Author J. Wes Yoder never thought he’d move back to Nashville. Raised in a Music City suburb, he hopped around from one metropolis to the next after college – eight different places in just five years. He hammered out his first novel, Carry My Bones, at small cafes around New York City. But on a short visit home in 2007, he noticed a small East Nashville cottage undergoing a big renovation. After looking through the front windows, crawling up on the roof and getting in through an open window, Yoder was convinced that this little home was reason enough to return South.
“It was the first time I started to imagine that I could live in my hometown,” he says. “I liked that I could get around on foot and that it was a little separated from the suburbs where I’d grown up.”
Now, Yoder writes by hand at a small kitchen table in his home – that rehabbed bungalow with rich wood floors complemented by mustard-yellow walls and dark espresso moulding. But the most striking quality of Yoder’s writing retreat is its utter simplicity. He calls it warm southern minimalism.
Purposely under-furnished, the home’s slight white seating and plentiful natural light make the space feel open and clean. An exposed brick fireplace divides the living room and the dining room where a large farm table and intricate chandelier, both crafted by Alabama artist Butch Anthony, create an ideal workspace. All around, the home’s walls are clothed with artwork by Nashville painter Emily Leonard, Yoder’s childhood friend. Everything else (which isn’t much), was found at the flea market or on Craigslist.
“It seems like every six months I decide again that there’s too much stuff,” he laughs. “So I’ll throw out a rug or coffee table and will feel good again for a while.”
Perhaps his purging is just another way to remove any possible distraction from his surroundings. While the rest of us multi-task our way through the day, Yoder is perched at his kitchen table, hand-writing his second novel about Mexican immigrants in the rural American South. With no computer, no music and no clutter in the corner, Yoder has turned a small Nashville home into a serene space for his creative work.
“It’s very solitary and pretty quiet,” he says. “The work used to frighten me severely, and for several years I felt sick at the end of writing and would leave the house as soon as I finished. Now it’s not like that. It’s a pretty room by a big window. The work can go well or not go at all, but it’s not a bad place to be alone.”
Photo by Chad Davis