BY AMANDA WELLS | PHOTOS BY LAURA DANIELS
Traci Lewis jokes that she and her husband Jim can’t seem to shake their love for one particular circle in Tupelo. “There are only ten houses and we have now owned three of them,” she laughs. “We feel most at home in the circle.” After owning two homes in the neighborhood, the Lewises had moved out, they would still come to the circle to visit friends and former neighbors. “There was a house that had sat on the market for eight years. We decided we would flip it. Then, we fell in love with how it was shaping up and decided we needed to move back to the circle.”
The Lewis’ new home had gone under several additions and had been extremely customized, so Traci and Jim set out to change the flow to best fit their family. “For two years, I really thought about how we could change this house to function for today,” says Traci, owner and designer at down- town Tupelo’s Blairhaus. The ensuing renovations took a year and a half to complete, but the results were certainly worth the time. The home’s living areas and kitchen were opened up to each other, creating an airy feel, yet they were outfitted with barn doors, allowing for privacy when needed.
“It’s a big house that had a somewhat small foyer,” explains Traci. “We removed the stairs in the foyer and moved the entry to upstairs to the back of the house.” Each of the home’s six bathrooms were completely gutted as were the two fireplaces, which were given a face lift with new surfaces. Wooden beams were added to the den area to warm it up. One of the home’s garages was closed in to create a workshop for Jim.
In the kitchen, upper cabinets were removed and repurposed in other parts of the home. Black walnut shelving was added for a more open feel to the kitchen. “The wood is so beautiful that it only needed a clear stain,” explains Traci. The natural element perfectly complements the quartz countertops and textured, oversized subway tile backsplash. The live edge countertop of the island is crafted by Oxford artisan Will Hopkins from cypress from William Faulkner’s own Rowan Oak.
Throughout the home, the Lewis’ love of various styles shines. “WE REALLY LOVE IT ALL—TRADITIONAL, CONTEMPORARY, MID-CENTURY, YOU NAME IT. WE WORKED HARD TO MAKE IT ALL WORK TOGETHER. THE END RESULT FEELS VERY PERSONALIZED TO US,” says Traci.
A love of art and organic texture is also hard to ignore. In the front yard, a custom copper fountain greets guests and the family. “It was a commissioned piece by an artist in Utah. It took me a year to find and it spoke to me immediately,” remembers Traci. From the burnt edge accent table made of a tree trunk in the formal living room to the wooden rings art piece that adorns the wall, natural textures reign supreme and meld nicely with shades of blue throughout the home. The organic texture of the Curry chandelier that’s the centerpiece of the dining room also spoke to Traci. “It’s the one piece that I designed an entire room around,” she says. “I just had to have it.”
The Lewises have a stunning collection of Mississippi and Southern artists, most inherited from Jim’s father or purchased at local art gallery, the Caron Gallery. In the sunroom, bright pops of color emerge from two pieces by Houston artist, Austin James and one of Traci’s favorites by Mississippi artist Sadako Lewis lends eye candy to the formal living room. “We painted the walls a crisp white to really let our art shine,” says Traci. “Then, the wood tones and natural elements warm it up. With all the blues and grays, it’s really a good combination of warm and cool.”
“The backyard is one of my favorite places,” says Traci, and it’s easy to see why. “It’s been a labor of love. We removed the existing swimming pool and the house sits at the base of the hill and required a massive retaining wall. It took three and a half months, two engineers and Curt Luke, our landscape architect, to make it what it is now.” The retaining wall was what the Lewises saw in their line of sight out of their kitchen, living areas and master bedroom. “I kept thinking that it needed something. Then, we decided on a living wall.” Now, complete with its own irrigation and fertilization system, the retaining wall is a focal point of fresh herbs, vegetables and lots of color. “We eat from that wall every night. Just last night we made tomato and basil pizzas, which came from our backyard. It’s the perfect garden for non-gardeners.”
“In a town like Tupelo, every house is the ‘so-and-sos house,’ even if the so-and-sos don’t live there any- more,” says Traci. “When I drive up to this house, it feels like us. I hope it’s always known as the Lewis house, because that’s exactly what it feels like to me.”