EXCLUSIVE HOME TOUR WITH MIKE WOLFE
The host of American Pickers is making himself right at home in a cozy Leiper’s Fork bungalow.
WRITTEN BY: ERIN B. MURRAY
PHOTOGRAPHERS: KRISTIN BARLOWE
When Mike Wolfe bought his house in Leiper’s Fork, it might have been the first time in his long career as a “picker” that he didn’t try to negotiate the price. Unlike most of the “rusty gold” he seeks out on his History Channel show, American Pickers, the 5,100-square-foot gem, which sits on 32 acres of woodlands, was priced just right.
That’s not to say that the house was in perfect shape. “Every inch of it needed paint, a lot of it needed flooring,” he says, but structurally, he saw the beauty in the details. “When I looked at this house, within like five minutes I go, did Bill Powell build this house?” he says, referring to William Powell who owns an eponymous home and garden store in Franklin. “He’s been dealing in antiques since the 70s and started buying property. Now he’s one of the area’s most prominent builders,” Wolfe explains. The two have been friends for years, buying and selling antiques together—the fact that Powell built the house sealed the deal.
Wolfe is an intense talker, quick to tell a story, just as he does on his show, jumping from a recording session he was recently thrown into with Emmylou Harris and Ricky Skaggs, to the custom-made screen doors he’s installed throughout the house. Careful to self promote in all the right places, he’s also the kind of guy you want to sit and have a few beers with just to hear more. “I always wanted to tell stories and give items a voice. That’s why I started the project,” he says about his show. “I was so entrenched in my idea and my passion that I never thought it would be the success that it is.”
But success is what he got. The show fetches more than four million viewers a week and syndication has made it the number one show in Asia and given them a huge following in Europe; the History Channel also recently launched the franchise Australian Pickers. At the Nashville outpost of his store, Antique Archaeology (the original is in Wolfe’s hometown, LeClaire, Iowa), about 200,000 fans walk through every week. And some of them, the true super-fans, make a point to hit Leiper’s Fork for a glance of the expert himself—even going so far as to knock on his door, which is one of the reasons why Wolfe went searching for this new house a year ago. (He and his wife, Jodi, had been living in a cottage in downtown Leiper’s Fork.)
Set a quarter mile from the road, the 12-year-old house ensures complete and total privacy. “Did you notice? No window treatments. What would you hide from out here?” Wolfe points out during a walk through. Every window has thick, detailed trim, from the standard-sized rectangles in the kitchen to the oval-shaped view near the front door. But there were plenty of other architectural nuances, Wolfe points out. Bookcases hide a tiny office off the library; wide staircases open up the center of the house; and four porches, trimmed with branch-like railings, rim the outside. Nearby sits an arbor that blooms with wisteria throughout the spring (the couple were married under it in September).
Inside, builder Powell incorporated a few of his own antique finds into the structure. The front doors, originally from a house in Connecticut, are 150-years-old. And in the living room, a large Gothic built-in covers one wall and includes small iron gate accents—the gates are from the 1860s, says Wolfe. “I’m saying, this house was built for us,” he stresses.
“I love it,” he says. “When they take me out of Tennessee it’s going to be in a casket,” he cracks with a smile.
Read the article in its entirety and click through the gallery to see more photos of Mike at home here!