At Home With Sam Beall

Restaurant-grade chrome gets a dose of homey charm in the Smoky Mountains
At Home With Sam Beall
Sam Beall spared no luxury in building his dream home on the Blackberry Farm estate and preserving the property’s history, spirit and style. (Beall and Thomas)
Aug 5, 2015

"I don't like showy," says Sam Beall. "I like everything understated." Understated is a tall order when you're dealing with the state-of-the-art bells and whistles that the proprietor of Blackberry Farm, in Walland, Tenn., has installed in his home. Then again, Blackberry Farm—a Grand Award-winning resort in the culinary backwoods (and in a dry county, no less)—has a knack for delivering the unexpected.

Beall points to his two built-in Sub-Zero refrigerators, disguised as wooden cabinets. "It's all commercial-grade, and my wife was a little scared of that," he says. "The trim on the refrigerators was one way to make sure the room was balanced, as a home."

The room is the nexus of the family's home and life. "We're never in the kitchen for less than an hour preparing the meal," Beall, 38, says of weeknight dinners with his wife, Mary Celeste, and their five children. He inherited this love of the kitchen from his parents, Kreis and Sandy, who founded the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain before transforming their country retreat in the Great Smoky Mountains into a luxury resort. Their original purchase was 1,100 acres; in the past decade, Blackberry Farm has expanded to comprise over 9,200.

"When the idea of Blackberry transformed from a family home into a business, the plan became more clear that I was going to move back to Tennessee," explains Beall, who was born on the property. He and Mary Celeste decided to relocate the original house—"we just picked it up and moved it over"—and build a new home in its place. "It would be a life project," he recalls. "A foundation to build upon for the rest of our lives. Each year it would get a little bit better."

Designed to harmonize with its surroundings, the home is made mostly from Blackberry-native wood from trees cut down during the past decade's expansion, and stone sourced from "literally 500 yards behind the house," Beall says. "It's oriented in the classic way that someone would have set a house 100 years ago," he says. "It was so purposeful back then." The house's location capitalizes on nearby water sources, which feed its wells. It faces south, its position maximizing wind flow. The basement wine cellar, though outfitted with temperature controls, is in the northeast corner, for natural coolness.

The kitchen, framed by wooden barn beams and punctuated by black granite, is high-tech and elegantly, unmistakably Southern. In addition to the two large Sub-Zeros, it has two pullout fridge drawers and two pullout freezers. (A separate kitchen out back, to help with large-scale entertaining, includes another refrigeration system.) Three faucets have a dedicated filtration system: the main kitchen sink, which supplies drinking water; the pot spigot above one of the stoves; and the ice machine in the beverage room, which bridges the kitchen with the dining room.

Though they're unusual in personal homes, Beall insisted on two Jade ranges. One is a French top—"it just allows for the flow of pots to be very seamless"—and the other a six-eye range with a griddle. The family's favorite gadget is the salamander broiler, also from Jade. "That thing is just ripping hot," Beall says. "We use it for everything from finishing a duck on the fatty-skin side to tomato sandwiches."

Speaking of ripping hot: "It might sound silly, but I put a plate warmer in this house." Beall cringes as he imagines the indignity of serving hot food on a cold plate. "Five minutes later, you're eating lukewarm food. It just kills me."

The kitchen grows no less impressive as it moves outdoors. Alongside the family's garden is a whole-animal grill, custom-fabricated by a welder who lives just over the mountain, in Walland. Nearby are two wood-burning clay grills and a fryer—"because nobody likes how a fryer stinks up the house," Beall laughs. A sink, which drains back into the garden, ensures that harvested vegetables won't track dirt inside.

The wine cellar too reaches depths not often seen in family homes. A friend's winery in Napa provided the "gorgeous, red wine-stained French oak staves" that line the ceiling. When asked about his bottle count, Beall admits, "I don't keep meticulous inventory. But ... somewhere around 30 or 40 thousand." Now padded with older Austrian Grüner Veltliner and rare bottles from the Rhône and Burgundy, the collection began 15 years ago, while Beall was living in California. "I got bitten by a bad, mean wine bug," he says, "and it hasn't gone away since."


Photo Gallery

The Beall Family Kitchen Jade range Highlights of the beverage room Outdoor kitchen Beall displaying his wines Beall's wine cellar
Collecting Design Cooking Cellars

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