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Home Sweet Home: 3 Made-in-Nashville Tastemakers

by Jill Gleeson
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Sep 15, 2017

Nashville, which is fast becoming the South's coolest city, is now officially about more than music. It's fashion scene -- currently boasting the third highest amount of designers per capita, right behind La La Land and the Big Apple -- is creating big buzz.

But Tennessee's capital doesn't just serve up swoon-worthy threads. It's also become host to an energetic and creative cadre of tastemakers producing cutting edge home goods.

From painstakingly crafted textiles, to offbeat visual art, Nashville's got it, along with tailor-made furniture, coolly chic lighting and ceramics so lovely they're more sculpture than dishware. And if you find yourself so inspired you're on the next flight to Nashville to check out all that goodness in person? Just be sure to pack your cowboy boots.

5 String Furniture

At this point, it feels like there's little that 5 String Furniture can't do. The company that started out as a tiny bespoke furniture maker is expanding into a line of barstools and chairs as well as offering fabrication services, including welding and mill work. But don't think 5 String's biting off more than it can chew. Owner Jeff Estes has recently moved the brand into new digs that are some 1,600 feet bigger than its old 4,200-square-foot quarters next door to Fort Houston, the creative co-space where he met 5 String co-founder Nate Akey in 2012.

Estes says he's shipped "one-off" products including dining and coffee tables, bookshelves and bars to residential customers across the country. Closer to home, his crew is at work for local clients including beloved coffee shop The Frothy Monkey and Holler and Dash, Cracker Barrel's new brand for millennials.

According to Estes, "Our aesthetic is always changing. We adapt to what the client wants and we never want to repeat anything, unless it's a line. In this industry, it's easy to replicate someone else's design poorly. It's easy to do a bad version of something you saw on Instagram or Pinterest. And we try incredibly hard to be ahead of that and lead by example."

Owner Jeff Estes

Tenure Ceramics

Soon, the whole world is going to be able to get their hands on the exquisite ceramic dishes Nashville diners have long seen gracing their city's finest restaurants. John Donovan, a college art instructor and sculptor, is expanding his nascent business, Tenure Ceramics, into a 2,500-square-foot space in the up-and-coming North Nashville neighborhood. Donovan promises, "This will allow Tenure to expand its existing restaurant/client roster and have a retail inventory that will change on a regular basis." Nashville residents and visitors will be able to shop at the location; everyone else can peruse and purchase online.

Donovan got his start making commercial grade ceramic dishware back in 2007, thanks to a connection made through his wife, Lisa. At the time she was was working as a pastry chef for Tandy Wilson, who had just opened the restaurant City House and wanted Donovan's work on his tables. Donovan agreed and soon his deceptively simple, perfectly crafted servingware was gracing the James Beard award-winning chef's eatery. Other establishments, including Bastion and Geist, followed. In 2015, Donovan founded his company.

Tenure's big move happens late this fall. Whether it will change Donovan's lovely aesthetic remains to be seen, but it's a safe bet his fans wouldn't mind a little time to stock up on his current lines first.

Southern Lights Electric

Back in 2011, when Adam Gatchel and his soon-to-be wife Jamie kicked off their lighting design company Southern Lights Electric, their commercial work was all about what Adam calls "rustic/industrial-type designs," thanks to local restaurateurs' love of elevated country chic. Those days are over -- the couple lately is embracing a sleeker, more modern aesthetic inspired by their Swedish ancestry. The direction is a hit, with the company illuminating hotels and eateries from Malta to South America.

Adam, a musician who started noodling with lamps on a break from touring, is Southern Lights Electric's designer; Jaime handles the business. The pair is currently at work on properties including Nashville-based menswear brand Johnson & Murphy's third New York City store, opening soon in Manhattan's Flat Iron district.

Of course, Southern Lights Electric offers more than commercial work -- the company does a bang-up business selling to residential clients. "I'd say 75 percent of the customers on our website will start off with questions like 'Can I get this a little bigger or smaller?'" notes Adam Gatchel. "It's rare we get a sale where they just buy it as is because there are so many different options available. We offer customizations that don't affect the price as much as possible."

LGBTQ Nashville Intel

Nashville Pride
June 23-24, 2018
Live entertainment, 200 vendors and an Equality Walk draw crowds of 20,000 annually.

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel
Member of the Nashville LGBT Chamber of Commerce, cool West End location and superior service.

The Mockingbird
Just-opened "modern diner serving up global fare" owned by "Chopped" winner Brian Riggenbach and husband Mikey Corona.

October 20, November 17, December 22, 2017
LGBTQ dance party at The Basement East, sister location of one of the city's most iconic venues.

Jill Gleeson is a travel and adventure journalist based in the Appalachians of Central Pennsylvania. Find her on Facebook and Twitter at @gopinkboots.


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