Absolutely Luminous

One house, two sunrooms - plenty of pane and pleasure.

In some ways, humans are like flowers. We seek the light in order to flourish.

That could be said of Phil and Patty Zerilla, who loved the original sunroom in their Hein Park house so much they decided to add another one. While each has unique characteristics, both rooms share certain features that have given the owners years of joy.

Phil bought the Italianate home in Hein Park in 1974, and after he and Patty married in '79, they often found themselves in the room with French doors on three sides. Sunlight, laughter, music, birdsong, water flowing from a fountain — all these filled the space, as mother and daughters would play the piano and open the doors to welcome nature's symphony.

The gently arched French portals with their geometric patterns have an interesting background, according to Patty. "When we were renovating another room in the house," she says, "we called a refinisher named Julio Tagnetti to work on a cabinet. He used to be with Denaux-Kimbrough [a design firm on Union Avenue for many years]. We told him how much we loved the cabinet and he said, 'I think my daddy built this.'" Tagnetti discovered, upon checking his father's records, that he had built not only the cabinet but the French doors in the sunroom and in other downstairs rooms too. "The radius on every one is exactly the same — precisely measured," says Patty.

Other highlights are walls of Venetian plaster, architectural niches, a sculpted carpet over quarry tile floors, and pillars that flank the entry to the living room.

But who's heading to the living room when the sunroom affords such lovely views? In spring, massive azaleas of fuchsia, orange, and pink, planted decades ago by the Zerillas, dazzle the eyes, along with dogwoods, magnolias, and a wisteria arbor. On the east side of the sunroom is a covered porch with a tile floor, twisting Italianate columns, and an evergreen clematis sporting huge white blooms. On the west are a shade garden and a koi pond with a fountain.

In 2001, to modernize the house and add more family space, the Zerillas decided to create another sunroom. Originally a concrete landing outside the back door, the 14-by-16-square-foot room features duplicates of the French doors, custom-made by Nixon Lumber Company. On a wall adjacent to the doors, new windows open outward to usher in fresh air. The beadboard ceiling, painted a light shade of blue, is slightly slanted and beamed to create a cozy feel. Patty likes to hear the patter of rain, so she chose a tin roof for the new sunroom. The floors are stone tiles laid at an angle.

Needing to downsize a bit, the Zerillas have built a house in East Memphis and are selling the home they've treasured. Built in 1928, the residence has four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths.

The Zerillas will miss the sunrooms, where they'd read, listen to music, entertain, and watch wildlife outside. In the summer, because big trees shade the house, the couple seldom felt the need for downstairs air conditioning. Instead they'd flip on the ceiling fan, open the French doors, crank out the new windows, and, as Phil says, "It was perfect." M

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