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Iconic moments from history that inspired the design of Soho House Nashville

From the first moon landing to a WWII rescue mission, Soho House Lead Designer, Harriet Liley, shares the stories behind our outpost in Tennessee

By Megan Murray

Soho House often chooses sites with a tale to tell, but May Hosiery Mills has to be one of the most interesting. Built in the early 1900s, this former sock factory and warehouse has lived through, and been connected to, some of the biggest events of the 20th century.

Now our biggest House in North America, Soho House Nashville spans two buildings and features 47 bedrooms, a screening room, a pool and terrace, several performance spaces, and a secret garden.

But, while its transformation means a new chapter for this building, our designers were keen to honour its storied past through the interior design. Here, Soho House Lead Designer, Harriet Liley, shares the key inspirations behind the project.

Incorporating Nashville’s culture

'When thinking about the way Nashville feels, there's a grit and soul, but also an element of glamour. It's the home of country music, so while its landscape and colour tones are warm and earthy, the people who have played here are pretty much music royalty. This got us thinking about all the icons who impacted the musical culture of Nashville over the years.

'There's a great image of BB King, holding his guitar with a strong stripe feature to its finger board. We studied that and used the detail to inspire inspired the striped tiled flooring by the pool and even the lines you'll see across some soft furnishings and the Archway bed. It's all very conceptual, but the nod is there.

'Layers were essential in creating a balance between homeliness and a touch of rock 'n' roll. In the bedrooms, for example, we used a base of whitewashed ceilings, rustic, reclaimed timber flooring and exposed brickwork, contrasted with large, cut glass chandeliers lighting and lots of velvet and decorative trims.

'In the cinema we dialled up the "country glam" aesthetic, with ruched silk walls and deep olive-green velvet seating. Simple shapes and a tonal colour palette keep the overall aesthetic approachable.'

Looking to the building’s story

'At the time of WWII, the factory was owned by the May family who had emigrated from Germany to America. As Jewish communities back in Europe came under threat from the Nazis, Mr May ensured safe passage for nearly 300 people on a ship to the US. He then provided jobs for them at the sock factory along with housing and language support.

'This story is very special and influenced us in a number of ways. We imagined a sort of "sanctuary ship" and designed the main club bar with a waved façade to represent the journey.

'The tones of turquoise throughout the House, were inspired by lots of the buildings original features which had aged and oxidized over time into a beautiful verdigris copper. You'll see our interpretation of this on the main Club bar front, throughout lots of the upholstery, and across some of the tiles and mosaic flooring.'

Inspired by moments in time

'While Nashville is a huge part of this House, of course, we wanted to tap into the building's connections to Europe. During the 1920s and 1930s, there were some really strong, bold, monochromatic patterns coming out of northern Europe - especially Austria. We referenced this style of patternwork on a lot of the fabrics we selected and studied 1930s Bauhaus designs to inspire our bedroom rugs.

'May Hosiery Mills also has an amazing connection to NASA as the building made socks for the first astronauts on the moon in 1969. We looked at the socks and their requirements - to be non-static and made of natural materials like cotton - and used the sock, as a conceptual form, to reinforce our use of natural materials throughout the design, and to balance out colour with neutral tones.

'This idea of crafting the socks extended to what we ended up calling the Sock Room, which is the House's main music and events space. We designed some large lamps at the main bar, made out of industrial metal and inspired by the shape of a traditional sock machine. It's a homage to the past, but was a fun little project, too.'

To stay at Soho House Nashville, become a Soho Friends member and gain access to our bedrooms globally, plus a host of other benefits. Learn more here. Current members can book bedrooms here.