, a stunning circular staircase, thousands of tomes and cozy nooks, a reader could retire there for weeks and never lose interest.
One of the most beautiful and interesting parts of the home, the library is both welcoming and stunning. The room is lined with wooden custom shelving and paneling in an octagonal shape built by Louisville Lumber & Millwork in Louisville, Kentucky, when the original owners built the home. With room for 10,000 books or more, it is a book collectors’ dream. Barton had an extensive collection of antique and first edition books when he moved in and enjoys adding to the library.
Arguably the showpiece of the home, the wooden spiral staircase centers all three levels of the library. The wood is Honduran mahogany with ebony-hued posts and gold accents. It was installed by the original homeowners and constructed by Southeastern Stair & Millwork Company of Cleveland, Tennessee.
During the recent renovations, Barton wanted to keep the majesty of the room in place, while making it more welcoming. To maintain the original color scheme, Barton ordered custom burgundy wool carpet from New Zealand. It’s not easy to find burgundy carpet, so a custom color was created to match the previous carpet, and it took about six months to be manufactured and shipped.
Barton didn’t want the staircase runner to be like the carpet in the rest of the library, so he consulted carpet specialist Randy Vaden, who suggested an interesting solution – the purchase of two Persian rugs custom-cut to fit the unique shape of the spiral staircase stairs. The parts of the rug not used in the runner became beautiful cushion covers for the window reading nooks.
Large south-facing windows provide ample light but had caused damage to the original carpet and in other areas of the library over the years. Special 3M window film installed on all of the windows of the home now prevent future damage, and shades in the library are programmed to lower during the highest sun exposure times. Additionally, all of the lights in the library were updated to more efficient LED bulbs. A separate mechanical system for crucial temperature control is dedicated for each of the three levels.
New unique, custom furnishings were added with the goal of making the library a place where guests are drawn in to sit by the fire, cozy up with a book and perhaps enjoy a cup of tea. There’s even a section dedicated to Frank Sinatra with several framed photos, books and an almost life-sized bronze statue. High back Ralph Lauren chairs and sofa, mahogany inlaid side tables and a beautiful alpaca rug round out the space.
Currently, a local graduate student is busy cataloging and organizing the library in order to create a digital database catalog. There are eight sides in the room due to its octagonal shape, so the library will be organized by eight sections to make it easier to find a particular book.
There are thousands of books in the library now, and it’s nowhere near capacity. As such, it’s also a showplace for lovely antiques, with something interesting to discover in every section. Barton is always adding to the collection of antiques as well.
In addition to providing a quiet place to escape, the space also is used during events for cocktail hour before guests move to one of the dining rooms. It’s also a favorite spot for producers who record motion pictures for both television and the big screen. The most recent shows featuring the library are “Princess Diana: Tragedy or Treason?” which premiered on TLC during the 20th anniversary of her death. Some scenes from the movie “The Last Movie Star” with Burt Reynolds also were filmed in this space.
The homeowner has done a masterful job keeping the original stately beauty and elegance of the library intact while updating it and taking measures to protect the contents. It’s now a warm space to enjoy and explore.
Up next: There have been great advancements in audio and video capabilities since Villa Collina was originally built. Catch the next installment of Villa Collina Renewed to learn more about how homeowner Eric W. Barton has elevated the AV experience throughout the home.