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Gnome Home: Bartlett woodworker gives in to whimsy

Ray Bills of Bartlett decided this fall that a tree stump in his yard would be better off repurposed as a whimsical gnome home, and he's been getting appreciative visits from neighbors and passersby ever since. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Ray Bills of Bartlett decided this fall that a tree stump in his yard would be better off repurposed as a whimsical gnome home, and he’s been getting appreciative visits from neighbors and passersby ever since. Photo by Amanda Swain.

Bartlett retiree Ray Bills saw something no one else did in the Y-shaped stump of a grand old elm, and today his gnome home is bringing smiles to neighbors and others who pass his home at 2506 Elmore Park.

“At one time it was just a beautiful spreading elm tree, and it covered up half the yard,” he said Monday. “And when it died, I had to cut it down.”

He faced the choice of cutting the stump to the ground and grinding it to bits or taking a different route.

“Sometimes my creative juices start flowing,” he said. “I thought if I put a roof on it, and a door and windows, it would make a good house. The size of it made me think it was suited for gnomes.”

He began and completed the work back in October when the presidential debates were going on and he wanted relief from all the negativity. The gnome home includes a tiny red lantern by its front door, a stoop and several windows, including some with colorful flowerboxes. From ground to the rooftop it’s about seven and a half feet tall.

He has kept the décor simple by choice, although he’s looking forward to some small ceramic toadstools a local sculptor offered to make for the gnome yard.

“To me, it’s just nice to look at it and think of a little family of gnomes living in the tree stump,” he said, chuckling. “I think of it as my fanciful distraction.”

He set himself a high standard to please his wife, his neighbors and random passersby with the project, particularly since it’s right on the curb of a high-traffic street. One neighbor looked on skeptically when he began fitting the stump with a roof, saying, “I hope this doesn’t turn out to be Ray’s Folly.”

Bills said he has been pleased with the number of people who have stopped to tell him that it brightens their day.

“One lady and her daughters said every time they go by they just get a joy out of looking at it,” he said.

He called the project a labor of love, adding, “It was just something to do, and the neighbors seem to enjoy it.”


Written by Carolyn Bahm, Express editor. Contact her at (901) 433-9138 or via email to bartlett.editor@journalinc.com.

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