HGTV's Urban Oasis Home, Fourth and Gill, Knoxville, August 2017
This past week, HGTV offered local news outlets and bloggers an opportunity to see what has been a closely kept secret for about a year. HGTV began in 2010 giving away an Urban Oasis spot which was meant to complement their Dream Home and Smart Homes giveaways.
For each of the first five years, the giveaway had featured a home in an urban core. Starting in 2015, noting a hot trend in housing, the featured homes shifted to “ring” or neighborhoods bordering or near an urban core. Previous locations have included New York, Chicago, Miami, Boston and Atlanta.
After the shift to “ring” neighborhoods, the show featured Ann Arbor, Michigan and Asheville, North Carolina and then shifted to Knoxville for this year’s home. Entries in the sweepstakes have grown from about 15 million the first year to about 52 million last year.
Here’s how HGTV described our town (and the location of its home offices) and this year’s home:
Located in the historic Fourth & Gill neighborhood close to vibrant downtown Knoxville and the University of Tennessee campus, the renovated 1925 bungalow features an all-new interior and exterior with eye-catching design touches and aptly lends itself to sustainable urban living in one of Knoxville’s hottest neighborhoods. Home to HGTV for over two decades, Knoxville is a thriving metropolis that boasts an urban feel infused with trademark southern hospitality. The Fourth & Gill neighborhood was selected for HGTV Urban Oasis 2017 based on its unique vibe and proximity to the heart of downtown, which features a wealth of restaurants, shopping, bars, outdoor concerts and other year-round activities.
The approximately 1,850-square-foot Craftsman home features three bedrooms and two bathrooms centered around an open and airy living concept. The feel of the home is best described as casual modernist with artistic style, and the clever use of space makes it exceptionally practical for the modern-day family. Natural materials in a muted color palette highlight the Smoky Mountain inspiration throughout, and details like a grand hallway complete with period-correct millwork paneling pay homage to the historical Craftsman style.
The interior gives way to a beautifully landscaped outdoor space featuring a large screened-in porch, an asymmetrical freestanding garage and a fire pit that are designed to give the lucky winner ample opportunities for entertaining and enjoying the fresh air. The end result is a home that exudes easy living with a laid back urban elegance that fits perfectly with the Fourth & Gill neighborhood.
Some of the team responsible for the project were on site to discuss their work. Atlanta-based interior designer Brian Patrick Flynn, Knoxville architects from Open Door Architecture (and Fourth and Gill residents themselves), Sarah and Sean Martin, Scott Branscom of local Grace Construction (project manager) and Tillman Companies, LLC (construction), also based in Knoxville, collaborated to produce the final product.
The home, prior to purchase by HGTV had long been divided into a large apartment on the front of the house and an efficiency apartment on the rear. In addition to upgrades inside and out, one kitchen was removed, the interior was opened up a bit and both front and rear porches were enhanced. Landscaping from front to rear also improved the property.
I spoke to Sara and Sean who said it was difficult not to tell anyone – they didn’t even tell their parents – for the year the project has been bubbling. Sara said they had a certain look they wanted to attain that was modern, but respectful of the era in which the house was built.
Noting there is an identical house in the Island Home neighborhood, they wanted to take the home which grew progressively darker toward the rear and add light and grand spaces. They were pleased to be able to keep all original windows, but they added stunning skylight windows above the master bath, both illuminating the space and making it feel like an exterior space.
Allen Tillman (of Tillman Companies) told me the entire rear of the house had to be removed because it was leaning outward and was not stable. Noting that he enjoys projects like this one, more than ground up, he said these projects always offer challenges and demand creativity. He said, “always have a contingency plan.” His company has done many of these projects and he says, “there are always suprises. He likened it to, “juggling balls while riding a unicycle.”
He pointed out that the home was completely re-wired and all plumbing is new. In addition to the replacement of the rear exterior wall, all interior walls were removed and replaced to make them straight. He said this project brought the additional challenge of not only scheduling sub-contractors to get the job done in a timely manner, but also accounting for the needs of the film crew.
Given the sponsors and others involved he said the project simply had, “a lot more players.” The project also used the latest electronics and furnishings from the sponsoring manufacturers which made for some interesting installations when the subcontractors had never seen the products before they were expected to deal with them. Some of the products used still haven’t hit the market. An entire room under the master bath was constructed to house the electronics to operate what is above it. (This room is mocked up as an art studio in the photographs.)
The show featuring this home will air for the first time on October 4 at 7:00 PM on HGTV and will be repeated afterward. The sweepstakes, which includes the home, all furnishings and $50,000 from Quicken Loans begins on October 2 and runs through November 22. The home is currently featured and entry may be made starting that date here.
Knoxville residents have known for a long time that the Fourth and Gill neighborhood is a very special place. Once the show airs, an international audience will know about our little urban neighborhood. Knoxville is ready for prime time and very soon, that’s exactly where you’ll find us.