HK’s first residential project featured in Chatter

Two centuries ago, hallmarks of Greek Revival and French Colonial architecture were popping up in plantation homes across the antebellum South. While few of these relics survive to grace the local landscape, Mark and Jayne Brzezienski’s 10,000-square-foot Ooltewah home resurrects the plantation style for the modern age with a fresh interior chock-a-block with art and history.


Michele Winter Johnson

Mark and Jayne Brzezienski

Eleven years ago, the Brzezienskis’ five-acre parcel in Ooltewah’s Thunder Farm community was an empty pasture. The couple chose the land for its picturesque view of the community’s pond and gazebo, but the enormous task awaited them of laying out their home’s footprint and the surrounding landscaping.

The couple spotted the model for the home they were to build in Architectural Digest. The front and back facades of the house are mirror image, each with six Doric columns supporting the hipped roof. Stacked verandas span the entire width of both floors, acting as an exterior passage between the French doors of nearly every room. Unable to get the original plans, the couple hired local architect Heidi Hefferlin to create a new interior—a main floor with an adjoining guest house and three bedrooms on the second floor divided into two wings. “It’s a very lived-in home. Every room is utilized,” Jayne says.

Along with the challenge of more than tripling their previous square footage, Jayne tackled the massive scale of the new home’s rooms as she decorated the interior. Ceilings on the main floor are 14-feet high and upstairs 13-feet, indulging the family of art collectors with display space. Visual attractions begin in the foyer where several Lawrence Mathis paintings are lit, and a 4-foot-tall bronze Judith poses in the middle of the black and white tiled floor. Five oil paintings by Jane Bloodgood Abrams depict the Hudson Valley on the way up the cantilevered, circular staircase.


Michele Winter Johnson

Isabella and Alexandra Brzezienskis

In the living room, which measures 40 by 22 feet, the family started out with only a few pieces, among them an antique settee and a Steinway Concert B grand piano Mark has owned since childhood. “We sat with that for a long time,” Jayne says, “and little by little we purchased other pieces.”

Today the living room includes a number of antiques and some custom pieces that were finished to match the piano and that anchor the airy color palette, which was inspired by a room in the Bush White House. Among the notable works of art that embellish the space are framed Robert John Thornton botanical prints, just a sampling from the “Temple of Flora” limited number collection the family owns. On the mantel, a blue Sevres clock sits between two vases of the same make, and opposite the fireplace is an 8-foot-tall mirror with a gilt frame, completely at home in the room’s immense proportions.

The wash of European elegance that pervades the home is a credit to the family’s affinity for travel. “It’s one of our hobbies, and our house is another one,” Jayne says. “We like to bring back art, books and ideas about how to decorate and landscape to some extent.”

French doors open any room on the back of the house to an exquisitely designed backyard with lush gardens surrounding a pool. In the summer, the pergolas that give the design so much structure are one of the family’s favorite places to relax, beneath the shade of wisteria vines. Between the house and the pool, a four-square garden mimics the home’s symmetry and the formality of an English garden with four Nishiki willows surrounded by hydrangeas.

Each room has its share of imported antiques and porcelain, but their art, Jayne says, is mostly from local sources like the River Gallery and Ignis Glass Studio. In the casual and eclectic family room, a large Terry Cannon painting takes center stage. A Derek Taylor painting commemorating the 100-year celebration of GPS, which the family bought at auction, brightens the living area in the upstairs wing that belongs to the Brzezienskis’ two daughters, Isabella and Alexandra. Taylor was also given carte blanche to create and install a painted oak tree with hanging moss, which gives the dining room a punch of whimsical, Deep South character.

The Brzezienskis entertain in the dining room a few times a month and eat at home most of the time. A serious cook, Jayne designed her kitchen as less of a gathering space than is the modern trend. Her work island measures an astounding 4 by 14 feet, and an enormous granite peninsula with white cabinetry above and below buffers the kitchen from the family room. Only a small door way leads from the kitchen to the breakfast room, which has a subsequent intimacy. Jayne’s generously sized pantry gives her back-up staging space and a spiral staircase for a quick ascent to the second-floor library.

Like the pantry’s hidden staircase, the house has a number of built-in surprises, including a secret door disguised as one third of a wall of bookshelves in the library. A staircase behind the door leads to a 2,000-square-foot attic — a rec space for the girls, where Jayne also stores her daughters’ toys for grandchildren.

While the style of the Brzezienskis’ home is rooted in the past, it is their forward-looking consideration of their family that has shaped more compellingly the design of their home and even how they live in it. Just last month, their daughter attended her first prom at GPS and the family hosted a dinner for the attendees before the dance. “Everything we do is a collection for our daughters,” Jane reflects. “That’s what this house is about more than anything is collecting what we love.”