Our Kind of Place: A Picker's Paradise

by Holly Williams - Tennessee - October/November 2015

A Nashville singer-songwriter and antiques junkie shares her favorite inspiration point

I have always had an affinity for antiques. I want pieces in my home that have stories. If I have the good luck of knowing the real history of something, then I’ve hit an antique picker’s jackpot. But as a songwriter, even if I don’t know the actual story of a piece of furniture, I like to dream up a backstory of what it might have represented to its previous owner. When I’m out on tour, I am constantly stopping in local antiques stores and have entered literally hundreds of them. But Serenite Maison, run by the crazy-talented and adorable Alex Cirimelli, in the quaint village of Leiper’s Fork, Tennessee, is my favorite of all. It’s only thirty minutes south of my home in Nashville, down a winding road with rolling green hills and horse farms—and about fifteen minutes into the trip you pass Barbara’s Home Cooking, where the yeast rolls come straight from heaven! Serenite Maison is effortlessly chic, upscale, and down-home all at once, beautiful but without that “too precious, don’t touch me” vibe. Still, take care not to run into the breakables display case. (I say this from experience.)

The shop, housed in an old general store that dates to 1914, is stocked with nineteenth- and twentieth-century Italian and French chandeliers (I bought one for my new baby girl’s room), stunning farm tables, textiles, exclusive lines of jewelry, and antique headboards that will make you seriously consider bank robbery. One of the most gifted display artists I have ever come across, Cirimelli has been known to stack dining chairs fifteen feet high or hang chaise longues from the ceiling. On any given day, you might run into anyone from Faith Hill and Sheryl Crow to tourists to elderly Leiper’s Fork ladies scouring the shop for French clocks and steamer trunks.

I’ll never forget the first time I walked into Serenite. I passed a group of locals catching up on small-town gossip on the front porch and stepped through the French doors, noticing the height markers of children drawn all the way up the frame. Once inside, my eye went straight to the “pickin’ corner” to the right, where antique benches and a perfectly tattered, tobacco-stained French club chair awaited me. Instruments hung on the old Beadboard walls included— for the guitar snobs reading this—a 1944 D-28 Martin, a 1940s L7 Arch Top Gibson, and a 1934 Gibson mandolin. (Those are big-time fancy!) Anyone can request to try them out. I went on to explore every crevice until I finally asked Cirimelli for a part-time job. It was 2008, and in between albums and touring, I loved every minute of working there.

I even wrote “Alone,” and a good portion of “Drinkin’” for my last album, The Highway, on Serenite’s covered back porch. I had been singing a few verses in my head, and as I sat on the porch’s old wooden chairs overlooking the clear waters of Leiper’s Creek and acres of green farmland, the stillness surrounded me, and the quiet opened up the creative flow. I am a girl who prays for songs. I never know when they will drop out of the sky, so I’m always searching for places like this. It’s a magical spot.

There have been many music-filled evenings here spent singing and playing with the locals (and wannabe locals like me). The best gatherings happen when the old-timers pull out the fiddles. Serenite is still where I go to relax, play with my pups out back, set up the guitar by the creek, or hunt for vintage metal signs—the old country-store kind. No, you can’t shop online. But after rambling through the artful displays, surprised at every turn, you can plop down in a rocker and stay as long as you want. You never know when inspiration might strike.

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