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Blackberry Visions

Roger Higgins and Ann Shipp bring holiday magic to a Blackberry Farm family retreat

Written by Jenny Bradley Pfeffer
  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Blackberry Farm is downright bucolic year-round, but as the holidays approach, the resort property—located in the foothills of Tennessee’s Smoky Mountains—is simply storybook enchanting.

    “It’s so magical here,” Nashville-based designer Roger Higgins says. “You feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere, and then you see this white picket fence. The angels start to sing, and someone hands you a pimento cheese sandwich.”

    Architect: Scott Harrop, formerly with Johnson Architecture, Knoxville, Tennessee; now with C.S. Harrop Architects, Knoxville, Tennessee; 865/363-6930;

    Interior designers: Ann Shipp and Roger Higgins, R. Higgins Interiors, Nashville; 615/297-9632;

    Builder: Hickory Construction, Alcoa, Tennessee; 865/983-7856;

    Landscape architect: Ben Page, Page | Duke Landscape Architects, Nashville; 615/320-0220;

    PORCH—Sofas “Pavilion X Sofa”: McKinnon and Harris; Chairs “Italian Dining Arm Chair”, coffee tables “Italian Coffee Table”: Niermann Weeks;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    The breathtaking setting and Southern hospitality no doubt helped persuade -Higgins’ clients to build their dream holiday home in these rolling hills. Living in Hong Kong at the time, the homeowners snapped up one of the first lots sold by Blackberry Farm for private residences.

    Architecture: Johnson Architecture; Construction: Hickory Construction; Landscape: Page | Duke Landscape Architects;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Now living in Nashville and with children in college and high school, the family has established the retreat as their go-to Christmas getaway. Higgins, with his wife and design partner, Ann Shipp, was charged with the home’s interior design and also with ensuring that it is in top form for the family’s annual Yuletide gatherings.

    Wall paint “Natural Choice”: Sherwin-Williams; Ceiling paint “Teardrop”: PPG Porter Paints; Lantern “Pentagonal Whitehall”: Charles Edwards; Fabric for sheers “Scrim” in Natural: Schumacher; Biedermeier table: homeowners’ collection. Mirror custom: Herndon & Merry;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    The holiday headliner—taking advantage of VIP placement next to the living room fireplace—is a 12-foot Douglas fir embellished with a collection of ornaments that have been carefully handpicked over the years.

    “They’ve been collecting ornaments for years, both while living here and in Hong Kong,” Shipp says. “Every year the family makes a trip to Bergdorf Goodman in New York and orders a slew of ornaments. I think there must be 1,000 on the tree by now. It takes three of us a full day to take this tree down!”

    “I usually believe that the simpler the holiday decorations, the better,” Higgins adds. “But this tree is the antithesis of that. It’s a piece of glittery holiday artwork.”

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    Beautiful on the most ordinary of days, the living room at Christmastime becomes an exemplar of holiday cheer. Neutral wool draperies with an oversize paisley pattern frame the towering fir. An unfussy, textural sisal rug and grass shades add warmth and balance to the glitzy extravagance. A quartet of pieces—a pair of suede wing chairs, a velvet armchair, and a subtly patterned sofa—offer cozy seating for unwrapping gifts around the fire.

    A sweeping, elaborate garland of ilex berries, magnolia, thyme, and eucalyptus leaves draws the eye to a clean-lined, Federal-style mantel, above which hang six paintings by Marc Chagall.

    “They collect contemporary art,” Higgins says. “The collection makes such a wonderful contrast to this casual, comfortable mountain setting.”

    Wall paint “Natural Choice”: Sherwin-Williams; Ceiling paint “Teardrop”: PPG Porter Paints; Ottoman custom: Ferrell Mittman; Drapery fabric, sofa fabric, pillow fabric: Clarence House; Armchairs “Lambertus”: Rose Tarlow; Tan chairs “Highback English Wing Chair”: Dennis & Leen; Sisal rug custom: Designer Carpets; Chandelier customized “Duveaux Chandelier”: Dessin Fournir;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    In a dining room designed for fireside feasts, a black-and-white painting by Jean Dubuffet comes into focus against the room’s commanding palette, creating a complementary focal point to magnetic views of Blackberry Farm’s undulating hills spied through a wall of windows. A uniform shade of smoky-bronze-meets-deep-tobacco (Higgins loves colors that can’t be described in just one word) dresses walls and trimwork, including the garland-draped fireplace mantel. A dollop of white, courtesy of amaryllis paired with magnolia leaves, adds holiday flair.

    “There were two things here that we couldn’t compete with: that view and the art collection,” Higgins says. “I didn’t want to distract from either, so we took our color cues from nature to create a background that highlights both.”

    Wall and trim paint “Char Brown”: PPG Porter Paints; Picture light “Cabinet Maker’s Picture Light” in Bronze by E.F. Chapman for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Dining table “Early Georgian Dining Table”: Holland MacRae; Chairs similar available: Dessin Fournir; Drapery panels “Mulberry Home Crewel Linen”: Lee Jofa; Chandelier custom: Dessin
    Fournir; Framed artwork by Jean Debuffet: homeowners’ collection.

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    In the master bedroom, distractions disappear altogether. A wool fabric in a smoky-gray hue is upholstered on the walls and highlighted by cream-hue woodwork and a wormy chestnut ceiling. A tufted headboard, Fortuny pillows, and -Bergamo bedding elaborate on a luxurious theme that feels equal to any four-star hotel yet still manages to remain full-on homey.


    Wool wallcovering “Chester Wool” in Tabac: Schumacher; Trim paint “Anew Gray”: Sherwin-Williams; Sofa side tables custom, chandelier discontinued, similar items available: Niermann Weeks; Cocktail tables discontinued, similar available as “Maci”: Interlude Home; Sofa custom: Ferrell Mittman; Sofa fabric discontinued, similar available as “Malin Check”: Zoffany; Bed “Eastwood”: Hickory Chair; Bench at end of bed—homeowners’ collection. Bedside chests antique “Satinwood Bowfront Chests”: Ronald Phillips; Swing-arm bed sconce “Studio Architects Swing-Arm Wall Light” in Bronze for Visual Comfort: Circa Lighting; Sheers fabric “Scrim” in Natural: Schumacher; Club chair “English Arm Lounge Chair”: Baker;

  • Emily Jenkins Followill

    “Blackberry Farm has an identity that isn’t polished and lacquered,” Higgins says. “We wanted this house to reflect that. There is a push and pull here that just feels warm and inviting.” 

    Interior designers: Roger Higgins & Ann Shipp

    Vanity “Lady’s Desk" from the Barbara Barry Realized collection: Henredon; Chair “Diana Vanity Chair”: Baker; Chandelier “Isadora Chandelier” in black finish: Ironware International;