Visit a showroom ›

Blog | Robert Allen

Knoxville’s Summer Henry Knows Home Design Inside and Out

When it comes to home design, Summer Henry believes it’s not just what’s inside that counts. Her philosophy sets her apart from her peers in the Knoxville, TN, design community, as she takes the “good bones” of a house and creates a unique, cohesive living space by marrying exterior architecture to interior elements. From siding and shutters to flooring and furnishings, with an emphasis on creative lighting throughout, a Summer Henry home design flows seamlessly from the curb to the kitchen - her favorite room of the house.

Robert Allen is elated to introduce Summer and her latest renovation project in the iconic Old Westmoreland community. The water wheel and gatepost at the entrance of the Old Westmoreland neighborhood has been recognized as a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places. Stay tuned to our ongoing blog series as we get to know Summer better and explore how she’s using Robert Allen fabrics and furniture to transform her historic house into her very own dream home.

Who Is Summer Henry?

Design sensibilities are coded into Summer’s DNA. Growing up in East, TN, her parents owned an antique store, and at home, her mother loved reupholstering furniture and redecorating rooms. Summer shared her mom’s passion for “making things beautiful,” and although her career aspirations initially pointed in a completely different direction, she simply couldn’t ignore her creative calling. She completed a double bachelor’s degree in political science and history, but rather than go on to law school as planned, she returned to Square One and earned a design degree instead.

Summer’s first professional design job was to reimagine a commercial office space for a real estate firm. In the 16 years since, she’s risen to prominence in her home state of Tennessee through her innovative residential designs. She specializes in new construction, yet relishes the chance to indulge her love of history in restoration projects that put a modern twist on traditional architecture.

What Is Summer’s Design Process?

Starting on the outside and working her way in, Summer creates a cohesive home design marrying exterior and interior aesthetics. She takes an active role in choosing exterior materials, opting at all times for natural over synthetic and historical accuracy over complete reinvention. Summer believes lighting is everything, and one of her first steps on any project is a complete lighting plan that flows seamlessly from the home’s exterior to the interior.

Summer has an affinity for traditional American architectural styles, particularly Federal, Georgian and Plantation, and strives to stay true to the time period of a property while adding new life through ample lighting and a fresh updated color palette.

Inside Summer’s Westmoreland Restoration Project

Eight years ago, Summer purchased a 91-year-old home in Knoxville’s Old Westmoreland community, with plans to renovate the 3,800-square-foot, two-story, Federal-style house and eventually live there. Thanks to a revolutionary waterwheel constructed in the 1920s, this neighborhood was one of the first in Tennessee to enjoy running water and hydroelectric power. As a Knoxville native and history buff, Summer couldn’t resist the chance to honor the past while creating a beautiful, modern living space where she could call home.

The ongoing restoration project has been extensive. Summer went back to the studs - “the bones” - of the house, correcting multiple previous renovations by rewiring, replumbing, refinished original flooring, and, of course, adding new light fixtures and special furnishings throughout.

As the project progresses, Summer’s vision remains steadfast: Give the home a fresh, updated, classic look, while staying true to the architecture and age of the house.

“In every instance where I could preserve original features of the home, such as horsehair plaster walls, an oversized cast iron tub, and the original terracotta shingle roof, I did so,” Summer said. “An eye for detail appropriate to the Federal style of the home was important where new materials were required - windows are wood, inside and out, not a synthetic clad; and moldings are substantial in size, but clean and simple as one would expect with Federal architecture. The kitchen, while modernized with Calcutta silver marble floor, countertops and backsplash, as well as new appliances and cabinetry, maintains a timeless aesthetic with traditional styling. The kitchen door, which exits onto a discreet stoop at the side of the home, was rebuilt to exact proportions to accommodate the original brass milkman's bell, which was cleaned, oiled and lovingly put back where it has spent almost a century.”

The Robert Allen Connection

Summer fell in love with Robert Allen and Duralee designs when she was a student and design intern who frequented our showroom in the Atlanta Decorative Arts Center. Believing the Robert Allen and Duralee brands offered premium quality, exceptional beauty and great value, she has used our fabrics and furniture exclusively in many of her subsequent projects.

For her Knoxville project, Summer is using Robert Allen Duralee fabrics in all but two rooms and has hand-selected several special furniture items from the Robert Allen Duralee collection. These include Chaise Lounges for her master suite sitting room, Whistler loveseats, Chloe chairs and Mason ottomans for her living room, and a Torrey sofa and Corbin chairs for the home’s spectacular great room. Her favorite piece is the Mina Settee, which she plans to upholster in her signature light, unconventional color scheme and place in the bay window of her office.

Stay tuned for our next blog as we continue to bring Summer’s Knoxville home renovation project to life, room by room, and show how she’s making Robert Allen and Duralee fabrics and furnishings an integral part of her latest “labor of love.” You can also follow Summer’s design journey on Facebook and Instagram @summerhenryinteriors.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on Summer’s philosophy. How are you putting your own new spin on classic design styles in your home?