Carol Olivia February 27, 2021 Home Design
“Always interested in the arts, we had early careers in the restaurant and plumbing businesses,” Vivian shares. “We married and settled in Oxford, MS in 1999 where we began our art careers and business in earnest. We are developing a sort of arts compound where we live, work and promote regional artists. We have taken our time reclaiming the acreage we acquired and look forward to the coming additions/evolution, including a sculpture garden in the field outside our home.” The arts compound she’s referring to is the rural art gallery she and Walter opened three years ago, sitting off the ground in a treehouse-like setting, aptly named The Oxford Treehouse Gallery, just 200 yards from their home. The gallery, as well as their home, houses a lot of their own art, too. Walter is an artist/blacksmith and Vivian is a painter and block printer.
While the bones of the home were heavenly (while sitting in the living room you can look up and see all the way through the cupola) the style felt a little more like a lodge than a home. So, the timbers and doors and windows were all painted white (Benjamin Moore “Linen White”), in a terrifying process using plywood sheets and ladders to reach the some 40 feet up. Iron balusters were updated with steel cable and tempered glass. In Betsy’s studio, she took the dark green former stables and painted everything white and added casements under the window to allow for more natural light in the somewhat cave-like space. The last vestige of the lodge feel for Betsy and Peter is their fireplace, and because of the scale, it will take a while for them to figure out what the perfect replacement will be. While the open spaces were something Betsy had dreamed of, and one of her favorite features, they do create the design challenge of being able to see everything from one end of the house to the other. Betsy had to make sure when she was designing the space that everything felt cohesive. Scale is also a key design element in their home — pieces that once felt huge in their last home were now dwarfed in the massive barn house.
Resting on an inherited buffet in the dining room of Anne and Rad’s Richmond, VA Victorian are a pair of turquoise, porcelain foo dogs. Anne shares, “My husband’s grandmother bought them in Vietnam before Vietnam was the name of a war.”
Betsy and Peter have kept close to their love story, literally: they met in college, married in Saratoga Springs, NY, and now their home is just down the street from their alma mater. The family was planning to relocate to be closer to Peter’s job and had one weekend to find their house; coming back to their college hometown was a happy byproduct. Despite the varying styles of homes they toured, Peter and Betsy knew the moment they stepped into their now home that it was “the one.” Betsy had actually always wanted to live in a barn, and loved how open the spaces were. The fact that it was somehow an in-town barn made walking to restaurants and shops incredibly convenient, it had a space for an on-site design studio as well — it was the perfect fit.
Vivian continues, “We wanted a floor plan that opened to the outdoors as much as possible. A place to showcase the art we collect in an inviting, user/dog-friendly space. A place to casually entertain guests while we cook. We chose a Danish dining table/chairs to maximize our view of the fields behind our house that will one day include more sculptures.” The Neill’s worked with architect firm, Howorth & Associates to see their vision to fruition.
Dana McClure keeps her grandmother’s Chantilly Lace, along with other family heirlooms like this gold framed mirror, jewelry boxes and display trays resting on her great aunt’s Dorothy Draper dresser. “I never wear [it], but the smell brings me back to being six years old and playing dress-up in her bedroom.” This is her favorite spot in her New York state farmhouse to wind down after a long day and fill her heart with warm memories of her childhood.
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