From the Potter’s Hand: Mississippi Potters

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Mississippi Magazine
July / August 2013

Pottery is one of the oldest art forms in the world.  Mississippi has a long lineage of skilled potters dating back to prehistoric Native Americans who formed the most basic artifacts from our state’s rich, red clay.  Later, notable Mississippians such as George Ohr and Walter Anderson would pave the way for the skilled artisans that today draw inspiration from all over – the rolling hills of North Mississippi, the flatlands of the Delta, the Mississippi River, and the beaches of the Gulf Coast.

 

McCarty’s Pottery
Merigold, MS

The elegantly muted colors of McCarty’s Pottery have become as synonymous with Mississippi as the rolling fields of the Delta and the muddy waters of the Mississippi River.  The story of how Lee and Pup McCarty embarked on a career as artisans 1954 is not only an interesting tale, but a demonstration in perseverance.

Shortly after the couple married, Lee and Pup attended Ole Miss where Lee studied chemistry and physics and planned to become a teacher.  Pottery became a creative outlet the couple enjoyed working on together and would later foster a relationship with American writer and Nobel Prize laureate William Faulkner, who allowed the couple to source the clay for their first pieces from the ravine behind his home – Rowan Oaks.

In the early 1950’s, Lee and Pup returned to Lee’s hometown of Merigold with a small kiln and a kickwheel.  A family friend offered to let them set up shop in an old mule barn – the same barn the studio still operates in today – and the legendary and award-winning McCarty Pottery was born.  It wasn’t always easy in the beginning.  Lee and Pup lived in a converted apartment upstairs and fired pottery downstairs.  The old barn wasn’t insulated and obviously in those days they did not have central heat and air, so they endured the elements as best they could.  Lee taught high school to make ends meet while Pup kept shop.  By the 1960’s, dedication to their art began to pay off and McCarty’s Pottery was being shown in museums across the country.  In 1996, they were awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters.  In 2012, they received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts by the Mississippi Arts Commission.

In 1998, the business came full circle when Lee and Pup’s godsons, Jamie and Stephen Smith – who also happen to be the great nephews of the original owners of the mule barn – returned to Merigold to help Lee and Pup carry on the legacy.  The old mule barn has evolved over the decades to include a lush and elaborate garden, which was inducted into the Smithsonian Institution’s Archives of American Gardens in 2013.

Today, McCarty pieces can be found in collections around the world.  Each piece is fired using one of three distinct glazes developed by Lee himself – jade, cobalt blue, or nutmeg.  Most pieces can instantly be recognized by the trademark black wavy line, which represents the Mississippi River, and Lee McCarty’s familiar signature on the bottom.

“McCarty pottery has endured for so many years because it is more than just art, it is a connection to the Mississippi Delta and the State of Mississippi,” said godson Stephen Smith. “That connection has spanned generations and it is wonderful and humbling to experience.”

Gail Pittman
Ridgeland, MS

Gail Pittman also began her career as a school teacher, teaching for five years in the Jackson Public School System before leaving education to raise her two children.  She began painting pottery at her kitchen table, using a spice rack as her wheel to make her first piece.  Once orders from friends and family members began rolling in, she realized she had discovered a way to make money while still being able to stay home with her kids.

During those early days while her children were small, she got up in the wee hours of the morning to paint before her kids awoke and stayed up late at night to continue her painting after they were in bed.  She remembers being ecstatic the day she found out she had landed a booth at the Canton Flea Market.  Soon after, Carol Puckett Daily, the original owner and founder of The Everyday Gourmet, asked Pittman if she would be interested in selling her pieces in the store.

Over thirty years later, the self-taught artist and entrepreneur has become a household name.  Celebrities such as Mississippi natives Oprah Winfrey and Faith Hill consider themselves fans of her work, in addition to other notable names including Gene Hackman, Katie Couric, Donald Trump, and Paula Dean.  In 2010, Pittman entered into a licensing agreement with Sidco Worldwide in Nashville, which handles the manufacturing and distribution of her designs.  This gives her more time to focus on the aspect of the business that she loves the most – creating and designing.  The relationship has even allowed Pittman to branch out into designing other products such as tote bags, glassware, and home décor items.

In late 2012, Pittman merged her retail store with one of the first places to give her a start – The Everyday Gourmet.

“It was a great homecoming for me,” Pittman said.  “The Everyday Gourmet is one of the premier bridal registry stores in Mississippi. I am delighted to have the Gail Pittman line back in the store where it started.”  The Gail Pittman line is still sold through various retail stores through Mississippi and across the country, in addition to her online retail store.

As for the future, Pittman says, “I pray it will be ‘colorful’ and busy!  There is always something out there waiting to be designed!  Life is good and I love what I do.  I feel very blessed that God has given me the ‘work of my hands.’”

Dana Whitman Designs
Long Beach, MS

Dana Whitman is a native of Long Beach who worked for WAOY, a Christian radio station, before Hurricane Katrina ripped through the Mississippi Gulf Coast on August 26, 2005.  Whitman’s family was spared from much of the devastation that other endured and within a year they were back on their feet.  However, being surrounded by such devastation can leave a profound and lasting effect on one’s spirit.

“Enduring many hurricanes before, I had never been afraid of them but after seeing the damage and watching so many suffer, now I have an entirely different opinion,” Whitman said.     “After coming so close to losing everyone and everything, the realization how short life is always lingers. This led me to think long and hard about doing something I had never done but always wanted to do. ”

Growing up, Whitman’s mother encouraged her daughter to express herself through art.  She says her business began with just one plate.  At the urging of a close friend, Whitman entered her work in a large art show.  The response was overwhelmingly positive and from there her business grew.  Eventually she was unable to keep up with the growing demand on her own, so she teamed up with Caffco International in Montgomery, Alabama, to help with the manufacturing and distribution.  Nearly eight years after Hurricane Katrina, Whitman’s designs are now sold at art shows on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle and in over 475 stores in the United States including the Virgin Islands.

Whitman’s bright, vibrant designs depict scenes inspired by coastal life with a little New Orleans influence thrown in here and there.

“When I sit down to paint, the designs just come naturally with my color schemes. I don’t pre-plan a design; I just sit and start painting,” Whitman adds.  “God has graciously blessed me with the talent to design.”

Because her faith plays such an important role in her work, each piece of pottery is marked by a cross, which is Whitman’s way of thanking God for the talent he bestowed upon her.  In addition to her pottery business, Whitman also runs New Beginnings Mission, a faith-based non-profit organization that helps those in need on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

Moving forward, Whitman is looking into branching out into other various types of art and incorporating different materials into the finished product.  I hopes to continue to create a diverse collection that will be well-received by current and future collectors.

Good Earth Pottery
Starkville, MS

Richie Watts has always been an avid pottery enthusiast and collector.  Prior launching Good Earth Pottery in 2000, he specialized in low-fire glazed earthenware pottery.  When a sales rep approached him about designing a line of high-fire stoneware, Watts agreed to give it a try.  However, the end result – which would later become the popular Mockingbird pattern – wasn’t exactly what the sales rep was looking for.

“She [the sales rep] didn’t like it,” Watts admitted.  “But I collect pottery and I thought it was pretty good.  So I sat on it for a while and then finally decided to show it to three shops and see what they thought.  All three shops placed an order and it just took off overnight.”

When Watts and his business partner Carlos Caballero officially launched the Good Earth line in 2001, they started with four patterns.  Today their collection includes almost 40 patterns in a wide variety of colors that were created to be mixed and matched.  While Mockingbird has consistently remained a top seller over the years, other popular patterns include Bluebird, Bird of Paradise, Blue Heron, and Sparrow.

Watts’s pottery possesses two distinct characteristics.  First, the colors in each piece are not achieved through paint, but through experimenting with various shades of glaze and firing temperatures.  He keeps meticulous notes throughout the entire design process so that when a finished piece comes out of the kiln that meets his expectations, he is able to recreate the process.

“I go in knowing what I want to achieve, it’s just a question of ‘How do I get there?’” reveals Watts.  “I keep playing with the glazes and the temperature until I get something that looks unique.  I’m not afraid to experiment or learn from my mistakes.”

Second, all of Watts’s pieces are considered high-fired, meaning that they are fired in a kiln to a temperature over 2200° F.  A typical piece can stay in the kiln anywhere from 8-14 hours, depending on how high the temperature was used to fire it.  This extremely high temperature produces ware that is very strong and durable and resistant to chipping, making it suitable for daily use.

Lately, Watts has been experimenting with metallic glazes and hopes to be able to introduce several new patterns to the market in the near future.  Until then, he says he will continue to do what he loves.

“When I pulled that first plate out of the kiln, I had no idea that would be my equivalent to winning the lottery,” he adds.  “When I open the kiln and pull out a piece that’s just right, it’s so exciting to be the first one to see it.  I get so much personal satisfaction from it and I can’t imagine doing anything else.”

Row, Row, Row Your Boat: Madison County Chamber’s Dragon Boat Regatta Inspires Teamwork, Community Involvement

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Mississippi Magazine
May / June 2013Imagine yourself standing on the banks of the Ross Barnett Reservoir.  In the distance, flashes of red, yellow, and green appear.  You watch as the colors get closer and suddenly take on shape – a leering grin, gnashing white teeth, a long scaly body.  It’s not a dream and it’s not the Loch Ness monster.  It’s the Madison County Chamber of Commerce’s annual Dragon Boat Regatta.Dragon Boat racing is rapidly becoming one of the fastest growing water sports in the world.  However, the tradition dates back centuries.  In China, dragons are believed to be the rulers of water.  During ancient times, Chinese farmers would hold festivals that coincided with the summer solstice as a way to honor the dragon and the sun in an effort to ensure a healthy growing season.  Dragon boat racing began making its way across the globe in 1976, when The Hong Kong Tourism Board organized international races in London and Germany.  The sport was first introduced to North American in 1986 during the world exposition held in Vancouver, British Columbia.  Since then, the tradition has spread across both Canada and the United States.  Worldwide, over 60 countries participate in some sort of organized dragon boat competition.

In 2008, the Madison County Chamber of Commerce decided to launch the Dragon Boat Regatta as a fun and unique way to promote camaraderie and team-building within the community.  While the economy prevented the chamber from hosting the race again in 2009, they brought it back in 2010 with great enthusiasm.  Five years later, it continues to grow.  In 2012, 47 teams participated, up from just a little over a dozen teams when the event first began.

“The Madison County Chamber likes to do things differently from other chambers of commerce.  We wanted to bring in something unique and we did a lot of research on other activities before deciding to do dragon boat racing,” said Jodi Maughon, Director of Projects and Special Events for the Madison County Chamber of Commerce.

For the last five years, The Chamber has worked with Great White North Dragon Boat out of Toronto, Ontario, Canada, to bring the impressive 40-foot long vessels to Mississippi.  Area police and fire departments, as well as medical personnel, are also on hand to ensure the safety of each participant.

“The event is very professionally done,” added Maughon.  “The regatta is the only event like it in the state and it’s something you don’t see every day, so it opens people up to a culturally diverse experience.”

Each boat manned by a crew of 20 – 25 people.  Every team member has an important role – drummer, paddler, or the sweep.  The drummer sits at the bow of the boat and controls the frequency and synchronization of the paddlers by keeping rhythm on a drum or through calls or hand signals.  The sweep sits at the stern, controls the udder, and determines the direction of the ship.  The rest of the crew serves as paddlers.  Every member of the team must work together in order to propel the ship forward.

“It is incredibly challenging physically,” said James M. Jeter, chief development officer and foundation executive director for St. Dominic Health Services.  “I have played sports on a collegiate level, run marathons, and played recreational sports for years, but the last 50 yards of the race were the biggest gut check I have ever endured. However, it doesn’t matter how strong you are.  If you are not in sync as a team you are not going to win.  It’s all about timing.”

While it might sound like a lot of work, the friendly rivalry between competing teams and the fun, family atmosphere ensures that past participants of the race are always anxious to sign up for the next year.  The weekend kicks off on Thursday with the Paddler’s Party at the Jackson Yacht Club.  Each team is given a paddle beforehand to decorate according to their theme or business.  A panel of judges award first, second, and third place prizes during the kick-off festivities.  On the day of the race, some participants even dress up in costumes to show their support.

“To say that our team had fun would be a massive understatement,” said Derek Bell, who was captain of the Mint Julep team last year.  “Every person on my team was ready to sign up for this year at the end of last year. I have been counting down the days for 12 months.”

Shaun Moody, Sergeant/Paramedic with the City of Ridgeland Fire Department wholeheartedly agreed.  “This is an awesome team building event and as well as networking event,” he said.  “There is a fun and competitive edge to it and it provides for a very entertaining Saturday.”

If you prefer to keep your feet on the ground, Maughon still encourages spectators to come and watch the race and enjoy the festival, which features life music, food, and a kids zone.  Says Maughon, “On shore, there is definitely a tailgating atmosphere.  It’s very family friendly.”

A Harmony of Colors: Kim Duease, Notable Accents Inc.

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Mississippi Magazine
May / June 2013

Interior designer Kim Duease, owner of Notable Accents Inc. in Canton, is a pro at creating the perfect space for her clients – from a remodel or new construction – regardless of the age of the home or phase of construction. Duease recently had the opportunity to put her talents to the test when a longtime client contacted her about a potential home for sale in the Eastover neighborhood in Jackson.  Originally, the couple planned to build a home to suit their family of six.  In fact, Duease had already begun sourcing items for the new construction.  However, the client knew that with Duease’s help, they would be able to transform this French-style dwelling into the home of their dreams.

Constructed in the late 1980’s, the original home had a look that was reminiscent of the era it was built.  Duease got right to work combining modern day with Old World European.  As soon as visitors enter the front door, they are greeted by four antique wooden pillars sourced from an estate in Lille, France.  The homeowners fell in love with the four cherub faces depicted on each pillar as a representation of their four children.  Instantly, the gaze is drawn into to formal living room, which features two separate and distinct sitting areas.

Two French antique armchairs are situated on either side of an antique dressing table in front of the home’s large front picture windows.  Both chairs were repainted and reupholstered in Hazleton House fabric with a classic English chinois design featuring colorful Chinese vignettes.  Matching pewter silk velvet couches are flanked on either side by antique French end tables and frame the showcase item of the room – a beautiful antique alter.  Colorful floral wallpaper, with hues of silver, gold and turquoise, compliment the dominant color scheme in the room.

The living room provides the perfect spot for guests to mingle before being served dinner in the formal dining room.  Duease loves to repeat accents throughout  a design, which is evident in the large powder blue chairs situated at either end of the dining room table that pick up the blue from the living room.  The rest of the room is decorated in a palette of purple and bright lime green.  Eight side chairs upholstered in purple and lime green striped fabric complement the purple and silver geometric wallpaper and the lime green accent on the open buffet and hutch.    A custom 9-foot-long dining table and mirrored buffet create elegant signature touches.

Just a few steps from the dining room is the heart of the home – the kitchen.  The original kitchen featured a small island and breakfast nook, which was not functional for the family’s needs.  Duease decided to revamp the entire space, by combining cozy with modern elegance.  Neutral colored limestone tile is strong and durable, low maintenance, and provides an elegant look.  Overhead, exposed wood beams and reclaimed wooden planks in the ceiling – sourced from Scott Gideon of Plantation Millworks – are reminiscent of a warm and inviting country cottage.

To prevent the large center island from overpowering the flow of the kitchen, Duease utilized three different countertop materials – walnut, granite, and green onyx – to break up the expanse of counter and avoid a uniform look.  The most stunning feature, however, are the LED lights hidden under the green onyx that can be illuminated by a switch hidden in a kitchen cabinet.  Modern colorful Venetian glass pendant lights overhead provide an additional light source.

The tiled backsplash also features a mixture of shapes, colors and textures.  Staggered concave and convex antique tile give a unique basket weave effect and coordinate with the granite perimeter countertops.  Stacked slate borders either side of the stainless steel gas range.  The blue and gold hue of the faux finish in the slate complements the deep colors in the custom hand painted tile used behind the range.

Other great features in the kitchen include the “hidden refrigerator” masked by double mirrored doors that match the wet bar at the opposite end of the room.  Bright printed fabric depicting whimsical chickens and wine bottles is aptly named “ro-coq-au-vin” and used in the gathered valance over the kitchen window and the long panels in the breakfast nook.

Just off the kitchen, the back hallway reveals a half bath and laundry room.  Gold and aqua velvet wallpaper and a custom chandelier made from antique rosaries demonstrates that even the smallest touches in an otherwise inconspicuous space can have a huge impact.  The hallway opens into a more casual living area towards the back of the house.  Originally, the room featured built in open shelves along the wall.  Duease didn’t want to eliminate the storage capacity that the shelving offered, so she opted to once again enroll the help of Gideon to create wooden panels that give the illusion of a solid wall, but allow the family access to items stored within.  Gideon also found the wooden beam used as the mantle for the fireplace.  Duease chose to use the same custom hand painted tile used in the kitchen as an accent around the hearth.  Instead of traditional gas-burning logs, ceramic fire balls create a bold, artistic and distinctly attractive finishing touch.

A separate hallway off the formal living room leads to a suite of rooms on the first floor. Duease added a creative touch to the arts and crafts room by creating a custom chandelier from soft cast molded scissors, ribbon, and refurbished light bulbs.  Down the hall in the library, a cozy daybed is an inviting spot to curl up with a good book on a rainy afternoon.

Serene light blue walls and muted colors create a relaxing solace in the master bedroom.  A modern four poster bed with distressed white finish serves as an impressive focal point for the room.  The elegant bed is outfitted with delicate hand-crocheted sheets and bed clothes accented in Venetian lace.  The adjoining master bathroom features his and her vanities.  Handmade iron sconces with removable glass plates allow the homeowners to preserve inspirational mementoes such as artwork or handwritten notes.  The floor is inlaid with limestone tile and an intricate mosaic rug design.   A separate shower area is outfitted with an open shower tiled in marble and cut glass subway tiles and accented by coordinating matchstick tile flooring.  A porcelain soaking tub is the perfect spot for a relaxing hot bubble bath.

Duease also made sure that each of the homeowners’ four children had a place of their own that reflected each child’s personality.  The upstairs bedroom, decorated with leopard print and pink accents is perfect for a little princess.  Downstairs, Duease used bold patterns and colors for the three boys’ rooms.

Duease was able to complete the renovation just in time for the family to enjoy Christmas in their new home.  Her talent for blending vintage with modern and traditional with eclectic works seamlessly, giving the homeowners a functional yet stylish space they can call their own.

 Five Tips for Renovating a House by Kim Duease

  1. Know your house.  Have either a qualified inspector, architect or structural engineer check out your plans before you begin any renovation of structural components. You must consider load bearing walls and how the weight of your house is distributed. Any structural changes could compromise the integrity of the homes structure and cause problems down the road. Better safe than sorry!
  2. Some renovation projects are fine for DIYers( do it yourself).   But when it comes to electrical and plumbing, please leave it to the professionals!  Take on some priming, painting even drywall and tile, but do not tackle the electricity and plumbing.
  3. Have a plan and make sure everyone in the house is on the “same page” as to what your needs are and the changes to be made. Consider how you live in your space and what would improve that experience for everyone. Expect to run into surprises along the way.  As much as you plan and streamline those plans, there will still be bumps along the way.  However, good planning makes them less painful and less time consuming.
  4. Have a budget and expect to spend more than you planned on. On average one will spend 10-20 percent more than budgeted.  If you cannot afford to do all the renovations you would like to see done then get your priorities in line and tackle it in phases. But do it right the first time.
  5. Hire a great contractor and get referrals.  The best names will come from family and friends. Have clear communication with your contractor about your expectations on everything from working hours and duration of the project. The contractor can inform you of anticipated time that your kitchen and or baths may be inaccessible. At this time you may plan to stay elsewhere for a few days.

Mending a Broken Heart

550605_10151304491420530_2072594173_nMississippi Magazine
November / December 2012
View PDF of article here.

Sixteen-year-old Lilly Addy used to have a broken heart.

Not the traditional broken heart that so many young girls deal with at her age   Lilly’s broken heart wasn’t the result of a teenage heartthrob.  The sophomore at Newton High School was born with a congenital heart condition known as mild hypertrophic cardiomyopathy.  It is caused by a thickening of the heart muscle, which caused a blockage to the inside of her left ventricle and disrupted blood flow to her body.

Brookhaven pediatric cardiologist David Braden, MD, has monitored Lilly’s condition since infancy.  While she has had to avoid participating in sports and other physical activities to prevent putting too much stress on her heart, for the most part Lilly has been able to lead a normal life.  However, the reality that one day Lilly would have to undergo surgery has always loomed in the background.  This past summer, alarmed by the increasing level of pressure present in her heart and a possible aneurysm of her aortic root, Dr. Braden decided the Addys couldn’t wait any longer.

Up until two years ago, a pediatric cardiac patient in Mississippi – like Lilly – would have had to travel thousands of miles to receive the life-saving surgery they required, usually at a great cost and at the family’s expense.  The state’s only pediatric heart surgery program, which had been a part of the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), became inactive shortly after the untimely death of Dr. Bobby Heath in 2000.  In 2008, recognizing a desperate need to get the program running again, UMMC and Batson Children’s Hospital contracted with Richard Jonas, MD, of Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., to help bridge the gap.  Once a week, Dr. Jonas flew to Mississippi, operated on the less extensive cases at Batson Children’s Hospital, and sent patients with the most severe conditions back to D.C.  It was a beginning, but Mississippi officials and the staff of UMMC knew they would have to do more.

In 2010, Batson Children’s Hospital recruited pediatric heart surgeon Jorge Salazar, MD, from Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston to lead the rebuilding efforts.  Because it had been nearly 10 years since Mississippi offered this service, Dr. Salazar would have to rebuild the program from scratch.  It was a huge undertaking, but something Dr. Salazar felt led to do.

“It was the opportunity to make a difference,” Dr. Salazar said.  “There was a tremendous need and it was so obvious how much work there was to be done in terms of children who were previously not able to get care and had to go thousands of miles away or more to get care.”

Dr. Salazar began small, pulling together a handful of clinicians, nurses, doctors, and therapists.  They began treating less severe conditions and escalating to the most difficult cases.

“Pediatric heart surgery is really a multi-disciplinary effort.  It’s not just about surgery.  Surgery is just a component of it,” Dr. Salazar adds.  “It is also about the support staff working together to help in the recovery.”

By the end of their first year, the staff of the Children’s Heart Center had graduated to treating some of the most sophisticated cases.  That summer, Daniel DiBardino, MD, joined the team.  Dr. DiBardino studied at Harvard Medical School and previously served as chief resident of the congenital heart surgery program at C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Medical School in Ann Arbor.  Through his extensive education, he is highly trained in a complicated surgical procedure known as the Norwood operation.  It is most commonly used to treat patients born with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, also known as HLHS, a condition where an infant is born without the left side of their heart.  Not only is the procedure extremely delicate, but it typically must be performed within the first 7-14 days of life.

That includes patients like eight-month-old Kasey Terry from Columbus, Miss.  The day Kasey and his mother Tiffany were supposed to be discharged from the hospital, doctors discovered that the left side of Kasey’s heart was significantly smaller than the right.  Within two weeks, little Kasey was being wheeled into an operating room at the Children’s Heart Center for the first of three surgeries he would have to undergo.  The surgery went off without a hitch and after two weeks of recovery in the NICU, he was finally able to come home for the first time.

Had the Children’s Heart Center at Batson Children’s Hospital not existed, spending a month in a hospital thousands of miles away would have proved extremely difficult for Tiffany, who was not only recovering herself from childbirth, but also has a four-year-old daughter and a husband who was serving overseas at the time as part of the army national guard.

Tiffany says the staff at the Children’s Heart Center did their best to put her at ease.  “The staff was great,” she said.  “Everybody took the time to tell you exactly what was going on.  Even if they had to explain it fifty times, they let you know what to be prepared for.”  Kasey returned to the Children’s Heart Center in August for his second surgery.  Tiffany says he will have his final surgery somewhere between two and three years of age.

Lilly’s mother Michelle wholeheartedly agrees.  Lilly underwent surgery on August 22 to remove the muscle causing the blockage in her heart in addition to a valve sparing aortic root replacement to repair the aneurysm.  Her prognosis is good and the doctors say she should be able to lead a completely normal life with no limitations from now on.

“Lilly was in surgery from 6:30 that morning until 8:30 that night,” Michelle recalls.  “During that time someone called every hour to keep us updated on what was going on.  It was very comforting.  The entire team worked together like clockwork.”

In a little over two years, the Children’s Heart Center has performed over 700 operations, including four heart transplants.  What began as a handful of staff members and two beds in the corner of the pediatric ICU has now grown to a 16 bed pediatric cardiac ICU with a dedicated staff of doctors, nurses, and therapists.  They have also managed to beat the national average for patient survival.

“We are performing as well as some of the best children’s hospitals in the country.  And I cannot tell you how remarkable that is given the setting we started in,” Dr. DiBardino said.  “It has been a little overwhelming at times, but it has been worth it.  To be in a position where you are not just helping the patients you are operating on and their families, but really the whole state because we are offering something that they have never had before and that’s sustainable.”

Adds Dr. Salazar, “I believe this program will be the most important thing that I do.  Not only in achieving excellent outcomes, but bringing that same high standard to Mississippi and for Mississippi to be able to take care of its own in a way that’s equal to the very best programs in the country.  I feel really lucky to be a part of that.”

A Story of Father-Daughter Survival

Mississippi Magazine
September / October 2012
View PDF of original article.

Cancer.

It’s one of the most dreaded words in our language. It’s that uninvited guest that everyone hopes will never make an appearance in their family. Country singer and television and radio personality Paul Ott Carruth and his family unfortunately know cancer all too well. Their story began in 1982, when Paul’s wife Alberta was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 42. After an 18-month battle, Alberta passed away, leaving behind Paul and their three children—Paul Jr., Carla, and Bert.

Carla Carruth Tigner was in college when she lost her mother. Since then, she remained vigilant in keeping up with her healthcare. When Carla reached her early 40s, she began experiencing some health problems. Because of her family history of ovarian cancer, Carla and her doctors decided a hysterectomy was the best course of prevention. The same week Carla was scheduled to have the hysterectomy, she discovered a lump in her right breast during a self-exam.

A mammogram showed no sign of the lump in Carla’s right breast. However, it did detect an anomaly in her left breast. A subsequent ultrasound determined the anomaly to be pre-calcification. Carla’s doctor’s decided to recheck her breasts in six months and proceeded with the hysterectomy.

Looking back on those events, Carla now wishes she had gotten a second opinion. Six months later, the lump in Carla’s right breast had grown. Twenty-one years after her mother received her diagnosis of ovarian cancer, Carla was told she had breast cancer. “I was the exact same age, and it was the exact same month that my mother received her diagnosis,” Carla reveals. “I remember I was so nervous about telling my father. He had already lost a wife to cancer and now I had to tell him that his daughter had cancer.”

It was determined that Carla’s tumor was estrogen-fed, meaning that the hormone replacement therapy she underwent immediately after her hysterectomy had allowed the tumor to grow. “I cannot stress enough how important it is for people to be a champion for their own healthcare,” she says. “Doctors are human, and they make mistakes. I should have insisted that my doctor conduct a breast exam and have the lump biopsied.” Carla underwent a bilateral mastectomy followed by aggressive chemotherapy. One year later, she received the news that she was cancer-free.

However, cancer would come knocking on the Carruths’ door again, only not in a way that anybody ever expected. A year after Carla’s recovery, while she and her father were recording an episode of Paul’s weekly television and radio show, Listen to the Eagle, he noticed a tender spot in his left breast. “Carla elbowed me in the chest and I commented that it had hurt,” Paul shares. “Carla joked with me about it. She said, ‘Oh Daddy, you don’t have breast cancer!’ and I said, ‘You better believe I don’t!’ I had never heard of a man getting breast cancer.”

Still, the tenderness concerned Paul’s wife Lynda enough that she strongly urged him to make an appointment with his doctor two days later. Unlike Carla, a mammogram revealed that a lump was indeed present in Paul’s breast. Even though Paul’s doctor wasn’t worried about it, he decided to remove the lump and have it tested just the same. “My doctor told me that he had biopsied around 100 men in my situation, and all the results had come back benign,” adds Paul.

However, as soon as Paul came out from anesthesia, his doctor shared with him that preliminary lab tests showed the lump was in fact cancerous. It was sent off for additional testing, and a week later the results were in. “My doctor said, ‘I have good news and I have bad news. The bad news is that it’s cancer,” Paul reveals. “‘The good news is that the tumor is dead.’ The medical term is ‘necrotic,’ meaning that somehow the blood supply to the tumor was cut off and it died. But I have another name for it—divine intervention.”

Paul had the breast removed and opted not to undergo any further treatment.  Lynda, Paul’s wife of 28 years, saw him through the surgery and the subsequent recovery.  “I would not have made it through this without her great loving care,” Paul says.  “My entire family – all my kids and 13 grandchildren – calls her the MVP of the bunch.”  Today, both Paul and Carla remain cancer-free.

It should come as no surprise that their tale of father-daughter breast cancer survival has attracted not only local but national media attention. In 2007, Stephanie Bell Flynt, healthcare reporter with Jackson’s NBC-affiliate WLBT, ran a series of stories on the pair and submitted the series to The Today Show. Paul, Carla, and Carla’s son were flown to New York City and given the chance to tell their story to Today Show host Matt Lauer on national television. “The day we taped the show was the same day that [Today Show host] Hoda Kotb returned to work after undergoing treatment for her breast cancer,” Carla says. “The entire show was dedicated to breast cancer and awareness.”

Paul and Carla were also given the rare opportunity to share their story in a music video for country music singer Martina McBride’s “I’m Gonna Love You Through It.” Because of the song’s lyrics, which tell of a woman’s fight with breast cancer, producers opted to include testimonials from actual breast cancer survivors throughout the video. While on the set of the video, Carla and Paul met hundreds of other breast-cancer survivors, including Good Morning America (GMA) host and Mississippi native Robin Roberts, who publicly shared her own battle with breast cancer in 2007. Roberts later premiered the emotional video during an episode of GMA.

“Daddy and I didn’t know if we would even make the video or not,” says Carla. “But as I sat there watching the video and seeing Robin get so emotional from it, I was just bawling by the end. It was amazing and so moving to see. There were literally hundreds of people there the day of the shoot, and it was mind-blowing to see so many people touched by the disease.”

Today, both Paul and Carla are active public speakers for breast-cancer awareness. Paul urges men to be proactive about their health. While the American Cancer Society estimates that only 1 percent of breast cancer diagnoses are in men, men are needlessly dying from the disease because they aren’t aware of it or are too embarrassed to get checked out. “When I was on the Today Show, Matt Lauer asked me if having breast cancer was considered less masculine,” says Paul. “I told him it’s a matter of living or dying. It doesn’t matter where the disease is located, cancer is cancer.”

Adds Paul, “There is a lot of awareness about breast cancer in women, but not a lot about breast cancer in men. Scientists have come a long way with treatment, so more women are surviving. But men are dying.”

Carla shares her story in hopes that she can not only create more awareness but also provide hope to other breast-cancer patients and their caregivers. “So many people who have had cancer don’t want to talk about it because they think either no one wants to hear about it or it is just too painful and emotional for them to share,” Carla says. “However, it is so important to share your story because you never know who you could help or provide hope and inspiration to.”

Adds Carla, “Having breast cancer was never something I would have asked for, but I wouldn’t give the experience back. It has changed me as a person and has allowed God to use me for the better.”

Where There’s a Will, There’s Croquet

Mississippi Magazine
July/August 2012

Mississippians pride themselves on being avid outdoorsmen, fishermen, even football players.  Likely you know a local golf enthusiast and maybe your next door neighbor runs the occasional marathon.  What you may not know, is that tucked away behind the tall pines and magnolia trees is a little known culture of avid croquet players.

Mention the word croquet at your next social gathering and likely you will conjure up images that run the gamut – everything from childhood memories of playing the game in a suburban backyard, Victorian-era scenes depicted in a favorite movie, to the fairy tale version written about in Alice in Wonderland.  The game itself has been around for centuries, believed to have originated in 17th-century France from a game known as palle-maille.  It was introduced to Ireland and England in the 1850’s before arriving in America sometime in the 1860’s.

Believe it or not, croquet was not always a game for the elegant and well-mannered.  In the 1890’s, Boston clergy lobbied to have the game banned because it brought about a great deal of drinking, gambling, and other behavior considered unbecoming.  The opposition nearly threatened the popularity of croquet in American until it resurfaced in the 1920’s.  By the 1950’s and 60’s, nearly every household was playing a version of the game in backyards across the country.

Traditional American six wicket croquet became solidified within the American culture in 1977 when croquet champion Jack Osborn brought together five clubs to form the United States Croquet Association (USCA).  Their first order of business was to establish a clear-cut set of rules – known as American rules croquet – that are still used today.  The basic concept behind six wicket croquet is simple.  There are two sides – blue and black balls versus the red and yellow balls.

Teams can be played by two single players or in pairs.  The object is to maneuver the balls through a course of six arches, called wickets, and finally into a stake.  The first team to do so wins the game.   While that may seem easy enough, the game combines the physical skills used in billiards and golf with the strategic planning of always thinking one step ahead of your opponent found in a game of chess.  Truly understanding and mastering the game requires practice and study.

Croquet is a game that has always been rich with tradition and the croquet clubs across Mississippi are no exception.  One tradition that has been passed on through the years is the requirement that players wear all white.  There is speculation as to how this rule got started – some say it’s because the sport is usually played in hot weather and the white fabric reflects heat.  Others say it does not distract from the game and looks more elegant.

“It’s tradition,” says Jackson businessman Mike McRee, who was first introduced to the game in 1988 when longtime friend Grady Jolly presented him with a croquet set as a gift.  Jolly had just recently returned from a trip to California, where he played croquet with famous winemaker Robert Mondavi at the Meadowood Club in Napa Valley.  At first McRee was baffled.  He was accustomed to the poorly-constructed sets used for backyard games.  The set given to him by his friend was high quality.

“The set was too nice to play croquet in a pasture,” McRee recalled.  “I decided if we were going to do this, we needed to do it right.”

Tournament croquet is played on a lawn cropped to 1/8 – 1/4-inch high, similar to a golf course.  McRee’s first stop was the local library, where he checked out several books on building a golf green.  Before long, he had bulldozed a plot of land he owned in Pocahontas, MS, and within six months of building the court over 15 couples were showing up to play on a regular basis.

McRee has built several croquet courts since, his most recent in 2005 when he established the Highlands Mallet Club in Flora.  The group of about 15-20 couples meet every Sunday afternoon.   A bracket is created to establish partners and games usually kick off around three o’clock.

Ed and Hillis Becker have been members of Highlands Mallet Club for four years.  They were introduced to the game by Ed’s father Jim, who has been an avid player and a longtime member of the club.

“It is a very enjoyable way to spend a Sunday afternoon,” said Hillis.  “There is usually a different crowd every week.  We have a great mix of people, both male and female, of all ages.”

The season traditionally kicks off in the spring and concludes in October with the annual Member/Guest Tournament.  Members are asked to bring a guest to the weekend-long event, which kicks off with a seated dinner at a member’s house.  Team assignments are made.  Each team is made up of one male and one female player and novices are paired with more seasoned players.  The tournament continues throughout the weekend with teams advancing to the quarter and semifinals.  The winners of the tournament receive the coveted Jim Becker trophy, named in honor of Ed’s father.

The weekend concludes with “high tea,” an elegant spread served right before the championship tournament.  A typical menu includes a variety of finger sandwiches including tomato, cucumber mint, and chicken salad sandwiches; fresh vegetable pate; French almond macaroons; petit fours; scones with lemon curd; chocolate dipped strawberries; and hot and iced tea and champagne.

When asked what advice he would give to someone interested in taking up the sport, Ed Becker suggests starting off by reading as much information available about the game.  “Croquet is one of the few sports where men and women can compete on an equal level, there is no upper hand,” he says.  “It’s a fun game that can be played quickly and really deserves more attention.”

Croquet Clubs in Mississippi:

Highlands Mallet Club
Jackson, MS
(601) 949-3103

Long Beach Yacht Club
Long Beach, MS
(228) 868-8279

Pocahontas Mallet Club
Jackson, MS
(601) 955-3353

If You Build It, They Will Come: Livingston Farmer’s Market

Mississippi Magazine
May / June 2012

Once upon a time, before central air conditioning and television sets brought us in from our front porches, people took the time to get to know their neighbors.  There were no early morning meetings to rush off to, no cell phones to distract us, and no rush hour traffic to put us behind schedule.  Good fences did not make good neighbors, but rather good neighbors made good friends.

Five years ago, developer David Landrum set out to bring back those good old days.  His inspiration came from a long-forgotten Mississippi town that last saw its heyday when the horse and buggy were a preferred mode of transportation.  The town of Livingston was established as Madison County’s first town and served as the original county seat from 1828-1833.  Located at the crossroads of Highway 463 and 22, Livingston was once considered a thriving center of business that would meet its demise some thirty years later after being bypassed by the Mississippi Central Railroad.

The first time Landrum visited the site, the only evidence left to suggest that Livingston had even existed were a few overgrown roadbeds.  It was enough to convince him that the site had potential.  Six months later Landrum and several investors purchased the land and set out to restore the town to its former glory.

The goal – create a community that not only highlights Mississippi’s historic roots, but also celebrates the best of what Mississippi has to offer through food, music, literature and art.  That vision includes focusing on the farm-to-table movement, which seeks to take locally produced food and deliver it straight to consumers.   As momentum began to build, Landrum, his wife Jill, and Creative Director Leisha Pickering felt they needed to create something that would tie the entire community together.  Thus, the idea of the Livingston Farmers Market was born.

“We want our town to have an organic, earthy feeling that is supportive of local farmers, artists, and craftsman while celebrating our state’s natural resources,” Pickering said.  “We felt like establishing our own farmer’s market would encourage people to come out and be a part of our town and help lay the groundwork for what we are trying to accomplish.”

The group brought in Richard Butler, former director of the Mississippi Farmer’s Market, to head up the operation as Farmer’s Market Project Manager.  Butler worked with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce every step of the way to ensure the market met every guideline needed to become a certified farmer’s market.  On June 2 of last year, the market opened with 18 vendors.

“Honestly, that first market we were all nervous,” said Landrum.  “The closer it got to four o’clock when we were supposed to open the more we wondered if anyone would show up.”

Jill Landrum adds, “When we first told people about our plans, their first reaction was usually, ‘You are going to build a town where?’  We wondered if we built this, would people really come?”

The Landrum’s fears were unfounded because in the end, people did come.  They came not only to purchase fresh produce and handmade crafts from farmers and artisans all across the state, but to get away from the hustle and bustle of daily life and spend a moment relaxing and reconnecting with their community.  By the time the market closed in the fall, the market was realizing almost 1,000 visitors a week and the number of vendors grew to nearly 30.

“We thought once the summer months started getting hotter that people would probably come, get their groceries, and leave,” David Landrum admits.  “But we noticed that people would stay and hang out.”

Jill Landrum agrees, “People came back week after week.  I think they really longed for that connection and sense of community.  They would sit, visit, and listen to music. The atmosphere was really special.”

So what can a first time visitor expect when they make a trip to the Livingston Farmer’s Market?  Right off the bat, they are met by rows and rows of tents shaded by a canopy of trees on the site of the old Livingston town square.  Guests have their pick of fresh, seasonal produce – much of it grown in Mississippi – including tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, watermelons, and berries.  They can also pick up something special – such as a jar of homemade jam, goat’s milk soap, a loaf of homemade bread, and other handmade gifts.  Before heading home with a bag full of goodies, they can enjoy a cup of freshly squeezed lemonade or a glass of wine from the wine bar and take a moment to enjoy some live music.  The market also has children’s activities to ensure even the youngest visitor has a good time.

“People who make the trip for the first time come away with something that goes way beyond a traditional farmer’s market,” Butler said.  “Everything is carefully planned and executed so that you leave with a totally different experience.”

This year’s farmer’s market kicks off on May 17 and will continue every Thursday from 4-8 p.m. through October.  The number of participating vendors is expected grow another fifty percent and include farmers from as far away as Greenwood and Simpson and Smith counties.   Several area restaurants will be returning this year to give cooking demonstrations on how to prepare locally grown food.

Just as the Town of Livingston will soon begin to grow and evolve, plans are in the works to keep the farmer’s market new and exciting.  Livingston’s first building – a permanent pavilion to house the market – is expected to be completed later in the year.  Viking Range has plans to construct an outdoor kitchen for cooking demonstrations.  In keeping with the organic, farm-to-table focus, a working farm will produce fresh eggs, cut flowers, and vegetables in addition to a greenhouse for varieties not found locally.

“Our goal is to build one of the best farmer’s markets in the country,” David Landrum reveals.  “Not only are we supporting local farmers, but encouraging growth in the local economy.”

Out of Africa: From Law Books to High Fashion

Mississippi Magazine
March/April 2012

Most people on the outside looking in to Ashley Pittman’s life six years ago would have assumed she had it all.  The daughter of Mississippi natives, Pittman graduated from Texas Christian University with degrees in political science and business.  She quickly landed a job working for a private equity firm in New York City, later moving to Los Angeles.  Young and successful, it would appear she had life on a string.

However, Pittman will be the first to tell you that while her job was interesting, it left her feeling unfulfilled.  She later left the finance world to pursue a deeper calling – traveling to Africa.  In 2006, she became a volunteer for the Clinton Foundation, a non-profit organization established by President Bill Clinton to improve the health and strengthen the economies of countries across the globe.  Later that year, she boarded a plane for Rwanda as part of the organization’s HIV/AIDS initiative.

While in Africa, Pittman discovered locally-produced jewelry and the seed for Ashley Pittman Jewelry was planted.  Once her time in Rwanda came to an end, she returned to the states to attend law school.  However, Pittman frequently found herself reflecting on her time in East Africa.

“I knew I wanted to go back and work in East Africa, but I wanted to do something more hands on,” she reveals.

Upon graduating from Boston’s Northeastern University in 2009, she decided to use her finance and law background to develop a sustainable business model that would allow her to provide not only employment for an area ravaged by drought, but also training for local artisans.  Suddenly, Pittman found herself going from studying law textbooks to high fashion.

“I never thought this is what I would be doing,” she laughs.  “However, the people I met already possessed the skills needed to create the jewelry, they just lacked knowledge of what was in fashion and quality control.  They also lacked the infrastructure needed to sell the items they produced.”

Pittman’s company purchased a collection of jewelry crafted by a group of Kenyan artisans.  Two weeks after showing the first set of samples, the line was picked up by New York-based luxury department store Bergdorf-Goodman.

“It was crazy,” Pittman says, “and incredibly lucky.”

Today, Pittman’s company purchases goods from a woman’s cooperative that employs approximately 80 artisans.  It has expanded its line into nationally recognized retailer Neiman Marcus and the independent Dallas-based specialty emporium Stanley Korshak.  Her collection features bracelets, necklaces, and earrings made from bronze, semi-precious stones, and horn sourced from locally raised livestock.  She makes frequent visits to Africa, returning every three months for 3-4 weeks at a time to spend time with the artisans and introduce new designs.

Pittman’s success has not only allowed her to follow her passion, but it has also given her the opportunity to help improve the lives of the artisans she works with.  Through the Ashley Pittman Foundation, 10% of the profit from each jewelry sale supports projects that improve the Kenyan community of Kamboo.  To date, the foundation has been able to help support a rural health center that serves over 4,000 people who have never had access to basic healthcare.  Equipped with clean, running water, eight patient rooms, and a refrigerator for medicine storage, it is estimated that the clinic treats over 100 malaria patients every month.  The Foundation also supplies the local primary school with clean water and hot meals, an amenity that is not otherwise readily available to many of the children who attend the school.

“Many of these artisans did not know where their next form of income would come from,” Pittman adds.  “I believe in ‘Trade, not Aid.’  Rather than these people relying on donations, they now have the ability to work for themselves and create a better life.”

To read more about Ashley’s story and her Foundation:
Ashley Pittman Jewelry

A Marriage of Old and New

Mississippi Magazine
July/August 2011

An antebellum home just a stone’s throw away from the historic downtown square of Oxford is what attracted a semi-retired Minnesota couple to this Italianate-style home located in one of Oxford’s historic districts. While the location and charm of the home were perfect, several additions built throughout the last century created a few hazards.

“It was all rather willie-nillie,” says designer and architect Julie Spears. “Because the house had many additions over the years, the shape of the roof had become complicated. Parts of the addition in the back of the house had water damage from leaks around the fireplace, termite damage, a low ceiling, and a flat roof that helped contribute to leaks. ”

Despite the sporadic layout, the house still held exciting possibilities. The design of the original structure – which included the master bedroom, foyer, parlor, guest room, and long center hall – provided the perfect foundation for a home remodel that combined the homeowner’s love for antiques with mid-century modern America. As the design process began, the couple expressed their desire to preserve the old character of the original design while still reflecting modern living.

As guests enter through the front door into the foyer, their gaze follows the lines of the long center hall and gallery that pull them through to the back of the house. The floor transitions from original pine floors to modern maple hardwood used throughout the new addition. The hall not only provides an area for the homeowners to display their art and antique collections, but also serves as a visual timeline, allowing visitors to become a part of the progression and evolution of the home.

The flat ceiling from the center hall extends into the dining area at the back of the house. Guests can share a meal or engage in friendly conversation while enjoying views of the landscaped backyard through a large picture window. On the exterior of the house, just above the picture window, a custom copper gutter transforms into a water feature during a heavy Mississippi rainstorm. Runoff from the roof is directed through downward spouts, creating visual interest as water cascades into a small coy pond below.

The dining area is flanked on either side by the kitchen and living areas, which were constructed to match the moderate proportions of the home. However, vaulted ceilings, coupled with a large wall of windows, give the space an open and airy feeling. Custom walnut cabinetry and stainless gas appliances accent the kitchen. A small breakfast nook is outfitted with a built-in leather banquette. A modern custom walnut screen separates the breakfast nook from another alcove utilized as a home office.

A vestibule just off the kitchen transitions into the master suite, which includes the bedroom, sitting area, and master bathroom. The bedroom is original to the house while the sitting area was added to the space in the 1960’s. Unique connecting double doors – constructed from both Golden Oak and Fir – and the antique fireplace mantle were both items the homeowners salvaged from an 1800’s Iowa farmhouse. Combined with red brick floors and muted moss green walls, the sitting area provides a cozy spot to curl up and read a book on a cold winter’s night. The master bathroom includes open, handicap-accessible roll-in showers and modern fixtures. Finally, a small, private screened-in porch provides respite for the couple during warmer months.

On the other end of the house, another larger screened-in porch connects the main home to the guest house nestled just behind the garage. The porch provides the perfect place to relax or get in a morning swim in the small indoor pool. The guest house was designed as a secondary space, complete with kitchen, living area, and private porch. The design is open and airy with several visual elements such as exposed beams and stained concrete floors. Formica countertops and a funky, bright backsplash in the kitchen tie in with with the geometric design of the windows, giving the space a metropolitan vibe.

“The design of this house is meant to celebrate history and beauty,” adds Spears. “It was transformed into a clean, interesting space with good light and also a comfortable back drop for the collections of the owner’s life that animate the house.”

A Home for Everyone

 

Mississippi Magazine
Homes and Gardens Edition
May/June 2011

The tree-lined path of Lake Castle Road in Madison offers the perfect backdrop for a relaxing Sunday afternoon drive. The meandering tree line suddenly breaks away to reveal a French antique entry gate and beyond it, the curving driveway and sprawling estate of David and Tracy Ford. Situated on ten acres, the 11,000 square foot home is reminiscent of a French countryside manor.

When the Ford’s first approached husband and wife team Jodie and De’Dee Morgan of Jodie Morgan Construction, Inc., they were looking for something that would fit the active lifestyle of the couple and their two sons – fifteen-year-old David, Jr., and thirteen-year-old Will. “We really wanted something that we could all enjoy as a family, but allow everyone to have their own space,” Tracy says. “Every single room was a specific request.”

One of Tracy’s first requests was a large kitchen and keeping area where guests could make themselves at home when the couple entertains. Cream custom wood cabinetry, copper backsplash, and heart of pine floors complement the granite countertops and stainless Viking appliances. A large central island with a high bar provides the perfect spot for a family meal or for doing homework. Custom built-in shelving crafted from refurbished wood provides storage as well as a place to display family photos and mementos. In the keeping area, the family can watch television or sit by a warm, roaring fire and enjoy their views of the property through large expansive windows. The spacious pantry also doubles as a shelter during inclement weather.

Just off the keeping area lies the piano room. Designed with crisp clean lines, the room provides sweeping views of the rear loggia, landscaped pool area, and fishing pond. After a quick dip in the pool, guests can shower off in the 900 square-foot cabana. The outdoor kitchen and stone fireplace with seating area allows the family to enjoy the outdoors no matter the season. In the distance, the custom designed horse barn with fenced corral can also accommodate extra guests in the building’s furnished loft apartment.

One of the main house’s most unique features is the barrel ceiling of the cross hall, designed specifically as a gallery for displaying the Ford’s art collection. The hallway opens to reveal David’s study and trophy room as well as the Master suite. An avid hunter, the trophy room provides the perfect place for David to showcase some of the prized bounty from his hunting trips. Vaulted ceilings, custom cabinets, and refurbished wood walls round out this sophisticated spin on a modern day “man cave.”

Floor-to-ceiling windows in the Master bedroom let in light as well as scenic views. The his-and-her master bath features a large soaking tub, steam shower with dual shower heads, separate vanities, and mirrored dressing area. Both closets have custom-made adjustable shelving to accommodate the couple’s different needs.

On the opposite end of the house lies the hunting room. A sportsman’s dream, the room provides storage for the family’s hunting equipment, including built-in lockers for apparel. A hollowed out cedar stump serves as the base for a rustic table where the hunters can clean their weapons before storing them in the lighted glass gun case. Next door, the wine room brings new life to old materials. Refurbished brick walls and refurbished wood ceilings give the room a metropolitan look. Climate controls ensure the Ford’s impressive wine collection will stay at the optimum temperature during storage.

Upstairs, the game and media rooms are a prime place for two teenage boys to entertain school friends. Comfortable leather sofas and a ping pong table provide the ultimate space for relaxation. A backlit, custom designed outdoor scene crafted from refurbished wood decorates the bar area. Just off the game room lies the media room. As movie goers relax in the plush leather seats, the lights dim and a curtain opens to reveal a large movie screen perfect for family movie night or cheering on a favorite sports team.

The three upstairs bedrooms were built to suit the needs of the Ford boys as well as overnight guests. Window seats provide a quiet place for listening to music or reading a magazine. The shower walls of the ensuite bathrooms have a touch of flair with inlaid stone. Down the hall is the sleeping nook, where three built-in bunk beds provide overflow sleeping space for the boys’ school friends.

“We don’t just build homes, we build dreams,” says De’Dee. “We thought about the plans for this home for a long time and considered everything the family wanted. We built a specific place for everything from the peg boards in the barn for David’s tools to the lockers in the mudroom for the boys’ sports equipment.”

The entire property is outfitted with the latest in smart home technology. Kiosks throughout the home allow the family to play surround sound audio and video, access the security system, adjust the thermostat, and control the lighting. The system also gives the couple the option of accessing many of these features through their cell phone.

Morgan, who has over thirty years of experience in the homebuilding industry, admits that while the eighteen month construction project was his most challenging project to date, it was also the most rewarding. “The Ford’s residence was one of the most unique and satisfying projects I have ever done,” he says. “This was the fourth home we’ve designed and built for this family. It was fun taking what De’Dee designed, having the Fords willingness and trust to let us be creative, and making this home a reality.”

“Everything was well thought out before it was put to paper,” Tracy adds. “The result was a quality home that can withstand kids coming through in cleats and knocking on the walls, while evolving into when they are in college and we are empty-nesters. We have everything we could have ever wanted in a home, for our needs as a family, and for young and old.”