November 06, 2013 12:00 PM

A bowl of cherry tomatoes sits on Holly Williams’s kitchen island next to a pile of arugula and a carton of brown eggs. The goodies are artfully arranged for a photo shoot, but as soon as Williams steps into the room, she can’t resist. Picking up a tomato (fresh from her daddy Hank Jr.’s garden), she declares it “amazing” and begins to slice, chop and crack her way to a frittata, which, once browned, is served to the crew. After seven months of touring, “making a meal in this kitchen is the greatest gift,” says the singer, who released her third CD, The Highway, earlier this year. “When I get off the road, cooking is therapy. There’s no more dressing up for a show. I take off my makeup, tell friends to come in their pajamas and bring good wine, and I’ll cook for hours.”

That easy, welcoming spirit is pervasive in the 1908 bungalow she shares with husband Chris Coleman, a musician who tours with the rock band Kings of Leon, and their two rescue dogs Alfie and Oliver. From the kitchen chalkboard where she writes greetings to guests and the patio fireplace where partygoers roast s’mores in the fall to the oversize couch where friends can gather for movie nights, “I want to create memories for people,” Williams says.

The couple moved into the three-bedroom home, located in the trendy 12 South neighborhood south of downtown Nashville, last year. “I’ve always loved old homes,” the singer says. “I love creaky floors and the feeling that something’s been lived in.” A modest 1,900 sq. ft. (“I’m not a big-house person – big houses leave too much room to roam. I love functional, small places”), the house bears the mark of Holly’s discerning hand. French restaurants like New York’s Balthazar inspired the kitchen’s subway tile and marble countertops. Williams discovered the copper lights that hang above the island in a Vero Beach, Fla., shipyard, while the kitchen stools are from a ’60s-era soda fountain. The 1918 leather club chairs that sit in her living room near her baby grand (“my writing corner,” she says) were found for her by an antique dealer who scoured the French countryside.

Despite her love of the rare and artistic, Williams, 32, says her home is no museum. “I love that lived-in feel,” she says, pointing to her marble countertops as an example. “Most people might be afraid of staining marble, but for me, every stain is memory, every cut is a memory.”

The family heirlooms that decorate the walls and shelves tell stories as well. In the kitchen is a stack of index cards and a binder containing her grandmother’s handwritten family recipes—peppermint taffy, chicken spaghetti and Aunt Virginia’s fudge sheet cake to name a few. “My grandmother kept the menus from every holiday, birthday party, baby shower, Christmas, from 1958 on,” she says.

The hallway is crowded with family photos and charcoal figure drawings by her maternal grandfather. A bookshelf in the living room is filled with family memorabilia, including a fedora owned by her great-grandfather and a tie worn by her paternal grandfather, legendary country singer Hank Williams Sr., when he toured in the late ’40s. Williams comes by her love of keepsakes naturally, she says. “On my mom’s side, my family’s from Louisiana, and all of their houses were those great southern homes, dripping with family pictures and things,” she says. “My grandmother would just have hundreds of pictures on the walls – going generations back – and I loved it. It created this warm, cozy feeling. Being a musician, I miss home a lot, so when I get back, it’s important to feel like I belong in this space and have things I love around me.”

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