Geometric Progress 

From Hillsboro Road, the house is barely visible; like everything else about this home, that is by design. ”We retained an urban forester to identify the significant trees before we started construction, so we didn’t lose any,“ says Marilyn McMackin.

”I’ve heard that some of the neighbors are wondering when we’re going to cut down the trees to make a lawn,“ laughs husband Donald. ”The lot is only 2-plus acres, but once inside you can’t see or be seen by others. We could be on a 20-acre estate.“

Hiding in the woods are two offset rectangles split by a terrace that moves through a transparent entry vestibule. The look is modern, but classically so, recalling the early-20th-century work of the Viennese Adolf Loos, of Le Corbusier, of late Frank Lloyd Wright. Architect Price Harrison follows Loos in relying on large plates of glass adroitly placed in stripped and undecorated planes for architectural effect, with barely a reminiscence of a cornice.

”Outside and inside, the palette of materials was kept to a minimum,“ Harrison explains. The exterior is unpainted stucco—the natural tint of Portland cement mixed with sand—with bronze roof caps, limestone coping, and mahogany windows. The goal, Harrison says, was ”to reflect the natural beauty of the site and yet define the minimal architectural volumes.“

The interiors are distinguished by the same rectangular control. The living room, kitchen, and dining room are one free-flowing space, with ash floors and limestone counters. The kitchen’s sleek stainless-steel cabinets were made in New York, the mahogany windows and their bronze hardware were fabricated in Maine. As befits design that is an homage to the International Style, the limestone is from Portugal, the appliances are German, the bath fixtures French, the furniture Italian. ”Price was able to take advantage of resources he discovered from his work in New York,“ says Marilyn, who is the architect’s proud mother.

Harrison grew up in Murfreesboro and received an English degree from Vanderbilt before heading off to Yale to study architecture. After 12 years in New York working on large commercial projects for such eminences as Paul Rudolph, Richard Meier, and I.M. Pei, he was ready to come home. ”I wanted to be on my own, and I wanted to do residential,“ he says. ”I felt that there were more opportunities in Nashville to do new work and get it built.“

The McMackin home is Harrison’s first completed project in Nashville, and was a mom-and-son collaborative effort. ”Nothing was left to the builder,“ says Marilyn. ”Every detail was personally selected, down to the knobs on the cabinets and the hinges on the windows.“ Harrison designed the rugs, the cabinets, the zoned lighting, the exterior light fixtures. Marilyn, who is an interior designer, picked the finishes and the colors, subtle variations of warm whites and cool greens.

The result is a finely crafted exercise in minimalism. Says Marilyn, ”I think of the house as a piece of sculpture that we happen to be living in.“

Owners: David and Marilyn McMackin

Architect: Price Harrison, Nashville

Contractor: Dean Davenport, Davenport Construction Company

Photographs: Catherine Bogert, New York

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