The Story of Somerset
My parents decided within four days of meeting each other, they were getting married. And they did. My mother loved to tell that story. My father was finishing up medical school in London, Ontario, Canada. When he graduated, they decided to travel south, to East TN, to visit some of my mother’s family. As the story goes, they ran out of money somewhere in west Tennessee.
At that time, the city of McKenzie, TN, was looking for a family doctor. Deciding that was a perfect opportunity, they found a little one bedroom, one bathroom house and planned to stay until they saved enough money to continue on their way east . . . and never left. My mother started having children (she always said she wanted a dozen, but stopped at six), and as they could afford to, they added on to the house.
With a large local Amish community in the area, my father would provide medical services in exchange for their carpentry skills, so the house is filled with their woodworking craftsmanship. Most of the upstairs bedroom walls are reclaimed barnboard from area barns.
Initially three bedrooms were added to the upstairs, with a large living room on the ground floor. When my younger sister and two youngest brothers came along, so did an additional three bedrooms with a masters bedroom on the ground floor below them.
Always having a great imagination, my parents designed secret passageways connecting several of the bedrooms. One day my father asked my mother whether she would rather walk downstairs or slide, she immediately replied, “slide”, and the Amish designed just that - a slide at the end of the back hallway going downstairs. I still remember as they worked through the process - initially having the slide go straight (into the wall) until they realized that didn’t end so well (literally), and added a curve at the bottom.
The living room includes an expansive couch along the perimeter, a post in the center of the room surrounded by a pile of pillows, and rope swings hang on the beams on either side of the post so one can simply “swing” across the room if desired. My children have also added hammocks strung along the center beam, which seems to be a favorite spot of theirs when watching movies.
When I was a junior in high school, my parents packed us all up and we moved to India for a year (which is a whole other story in and of itself), and when we returned they added on to the house again, filling an entire room with purchases they made while we were there. This room is appropriately called, “The India Room”, which is perfect for yoga retreats, business meetings, rehearsal dinners, or any other large gathering. The bathroom even has a heavy door that was designed to keep elephants out - so it is the “safest” bathroom in the house ;). While they originally just had a traditional “two footer” toilet, commonly found across India, we did add a “regular” toilet as well.
My parents also had a love for log cabins. They found one that was for sale, had it taken down, and then held a “log raising party” and built it back up behind our house. Always loving beautiful wood, they added an upstairs and filled it with their favorite varieties (cherry, walnut, hickory, wormy curly maple, etc). One room upstairs has 2 bunks with queen size beds, and in the middle they designed a book shelf that opens into a closet (like in the diary of Anne Frank).
The other room upstairs became my mother’s writing studio, and she filled it with her keepsakes from growing up in Saudi Arabia (again, another story in and of itself). It now has a bed (also hers from Arabia), and serves as another bedroom.
Both rooms downstairs are lined with shelves and filled with books (both my parents loved to read). There is a cd player filled with classical music, a little coffee bar area, and a gas fireplace - the dream being to curl up by the fire place with some classical music and a good book.
Leading up to the main house from the cabin is a wandering path through a flower garden with a water feature. Another long time dream of my mother’s that was lovingly created by some local landscapers who became dear family friends.
Two whimsical butterfly chairs are tucked away by the upper waterfall, and by design, there are flowers of some sort blooming throughout the spring, summer, and fall.
As kids growing up, we had a small in-ground pool, that saw lots and lots of use. When I was in high school, however, my father discovered triathlons. He would tether himself to the side of the pool with a contraption similar to a large fishing pole with an elastic line, so he could swim in place without having to constantly turn at the end of the pool. Still desiring a larger swim area, he would swim in our pond - often coming out covered in green slime (I hear it’s called duckweed, but all the same . . . ). With a love for swimming, but not the pond, he had the pool replaced with a larger one - this one with two lanes, 25 yards long, an attached hot tub, and enclosed it.
Complete with a slide and a diving board, it is just as popular with the kids as it is for the “swimmers”. When I started doing triathlons, as well as my husband, my sister, her husband, and numerous friends, the pool got more and more use and made its creation all the more worthwhile. It became a dream of ours to be able to host training camps utilizing the house and pool, and our beautiful country roads, and help athletes of all ages and abilities improve their swim/bike/run skills.
One of my mother’s favorite authors was William Somerset Maugham, so it was decided to call the property, “Somerset”, and there is a sign above the driveway saying just that. As you pull down the drive there is another sign with “Slow Please”, as there are often children and dogs out in the driveway playing.
On the flip side, as you drive out, there is a picture of an “Om”, which symbolizes oneness, completeness, connection with the world, gratitude to the universe, and harmony in all things; one of our favorite symbols from our time in India. And the final sign as you leave the driveway is an Arabic inscription which means, “May God’s protection be with you”.
Since my husband and I have been living at Somerset, we have added a large kitchen (because it seems no matter how large or small your home, everyone likes to gather in the kitchen).
We also added a screened in patio (my kids like to call it the “inside-but-outside room”), with a table and some lounging chairs, which is a lovely place to take a moment to relax and reflect.
We have hosted triathlon camps, bridal parties, yoga retreats, and friend reunions, as well as some live music on Memorial Day weekend (a bit of a family tradition). We like to say our place “has character” - it’s a place we want people to come and feel at home. A place to relax, to enjoy, to unwind, to get away from it all. We have kids, and dogs, and peacocks - but if you’re looking for somewhere “with character”, a good story, that is unique and built around love and family - we like to think we have something special and unlike anywhere else you will find. We hope you come visit us at Somerset!
For more information, or to book a stay, please visit our website at: www.somersetgetaways.com