Middle Tennessee boasts a rich architectural history, with signature houses that date from before the Civil War, to after the modern mid-century. But while the housing stock tells a textured story of the region’s evolution from agriculture to industry, not every house fits the narrative of contemporary family life.
“If you’re house-hunting in Middle Tennessee, you might start to notice patterns,” says Ridley Wills, founder of The Wills Company, a design/build and home maintenance firm in Nashville. “You’ll see the bungalow without flow, the ranch house without flair, and the 1980s executive residence with too much flair.”
For more than 25 years, The Wills Company has been studying patterns of Middle Tennessee architecture, designing and building solutions to make traditional houses work for contemporary owners. Meanwhile, The Wills Company Handyman team works with homeowners who consider the lasting beauty and functionality of their home a priority.
“We’ve saved historic houses from the brink of demolition, and we’ve even added bathrooms to historic landmarks without indoor
plumbing,” says Wills, a seventh-generation Nashvillian, who studied architecture at the University of Virginia. “While most of our projects are not quite that extreme, we are always thrilled to help clients update the houses they love, to meet the daily demands of their modern life.”
Here are a few common examples of the architectural and design challenges The Wills Company solves:
While these low-slung staples of the early 20th century are charming, often situated in neighborhoods with sidewalks and old-growth trees, they lack the flow of a modern open floor plan. “We’ve updated many bungalows, honoring their Arts & Crafts history and locally sourced materials, while adapting them to cosmopolitan life,” Wills says. “You’d be surprised how gracefully a bungalow’s signature boxy rooms can be reconfigured into gracious gathering spaces with elegant access to outdoor living.”
A cornerstone of the mid-century in the Mid-state, a ranch house offers the convenience of single-story living, often on a generous lot of an acre or more. Too often, though, the one-story layout feels a little one-dimensional. “Re-imagining the ceiling of a classic ranch—lightening up a family room by adding a vault or exposed beams, for example—can add unexpected and welcome drama to the easygoing floor plan,” Wills says.
Many houses built between 1980 and the early 2000s combine the favorite architectural elements of previous centuries under one roof, with Tudor timber frames or Gothic arches coinciding with Mansard roof lines or Classical columns. While these executive houses offer generous square footage, they risk delivering too much drama in the details. Wills says, “Honoring the integral elements of a house and stripping away the non-essential distractions can leverage large livable space to reflect 21st-century aesthetics.”
In each of these examples, the key is to focus on what a client values most, whether that means open gathering spaces or easy access to outdoor living. “So long as a homeowner loves the location, other shortcomings can be addressed,” Wills says. “At The Wills Company, we start by determining what is important to our clients. Only then are we ready to create spaces that meet their needs while surpassing their expectations. By focusing on underlying structural and architectural integrity of houses, we endeavor to create the next generation of beautiful homes in Middle Tennessee.” Ridley Wills, Founder of The Wills Company.
The Wills Company
6606 Charlotte Pike, Suite 201 | Nashville, TN 37209 | 615.352.1228 | willscompany.com