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Reader Home: Living Lightly in a Granite Foursquare

This American Foursquare in Central Gardens, Memphis, Tenn. celebrates its 100th birthday this year. The house, never neglected, was restored and gently renovated.
Foursquare home

Other Foursquares in the neighborhood are clinker brick and stucco or wood frame—this one stands out with its imported granite on the first floor.

Our foursquare is in the Central Gardens National Historic District in Memphis, Tennessee. My husband, Greg Gentry, and I bought it almost two years ago, and projects are ongoing: We removed the recent prefab Greek-style front porch columns, and replaced them with 6x6 posts, then custom-built trim to match our interior newel post. We’re planning a detached garage with studio space above, much like historic outbuildings in the area.

Tudor-arch fireplace

The Tudor-arch fireplace and mantel are original.

We haven’t changed much inside, no tearing out walls or woodwork. I’ve decorated in a personal, updated take on Arts & Crafts style. The interior has the nurturing feeling of early 20th-century rooms. The caramel wall color, ‘Brush Box’ [8325D] from Sherwin–Williams, was already on the walls; I like its Arts & Crafts associations and how it complements the painted ivory woodwork.

Prairie-inspired patterned rug

The dining room has a wool rug in a Prairie-inspired pattern, by Surya.

We do use the rooms differently from the original plan. The old formal dining room is now our media room, separated from the front living room by the original pocket doors. A narrow back room is used as our dining room, next to the kitchen. The kitchen is in its original location, and a small powder room was added in what was part of the hall and a closet. We have a typical “half double” staircase—steps from the front room and another from the kitchen meet at a single landing, and one flight proceeds to the second floor.

guest room with antiques

The guest room is furnished with Tennessee-made items, made in the 1920s and purchased at auction by the owner’s mother in the 1950s.

The backyard is small but nicely landscaped with an edged border between the grass and planting beds against the fence. It will soon host the outbuilding, its design approved by both the city and the Landmarks Committee.

Before our ownership, the fourth upstairs bedroom was sacrificed to create a larger master suite with an upgraded second bathroom. A front bedroom serves as a home office. All the floors are original to the house, but, unfortunately, will have to be replaced at some point. They’re oak, but a kind of primitive “engineered flooring” in use during WWI when lumber was scarce. After a hundred years and several sandings, floors are paper thin.

A Beautiful Porch

Foursquare porch

The big front porch is a great place to engage with the neighborhood.

Our big front porch is a great place to engage with the street, which features big trees and mature landscape. Memphis’s residential Central Gardens neighborhood has an eclectic mix of houses, in styles from Italianate to airplane bungalow and everything in between. It holds perhaps 1,500 homes. More at

I love Arts & Crafts Homes magazine. My husband, however, says it gives me too many ideas of how to spend money on this house. Just kidding, he enjoys it, too! This is our dream house in our dream neighborhood, and we’re delighted to share it.

fenced backyard

The fenced backyard has an edged border.

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