Friday, January 3, 2014


Northern snobbery is a genetic affliction I've dealt with most of my life. I've always felt good taste and style resided well above the Mason-Dixon line. What else could explain Duck Dynasty, Honey BooBoo or the belief that Fox News is a neutral entity with no hidden agenda?
We have recently taken to spending the week between Christmas and New Years in Chattanooga visiting relatives and eating our fair share of grits, fried chicken, buttermilk biscuits with gravy and pecan bourbon pie. I had kinda taken to looking down my nose at Chattanooga as just another redneck enclave. To be fair our winter visits don't show the place off to its best advantage. The trees are pretty bare. At this time of year the weather is too cold to keep things green year-round so all you get is that drab stretch of muddy brown yet too warm to have that mud covered up with a clean layer of white snow. Madison always appeared far more beautiful to me. Madison had more white-collar appeal with its government buildings, the University and its accompanying stately residential neighborhoods. I always had the sense Madison was larger (which isn't true) with a greater cultural heritage. After all we had two major art museums, the Overture Center with a revolving door of Broadway productions, its own symphony and ballet, and a convention center based on the original designs of Wisconsin native Frank Llyod Wright.
All this culture and sophistication is impressive but what Madison didn't have was a major manufacturing area. It was much too prissy for that. Chattanooga, on the other hand, had whole districts of red brick manufacturing buildings, buildings that languished remaining derelict for decades.
Eventually someone realized the goldmine of architecture and Chattanooga has gone on an industrial revolution - architecturewise and there is no stronger proponent than Warehouse Row and its main tenant, Revival. New York has Soho and Tribeca; even Milwaukee has its Third Ward but Madison - not so much.
We first learned about Revival in Architecture Digest and immediately put it on our bucket list for our next visit to Chattanooga.
Started eleven years ago by the design duo of Billy Woodall and Rodney Simmons, the store and design firm moved four years ago to Warehouse Row after they were courted by the developers who also invented Chelsea Market in New York.
Still I was skeptical of how such an elegant boutique home store could survive in the middle of Teabag Nation. The reality is that there are more than staunch conservatives populating the south and there is a heritage of incredible design and culture in those hills below New York. Chattanooga just happens to be in driving distance of Nashville, Knoxville, Atlanta and Birmingham, cities with plenty of design knowledgeable inhabitants.
The moment we walked through the doors we looked like a pair of Macaulay Culkin wide-eyed open-mouthed kids. Who could not ooh and aah at such a beautifully curated selection of new and antique pieces?
Billy and Rodney have put together a selection of furniture and accessories that rival the most sophisticated shops on either coast.
If I could have I would have walked out the door with every one of these gorgeous leather suitcases.
Taking a trip through the vignettes at Revival is worth a full price flight plus a rental car and hotel room. But if the price of a trip to Chattanooga isn't in your budget the next best thing is letting your fingers doing the walking on your computer keyboard to their website:
They keep it updated with all sorts of new offerings
We're fortunate to have relatives in Chattanooga requiring us to visit at least once a year, usually at Christmas time. Luckily they've decided to stay open the week between Christmas and New Year. Billy, please continue the holiday hours because we'll continue to show up year after year after year.

Just to one up Madison, the boys got Chattanooga to become the most recent city to be added to The Scout Guide. Billy and Rodney did all the grunt work, a local photographer, Jamie Clayton, did most of the gorgeous photography and then the staff at Scout did the layout.
 These guides are a really good way of getting an insiders ticket to your city of choice listing the best of the best and places you might not even know existed even if you're a native.
Here's their web connection: with a list of all their participating cities.
Come on Madison. We can do this too.

Telegraph Office,1955
O. Winston Link, photographer
Represented by Etherton Gallery, Tucson, Arizona

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