Houses Change; Memories Never Fade


Mississippi Magazine
Home & Garden Insert
March/April 2015

While growing up in Jackson, James Blackwood always admired the stately houses in Eastover. His goal was to one day call one of these residences home.

“The neighborhood was my first priority,” Blackwood explains. “With all the old trees and the history of the houses, it’s the most beautiful neighborhood. Second priority was finding a house with good bones.”

Finding his dream home wasn’t easy. In fact, it took almost two years before an opportunity arose. Westerfield’s realtor, Shari Lackey called him one day and instructed him to meet her on Lake Circle Drive immediately. A home had just been listed and they would have to act fast.

Blackwood immediately fell in love with the floor plan and large rooms within 3,200 square foot ranch-style home, which was constructed in 1959. An avid gardener, he was also able to see potential in the home’s backyard and surrounding property.

Upon acquiring the home, Blackwood planned a series of renovations to turn the mid-century house into his own. However, at closing, the adult children of the former homeowners, Mr. B. E. “Corky” Grantham, Jr., and his wife Sarah, made a special request. The Grantham children shared many fond memories of growing up in the house on Lake Circle Drive. Their daughter Sally requested to tour the home once renovations were complete.

“This [request] really touched me in a special way,” Blackwood reveals.  “Having spent my entire childhood in the house my parents built and still live in, I often wonder what will become of that house one day.  With all the memories of my childhood, I want that special house to always exist. This inspired me to create a remodeled house that will stand the test of time, with hopes that my childhood home will one day be updated as well for another generation to create their own memories.”

The house has approximately 12 rooms, including a formal living and dining room immediately off the foyer, in addition to a den that leads into the kitchen. Blackwood enlisted the help of Kim Inzinna to coordinate the design elements of the project. Turns out, Inzinna already had a connection to the home. As a young designer, Inzinna was the was the protege of designer Jim Westerfield, who oversaw the house’s partial renovation in the 1970’s.

The home already featured several classic Westerfield details, such as signature molding, eye-catching wallpaper, and black and white marble flooring in the foyer. It was these details that Blackwood and Inzinna decided to incorporate into the overall design. Drawing on her experiences while working with Westerfield, Inzinna was able to create a plan that complemented his updates while creating a fresh and modern feel.

Blackwood selected Mack Chunn of Structural Solutions to oversee construction. The team immediately began working on the layout of the sitting room and kitchen. Because the kitchen had been given a facelift recently, no major changes were planned other than removing the wall that divided the kitchen from the sitting room and replacing it with a bar area, creating an open floor plan perfect for entertaining guests. A half bathroom and laundry room was also added.

Inzinna opted to open up the den by removing the original slanted ceiling and replacing it with an arched pickle-pine barrel roll ceiling. The painted cypress paneling was removed while the original brick floors were replaced with rustic, antique heart-of-pine floors.

One of the focal points of the room was the large brick fireplace and hearth. This was also given a facelift by adding stacked black granite stones over the existing brick, which coordinates with the black granite countertop used in the bar. Floor-to-ceiling windows were added, in addition to raising all the door casings, to let in additional light and create more height.

Elizabeth Gullett, interior designer for Summer House, was recruited to provide the decorative touches needed to complete the newly renovated den. Because Blackwood enjoys entertaining, it needed to have ample seating for guests. However, the large scale of the space also made functionality a challenge. Gullett solved this dilemma by dividing the room into sections and creating multiple seating areas.

In the center of the room, four deep, white armchairs are centered around a large white leather ottoman. A brindle cowhide rug layered over a large sisal and wool area rug sets the space apart while providing dimension and texture.

“Doing a group of four chairs in a room rather than a sofa is unexpected,” explains Gullett. “However, it allows guests to move around the room more freely.”

The armchairs are accented with kelly green velvet pillows, which tie into  two tufted, olive green, benches situated along the far wall of the den. A pair of striking, 40 x 60” black and white paintings done in the style of Franz Kline, combined with oversized wall sconces, brings the large wall down to scale. The most interesting element of the room is the carved wood and marble table created by New Orleans-based designer Tara Shaw. The table, which took almost a year to procure, combines both Baroque and French elements.

Finally, the huge oversized chandelier that hangs from the arched ceiling adds drama to the design and complements the gold in the wall sconces and the Tara Shaw table.

Once the den was complete, Blackwood still had two large rooms – the formal living room and dining room – to tackle. These are the first rooms a visitor sees upon entering the house, so they both had to have a major wow factor. Blackwood decided to incorporate a French-Old World theme into the design and approached designer Matt Nicholas to create the look Blackwell hoped to achieve.

The final phase of the renovation was updating the exterior. The entire house was repainted and the original red brick steps were overlaid with Pennsylvania Blue Stone. However, Blackwell’s most important project was installing a courtyard and open-air shower.

Blackwell dreamed of having an open-air shower after vacationing in both Cabo and Lake Michigan. Landscape architect Rick Griffin was consulted on the design, while contractor Monty Montgomery and Wright Plumbing headed up implementation and construction. Other outdoor elements include the addition of a deck and parterre garden.

During the nine-month renovation process, Blackwood never forgot the request made by the Grantham’s daughter Sally. During the renovation process, Sally was invited to tour the home she grew up in.

“It was one of the special moments during the renovation,” Blackwood adds. “I was so pleased to see her reactions to the updates that were being made. Once, while in the attic, I found an old invitation inviting Sally to an after-prom breakfast. I think the time frame was the mid-1970’s. As a reminder of the history in the house, I placed the invitation on the bedside table in the room that was once Sally’ childhood bedroom.”


Deserted Dwellings to Cozy Cottages

Ms MAg Jan 2015Mississippi Magazine
January/February 2015

When Chris Rakestraw left the University of Mississippi with a bachelor’s degree in finance in hand, he never intended to become a designer. In fact, the seed wasn’t planted until a few years later when Rakestraw purchased his first “fixer upper.” Less than a year later, he sold the house for a profit and began the search for another house he could redesign.  By then, he knew he had found his true calling. Shortly after, he left his job as a credit officer at a local bank and enrolled in design school at Mississippi State, where he received a bachelor’s in design in 2010.

One of Rakestraw’s latest endeavors has been the renovation of three, one bedroom shotgun houses in the heart of downtown Tupelo on North Green Street.

“I passed these little houses all the time while out running errands. They had been vacant for years and I just kept watching them decay. I remember after a really bad storm one of the front porches fell off,” he recalls. “Something about these houses spoke to me.”

In 2012, Rakestraw was just completing one of his biggest projects to date when he learned the price of the three cottages had been reduced by half. After giving it a lot of thought, he called his real estate agent and was able to secure a deal for the properties within 2 hours.

The homes – each ranging from 700-750 square feet – were constructed in 1936. While unsure of their exact origins, Rakestraw believes they were built to house displaced families after a devastating tornado hit the area. He admits the 76 year-old-houses were the oldest he had ever worked on. No surprise, they came with their fair share of problems.

“Sometimes when you purchase a house, you assume a certain level of risk,” says Rakestraw, who purchases 75-80% of his homes at auction. “You have to do your due diligence. The houses had a lot of issues, things we take for granted. Every inch of these houses had to be redone.”

For instance, none of the dwellings had central heat and air. The plumbing, electrical, roof, and foundations had to be completely overhauled. When it came to designing the interior, Rakestraw tried play off the uniqueness of each unit.

Says Rakestraw, “Each house had a different personality. It tried to keep things simple to appeal to a wider variety of tenants.”

Because the houses were in such terrible shape, much of the original details had either been scrapped or were not salvageable. However, in the unit known as the Tupelo House, Rakestraw discovered original heart-of-pine floors and ceilings. He chose to compliment the wood with neutral light grey walls accented with darker grey trim and moulding. He also removed an out-of-place coat closet in the living room and replaced it with a built-in desk. All of the doors in the cottage had to be replaced since none met today’s codes. However, instead of tossing the original doors, Rakestraw refurbished them into a mantle for the fireplace.

The original layout of each house was somewhat awkward by today’s standards, so Rakestraw decided to redesign the floor plans to improve the flow. This included swapping the kitchen and the bedroom. Typical shotgun-style plans include rooms stacked one behind the other – living room, bedroom, and kitchen in the back. Rakestraw didn’t feel like tenants would want to walk through their bedroom to get to the kitchen. Since the house had to be completely rewired anyway, crews were able to complete the transformation in just a few days. The kitchen was updated with marble countertops, new stainless steel appliances, and a moveable island topped with butcher block.

In order to maximize space, Rakestraw chose sliding barn doors to transition from the kitchen to the bedroom. A queen sized platform bed gives tenants extra storage underneath. The bed’s high headboard is adorned with the numbers 1936, a nod to the year the cottage was constructed. Rakestraw also incorporated a proper bathroom with a walk-in closet and washer and dryer into the redesign, eliminating the lean-to addition that served as the home’s only bathroom previously.

Outside, a few architectural details were added to give the cottages the curb appeal they needed. New front porches were constructed, beautiful arbors were added, and each cottage received new siding and a fresh coat of vibrant paint. Lush landscaping, including a courtyard with seating tucked away between two of the cottages, adds the finishing touch. Since completion in early 2013, Rakestraw has had 100% occupancy.

“I really wanted to design a high caliber home with these units. The style is a little eclectic, transitional, with influences of modern,” Rakestraw adds. “I am absolutely pleased with how these turned out. I have always loved these cottages and the turned out wonderfully.”

A Comfortable Kitchen

EDM April 2014eat.drink.MISSISSIPPI
April / May 2014

When empty nesters Doug and Sheila Estes of Columbus embarked on building a new house, they knew they wanted to design a kitchen that would truly be the heart of their home. The couple loves to spend time with family and friends and wanted to create a warm and inviting space where the kids could come home to and invite their friends.

Penny Bowen, of Penny Bowen Design, Inc., was asked to create a space that was functional, comfortable, and reminiscent of an upscale European lodge. The homeowners also wanted the kitchen and living areas to be open to one another.

“That means we had to really dress up the kitchen,” Bowen explains. “With an open plan, you can’t have a lot of clutter. Everything has to have a place.”

You also need a focal point, which is achieved through the gleaming, handcrafted copper vent-a-hood positioned over a stainless steel 36-inch gas range and warming drawer directly underneath. Yellow river granite was chosen for the threads of brown and copper that run throughout. Elegant tile in a complimentary color pattern was used for the backsplash.

Beautiful dark espresso cabinets compliment the décor in the rest of the home. Under cabinet lighting add an additional touch of ambience. Because Sheila enjoys cooking, two stainless steel ovens were installed along with coordinating stainless refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave. Finally, cream colored porcelain tiles in a random pattern were chosen for the floor.

Even though The Estes wanted to rooms to be open, Bowen still wanted to create a separation between the kitchen and the living area. Since the Estes’s living room featured 12-foot vaulted ceilings, Bowen created a low bulkhead over the kitchen. The threshold from the kitchen gently curves into the living, allowing the kitchen to flow. Finally, the entire room is rounded out with a bar area accented with six Jan Barbogolio swivel metal barstools with dark leather seats.

“The bar area gets a lot of use,” Bowen adds. “Guests enjoy sitting and talking to Sheila while she cooks. The homeowners really wanted a look that was comfortable where their guests would feel at home. I think we definitely achieve this.”

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


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.

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.”

One of a Kind Design: Material Possessions

Stages Magazine
March/April 2011

Click here to view PDF.

Paint colors, sumptuous fabrics, unique furniture – these are literally the “materials” that make up interior designer Angela Doolittle’s day-to-day life. The minute she meets with a new client, she’s working to get a feel for the unique set of personality characteristics that make that person individual. She then takes that kernel of knowledge and expands on it to create a beautiful room that reflects their identity.

“My approach is to always keep my client’s wishes to the forefront,” says Doolittle. “I inquire about my customers and clients likes and dislikes and I always try to please them. I like to connect with each one so I can ensure their home reflects their life and style, not mine.”

A twelve-year veteran of the business, Doolittle worked as a freelance designer for several years before testing her entrepreneurial skills. In 2005, she opened Material Possessions, a full service interior design showroom. Clients range from residential to commercial and also include new construction and remodels. The organization’s staff includes experienced interior and floral designers.

“Our clients and customers often tell us we offer one-stop shopping,” Doolittle adds. “They love to come into the store because we always have new and unusual things. We offer anything you need for a home or commercial design including custom window treatments, bedding, and furniture. We also have numerous upholstery options, case good lines, art, mirrors, lighting, rugs, accessories, candles and gift items.”

Part of Doolittle’s success is her knack for seeking out new and unusual pieces that you won’t find anywhere else. She also enjoys designing her own pieces, including custom made tables, beds, ottomans, window treatments, and bedding. Through her experience, she has noticed that current fashion trends eventually translate into home furnishings. Just as fashion trends change with the seasons, Doolittle shares a few of the trends she predicts will be popular for spring:

  • Color – Currently retro looks are very hot in fashion and are providing inspiration for home trends, particularly items from the 1970’s era. Blue continues to be popular in addition to turquoise, melon, olive green, and bright colors paired with greys and neutrals like purple or mustard with grey.
  • Pattern – Pattern can be found in everything from fabrics, accessories, case goods, and rugs.
  • Blown Glass – Vases, lamps, and wall art, including glass balls to be hung on the wall.
  • Butterflies – Butterflies can be found in everything from fabrics, rugs, and art.
  • Elegant snake motif’s – Having long been popular in fashion, this print is now being incorporated on lamps, mirrors, and fabrics.
  • French inspired – Fleur de lis, Eiffel tower accessories, decorative hardware, and French antiques of the 30’s & 40’s.
  • Ethnic pieces – things with a Moorish influence are particularly popular, which is a favorite of Doolittle’s.
  • Animal prints – Peacock feathers and safari patterns.
  • Natural fabrics – Linens, burlap, and natural leathers.

When guiding a client through the process of decorating their home, Doolittle ensures that choices they make will endure the test of time. “A house has to flow together and be cohesive,” she says. “It’s all about comfort! Your home can be comfortable and elegant, but it also has to be livable and use what you love to achieve this. I love my job. I love being creative and really enjoy the relationship I have with my clients. That makes my job all very rewarding for me.”

Material Possessions
733 Lake Harbour Dr Suite J
Ridgeland, MS, 39157
(601) 919-2828

Building Outside the Box: Brian Burkley

Stages Magazine
March / April 2011

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You could say building houses is in Brian Burkley’s blood. After all, he was inspired by his grandfather who was also a builder. Six years ago, as Burkley began drawing up plans for the new house that he and his wife Natalie planned to build, he had no idea his endeavor would wind up leading him right in his grandfather’s footsteps. At the time, Burkley had an eight-to-five job in the banking industry, but had been building houses on the side for almost two years. As construction began on the Burkley’s new home, the couple was surprised when people began approaching them with offers to buy the house before it was even complete.

“I have always wanted my homes to be different architecturally,” says the thirty-two year old Natchez native and father of two. “At the time I noticed a lot of new homes were looking a little ‘cookie-cutter.’ They were all starting to look the same. I wanted to build a house that would stand out.”

It was Burkley’s attention to detail that got him noticed by other prospective clients. He continued to build houses on the side, but as business picked up he realized he wasn’t giving his day job the commitment it deserved. With his wife’s support, Burkley made the decision to pursue home building full-time. He quickly learned the ropes of the home building business with the help of both a mentor and a business partner. Burkley and his former partner built eight houses together before he decided to strike out on his own. Today Deep South Custom Homes builds around 25 houses per year in the Jackson metro area.

“My previous job in banking gave me the finance background and customer service skills I needed to form relationships with my clients,” Burkley adds. “I enjoy meeting with clients and drawing up the plans. I am a very hands-on builder. I like to be creative and this means going beyond my customers expectations to build a one-of-a-kind product they can call their dream home.”

Because of the success his business has seen over the last five years, Burkley felt the need to give back to the community that has given him so much. Three years ago, Deep South Custom Homes was selected to participate in the St. Jude Dream Home Giveaway. Local builders across the country are chosen to build a home valued between $300,000 – $600,000, which is raffled off to one lucky winner.

“Building the house for St. Jude was something I always wanted to do,” reveals Burkley. “As a relatively new builder, I felt honored to be chosen.”

The dream home giveaway, which is currently held in over thirty cities across the United States, serves as the largest single-event fundraiser for the Memphis-based children’s research hospital. Since the program began in 1991, it has raised more than $155 million dollars to fund research and find cures to save children around the world. This year marks the third year Deep South Custom Homes has built the dream home in the Jackson market. They have committed to continue participating in the giveaway for the next five years.

“Designing the house poses somewhat of a challenge in that I have to be creative architecturally and make the house aesthetically pleasing while sticking to a tight budget,” Burkley says. “Deep South doesn’t profit from the home; it’s all donated and I have been fortunate to work with vendors and sub-contractors that support my efforts. Building the St. Jude house has become a huge part of Deep South Custom Homes and we are passionate about this organization and what it stands for. It helps raise money for a wonderful cause and allows me to give back to the community for all the many blessings I have received. It has been such a positive and rewarding experience and it gets better every year.”

Groundbreaking for the house took place last November. The 3200-square-foot home will be located on a corner lot in The Townsip at Colony Crossing off Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland. A two-story French Acadian style home, the house boasts an open great room and keeping room with 22-foot ceilings and balconies overlooking the front and the sides of the house. The interior will feature top of the line amenities including granite countertops, wood flooring, stainless commercial-style appliances, custom-crafted wood beams and cabinetry, old brick, exquisite lighting fixtures and much more. National dream home sponsor, Brizo, will supply plumbing fixtures that incorporate state-of-the-art technology. Tickets for this year’s dream home will be available to purchase at various locations throughout the Jackson Metro area. Upon completion of construction, tickets will also go on sale at the home’s site during the open house tours. Giveaway for the 2011 dream home is scheduled for this June.

Just as no two people are alike, Burkley believes each house he builds should be as unique as the family that will call it their home. “Not every house I build will fit the needs of every family,” he says. “I go into each project with the belief that there is a family for each house. It’s my job to meet their goals and give them timeless details for the times of their lives. Most importantly, I hope that joy, happiness, and lasting memories will resonate the walls of every home built.” It is this unique approach and meticulous desire to exceed his customer’s expectations that Burkley hopes will lead to his continued success.

Deep South Custom Homes
Brian Burkley
P.O. Box 5825
Brandon, MS 39047
(601) 720-1978

From Hobby to Household Name: Gail Pittman

Portico Magazine
February 2011

If you ask Gail Pittman what the hardest job in the world is, she will reply, “Being a school teacher.” The artist and business entrepreneur worked as a school teacher for five years with the Jackson Public School System before embarking on a career move that would launch her successful line of home décor. She began at her kitchen table, inspired by a colorful bowl she found in a gift shop.

“At first, I really didn’t like ceramics,” Pittman recalls. “However, I later realized that I really enjoyed painting. So one day I sat at my kitchen table, used a Rubbermaid spice rack as my wheel, and taught myself how to make a bowl. It became my creative outlet. ”

Pittman’s goal was to create pieces that were not only decorative, but also functional. Eventually her pottery caught the eye of friends and family and she began getting requests for orders. When she landed a booth at the Canton Flea Market, Pittman thought, “I have arrived! This is it!” Shortly after, her friend Carol Puckett Daily, founder of The Everyday Gourmet, approached her about selling pieces in her retail store. Pittman soon became a house hold name and her wares are now sold nationwide.

After thirty years in the business, rumors began to circulate late last year that Pittman was retiring. “I knew I wasn’t retiring,” she says, “but there was so much in the works and so many facets that needed to come together before I could reveal what was going on.” Pittman was interested in exploring new techniques, but needed to make some major changes to the logistics side of her business. She closed down her Ridgeland plant and joined into a licensing agreement with Sidco Worldwide in Nashville. The company has production facilities both nationally and abroad and is now responsible for manufacturing and distribution. This frees Pittman up for what she really loves – designing.

“I particularly enjoy this arrangement one, because the owner of Sidco – Tom Kelly – is formerly from Greenville and he shares my belief that our mission should not only be to design products of exceptional quality for the home that inspire hospitality, love, and the creative spirit, but also to make a positive influence on all the lives we touch,” Pittman says.

In May, Pittman opened the Gail Pittman Design Store in Old Towne Center in Ridgeland. The full service retail store features a bridal registry, corporate gifts and showroom that offers not only several new designs but updated versions of some of her best loved patterns and new pieces never before offered.

“This new direction is very exciting,” she says. “I have the opportunity to move into so many different directions and I am having a great time with it. And I love spending time in the store with my customers.” As she reflects back on where the last thirty years have led, she adds, “Everything that happens in life prepares you for what you are supposed do.”

Gail Pittman Official Store

Working Girl: Upton-Neal Interiors

Stages Magazine
January/February 2011

Over the last twenty years, America has seen an increase in the number of eager women becoming business owners.  Susan Upton has been a familiar face in interior design for nearly two decades.  As co-owner of Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home in Pearl, Susan has a knack for transforming homes while still finding time to play the ever important role of wife and mother.  Stages Magazine sat down with Susan to discuss the experiences she faces as a successful female business owner.

 LB:  Tell me about your business.

SU:  We are Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home.  We are locally owned and operated so that means our customers are “buying local”.  This year we became a member of the world’s largest floor covering buying group – Carpet One.  This enables us to buy the best brands for less to sell for less.  It also allows us to offer the “Beautiful Guarantee” which means if you don’t love the floor you choose, we’ll replace it for free. We also offer “Healthier Living Installation” which is exclusive to Carpet One stores.  We are a full service floor covering and interior design store. We sell and install all types of floor covering, wall covering, countertops, blinds, and draperies.  We handle residential, commercial, builder, and property management. This year we became a premier service provider for several insurance companies. It is a great honor to be qualified to provide this service.      

LB:  What was your background prior to joining Upton-Neal?

SU:  I graduated from Mississippi State University with a degree in interior design and worked as an interior designer for two other companies prior to joining Upton-Neal.

LB:  What events led to you becoming co-owner of the business?

SU:  I had worked at Upton-Neal for 17 years. I was to the point that I needed to either become a partner at Upton’s or go out on my own. One of the owners at the time decided to move out of the state. God just answered a prayer and opened that door for me. 

LB:  How involved are you in the day-to-day operations of Upton-Neal?

SU:  VERY. Harold Neal -my partner- and I still sell and maintain our client’s accounts that we have built up over the years. We are very hands-on in every part of the daily operation of the business. I have actually been told that I have a little bit of a control problem.

LB:  How do you balance work and family?

SU:  I pray a lot. It’s a daily struggle to achieve that balance. If I am not careful, the store will consume your every thought before and after hours.  My husband and sons have always been so very supportive.   It would have been impossible without their support.

LB:  How do you fight the stereotypes some people may have of female business owners?

SU:  I co-own a business typically owned by men. So I do get the usual “So you and your husband own this together?”  Or “So Harold is your dad?” because there is 19 yrs difference in our age.  I am usually assumed to be the sister, wife, or daughter-in-law or something!   It does frustrate me to hear these comments because I have worked very hard all my life to achieve where I am in this business and I find it very demeaning when people “assume” a woman couldn’t co-own a multi-million dollar business without being related or married to a man in the business.  But I usually just laugh it off and just go on.         

LB:  What is your motivation?

SU:  I absolutely love what I do.  When a customer says “Susan, I absolutely LOVE my new house” or “Thank you for transforming my existing space into something beautiful and functional – and within budget” it makes the long hours worth it.

LB:  What tips do you have for other women who are business owners or are looking to launch their own business?

SU:  Most women are more detail-oriented and make great business owners and managers.  The hardest job in the world is to raise small children and manage a household.  If you have done that well, owning your own business will be easy!  You may want to start small and when you are ready, then expand.   Do not second guess yourself.  If you think you are ready to own a business then you probably are! 

Upton-Neal Carpet One Floor & Home
322 Airport Road South
Pearl, MS