To Build or Not to Build? That Was the Question
The Cloisters provided the perfect setting for the Woodman family's dream home.
As this story begins, Tricia and Andy Woodman had just purchased an empty lot in The Cloisters, an elegant gated community in the River Oaks section of East Memphis. Much as they both loved the area, the truth is that while Andy really wanted to build their dream house, Tricia was less than enthusiastic about taking on such a time-consuming and painstaking project. With her sister-in-law, Billie Pelts, she is co-owner of Simply Delicious Caterings; Andy co-owns Corky’s Barbecue with brother-in-law Barry Pelts. All of which keeps the Woodman and Pelts families mighty busy.
Then later, about four years ago, good real-estate karma entered the picture when the Woodmans heard at a party that a family in The Cloisters was selling their home . . . and they saw an opportunity to make their dreams come true without starting from the ground up. The magnificent French-country style house in question was coincidentally located down the street from their existing lot; in a matter of two short weeks, they bought the place.
It so happens that Tricia already had a vision for her perfect home. She had seen the Nancy Meyers film, The Holiday (the one in which Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet exchange houses and boyfriends) and loved the look of the Los Angeles home featured in the movie. For help with translating this cinematic Hollywood ideal into a bricks-and-mortar reality, the Woodmans turned to their trusted friend, interior designer Lee Pruitt, who had decorated their previous home and a country cabin in Eads, Tennessee, as well as houses belonging to both Tricia’s mother and sister-in-law.
Tricia was happy to “listen to Lee” as her husband suggested, but not until first making Pruitt sit through the movie with her to see exactly the look she had in mind. There were also time constraints, because the Woodmans’ old home sold right away, which meant the designer had only a few months to get the new home turnkey ready, or as his clients put it to him, “down to the toothbrushes on the sinks.”
Tricia told Andy “they wouldn’t have to do much to the house,” but as is often the case, some serious renovations were under way within a matter of hours of their taking possession of the property. Tricia suggested the elimination of drapes and replacing small-paned windows to let in more light and to open up the house to the pool area, with its handsome fountain and landscaping, and to the green space behind their property. The interior of the house soon took on a cleaner, more modern look under Pruitt’s capable direction. Rounded arches were squared off, terra-cotta tile floors were replaced, and oak floors were refinished with an ebony stain.
Today, the Woodman home has a glamorously furnished entrance hall (which Lee Pruitt calls “the lobby”), an elegantly sophisticated and large dining room in the center of the house, a relatively small living/game room, a music room, a study for Andy, four bedrooms, a pilates room and, of course, a fabulous, state-of-the art kitchen complete with sitting and dining areas.
Fortunately, Pruitt was able to place all of the Woodmans’ furniture, including some rustic pieces from their Eads cabin. He used a color palette of browns and taupes for walls and fabrics throughout, mounted new sconces and other light fixtures (including a Murano glass chandelier in the entry), and handpicked a number of special pieces of furniture to add just the right touch. A 1959 mid-century modern Florence Knoll couch beckons visitors in the music room, and the art deco bar in the game room holds Kentucky Derby glasses in a nod to Andy’s Kentucky roots. All the doors are painted a bold and sophisticated deep black/brown.
Tricia loves to entertain and just like her father — Don Pelts, who founded Corky’s 29 years ago — she is extremely service-oriented. Presentation is all important, hence her desire for an extra-large dining room. To make this space more versatile and divide it up in a unique way, she and Pruitt settled on the solution of furnishing the room with two handsome long tables that can be used separately or put together as necessary — a moveable feast indeed.
While visiting the large kitchen — the heart of the house — we had a chance to talk to Simply Delicious’ executive-catering chef, Scott DeLarme, whose creative talents are well-known in town from his days at Lulu Grille and Owen Brennan’s. He and Tricia agree that a synergy exists between the two family businesses — Corky’s and Simply Delicious Caterings — in that the catering company aims “to meet every budget from barbecue to fine dining,” handling everything from dinners at private homes and birthday parties to corporate receptions and office lunches to weddings and bar mitzvahs. (For more information, see simplydeliciouscaterings.net.)
Not long ago, Tricia tells us, Simply Delicious held its first corporate food tasting/fundraising event in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Memphis. This proved a great opportunity to utilize Simply Delicious’ catering facilities to train young people in food preparation; she hopes to do more events of this type in the future.
The Woodmans have two teenagers, Josh and Emma. Andy clearly wanted the children to be musical, judging by the instruments in the music room, including three classic guitars and a piano he gave his wife for her 30th birthday. Son Josh plays guitar (his teacher has been the famed Lily Afshar), while Emma plays the piano. The Woodmans especially love “the timeless” family photographs on the walls taken by super-talented Memphian Fran Doggrell.
Luxurious touches can be found throughout the house, such as the floral arrangements delivered every Friday by Lee Bray and Jon Jay Whitby of L & Jay Productions floral studio. In Andy’s office is a magnificent custom-made desk on which sit the vintage pipe racks that once belonged to Tricia’s beloved grandfather, Poncie. Andy wanted a punch of color in the room, so a large turquoise painting was installed on the wall behind the desk.
As we photographed this home, I found myself thinking of yet another film, I Don’t Know How She Does It, based on a book of the same name. Like the English heroine of the movie, Tricia Woodman has two children, a husband, a large household to run, and an ever-growing business to preside over (Simply Delicious catered the huge “Staxtacular” event covered in our March issue). Her energy and good humor are inspiring, although she modestly insists she is “just like everyone else.” And of course, Tricia can’t resist suggesting that for those of us who are trying “to have it all,” her company can help come to the rescue.
Anne Cunningham O’Neill is the arts & lifestyle editor of Memphis magazine.