La Maison Magnolia was established in 2021 and sits high atop Signal Mountain. Its occupants hail from New York City and were very deliberate about where they settled during the pandemic, knowing they wanted out of the Big Apple. Able to work remotely at his job at Hearst Publishing, Michael Pjura, his wife, Melanie Conover, and their three girls, Skyler, 14, Lily, 12 and Riley, 7, headed South. The older girls attend SMMHS and Riley is a student at Thrasher. “To say that they love their schools and new house location is an understatement,” Melanie said.
Clearly thrilled to be in a spot where nature abounds and thrilled with their beautiful surroundings, the Conovers bought a house near Fall Creek Falls to use as a vacation rental. “In the off-market season in the middle of winter, I lucked out and found this amazing raised cottage right outside of the park,” Melanie said. Busy renovating their mid-century home in the Palisades on Signal, the family, along with their four big rescue dogs, plowed right in on the project, posting updates on social media.
No strangers to hard work, the couple also got to work on the newly dubbed Cane Creek Cottage that sits on two acres near the entrance of Fall Creek Falls. “It took us about six months to furnish, paint, fix and decorate, but since we opened, we have been almost fully booked every month,” Melanie said. There are lots of reasons for the success of this little cottage, and its incredible location at one of the state’s most-visited parks accounts for one of them. Another is the TLC that went into readying the home for guests, but another is the fact that it’s pet-friendly. An advocate of rescue animals, the family knows how stressful it is to find suitable boarding for their pets and/or pay substantial fees to bring them along on vacation. “People seem to appreciate that, as our ‘pet guests’ are always the most polite and cleanest,” Melanie said. She also keeps the rental cottage stocked with just about everything. “Families will hopefully just have to bring clothes, food and a toothbrush, with not much else to have to pack,” Melanie said, noting that the entire Conover family, dogs and all, stayed there to make sure Cane Creek Cottage was everything they dreamed of in a vacation home.
As much of an advocate about “supporting local” as they are about rescue animals, Melanie is proud to say that everything in the cottage was purchased locally, and she frequented from small businesses and flea markets to decorate. As local folks got to know this family and the Cane Creek Cottage venture, word spread. And even though most folks think of the summer as being vacation season, this cottage is booked solid year round except for a few scattered days here and there. Melanie is not surprised, saying, “The property is really beautiful anytime of the year. You get the foliage in the fall, which is my favorite because being in a raised cottage, you get that tree house feel and literally see fiery colors in every window. Spring and summer bring the hummingbirds and the wildflower garden to full bloom, which people enjoy observing from our wrap-around deck, and winter you can light a fire in the fireplace and wake up some mornings to a lovely dusting of snow.” Another year-round feature is the fire pit area, which families seem to enjoy no matter what season it is.
Moving to the “Best Place to Raise Children,” according to Bloomberg Businessweek, was clearly a wonderful decision for this family. Another benefit that was completely unforeseen was the life-changing, literally, consequence for Melanie’s sister, Meaghan, who lives with them now. Meaghan, who has Down’s syndrome, became extremely ill at her residence in Florida with a severe lung infection that went from sepsis to MRCA. “By the time I got there she was on two forms of life support, and I wasn't sure she was going to make it. Seeing her on a ventilator about killed me,” Melanie said, not trusting that her sister was getting the care she needed. Meaghan was medically transferred to a Chattanooga hospital, where she improved, but her outcome as far as the tracheotomy tube and mobility was uncertain. “Since coming to live with me, she is back to 100 percent,” Melanie said proudly.
Melanie offers all kinds of tips on running a vacation home rental. She loves it so much that they are planning on building a few tiny homes to rent on the acreage where the successful B&B sits. “I definitely recommend Airbnb to anyone who has interest. It’s really nice to have another place to escape to that literally pays for itself,” Melanie said, adding that the endeavor has allowed her to stay home with her kids. And clearly, family is of upmost importance.
* * *
Ferris Robinson is the author of three children’s books, “The Queen Who Banished Bugs,” “The Queen Who Accidentally Banished Birds,” and “Call Me Arthropod” in her pollinator series. “Making Arrangements” is her first novel. “Dogs and Love - Stories of Fidelity” is a collection of true tales about man’s best friend. Her website is ferrisrobinson.com and you can download a free pollinator poster there. She is the editor of The Lookout Mountain Mirror and The Signal Mountain Mirror.