A Custom FitHow one Oxford couple took a fixer-upper and made it into the home of their dreams.
BY AMY ROSENTHAL
PHOTOS BY ANN-MARIE WYATT
Where Sisk Avenue meets Highway 7 sits Poplar Heights, a small street of only a handful of homes, at the end of which you’ll find the Herrington family’s white ranch house. It’s non-descript at best on the outside, sitting on a large green lawn peppered with soccer balls and toy cars. Inside, however, sleek, modern lines contrast with bright pops of color and elegant antiques in an unexpected way.
“We have kind of quirky taste,” Mary-Kathryn Herrington joked as she stood in her navy and white kitchen, leaning her hand on the thick butcher-block counter top.
Herrington, an Ole Miss grad, has called Oxford home since her freshman year. In 2009, her then-boyfriend, Lewis, purchased the house as a project for the couple, proposing to her inside the home that same year. Eight years later, Mary-Kathryn, Lewis and their two young children, Millie and Logan, have made 204 Poplar Heights their home.
“I always drove past the house and saw how cute it could be,” she says. “We both had an idea of what we wanted it to be like.” The home was a joint effort. “He’s really creative,” Mary-Kathryn says of her husband. “He’s a graphic designer, and I love design, as well, so it’s fun to play off each other’s ideas.”
Before the Herringtons got to work, the home was an outdated three bedroom with wall-to-wall wood paneling and pink tiled bathrooms. Today, the home is a modern oasis that blends industrial sleekness with antique charm.
Not only is the home a perfect fusion of the couple’s distinctive style; it’s also a product that’s uniquely their own in every way. “We gutted the whole thing,” she says. “We did most of it ourselves, which makes it extra special to us.”
The weathered reclaimed maple floors are one of Mary-Kathryn’s favorite features of the home. “The people who installed them told me, ‘We can refinish these and make them so nice.’ I told them, ‘No, this is what I want them to look like.’”
Behind the large farm table in the eat-in kitchen is a repurposed garage door that acts as the gateway to the family’s screened-in porch, an alfresco escape that seamlessly blends indoor and outdoor living. “We live out here,” she says.
“We never thought we would stay here,” she admits. “We thought it was just going to be our first home but we just loved it so much, and it was hard for me to give up the location.”
The couple decided to add a master bedroom and continue making the house a home.
“When we first bought the house, it ended right here,” she says, placing her hand on a sliding barn door that opens into a cozy sitting room which was a former storage space. Before walking into the bedroom, she stops and points out a navy metal sign hanging above the desk in the multi-functional office. It reads: “Tourist Info on the Square.”
“This is one of my favorite things we own, and I don’t even know how we got it. Lewis just had it in his house in college,” she says. Having worked in the city’s tourism department, Mary-Kathryn sees the unexpected artwork as a piece of herself in the home.
“It’s so special to me.”
Across the room, vibrant colors draw attention to the master bedroom. “All we wanted in life was taller ceilings,” she jokes, pointing out the organic wooden beams that lift the ceiling into the sky.
Mary-Kathryn sees her elegant master as a personal retreat. The navy walls of the room allow the large space to feel intimate and warm. To the right of the concrete fireplace, a green velvet chair contrasts a black and white cowhide ottoman showing that in this house, opposites attract and unlikely pairs make perfect combinations. In the attached bathroom, dark hexagonal tiles stand against white walls and light marble subway tiles in the spacious stand-alone shower. “It’s my favorite part,” she says, standing in the master bath.
In their master suite, the Herringtons once again bypassed professional help to do it themselves. Together, they measured, drew, and planned until their dreams turned to reality. “I feel like we love this house because we literally put our blood, sweat and tears into it,” she says.
Mary-Kathryn credits her mother for her penchant for design. Together, the mother-daughter duo run an antique booth where they collect and show one-of-a-kind pieces. “People always ask, ‘Where do you find all this stuff?’,” she says. “A lot of it I steal from what we were going to put in the booth.”
Above the pine dresser in the entry, a pink lettered mirror leans against the wall. “My mom always told me growing up if you see something you love, you will find a place for it, and you will love it,” she says. “When I saw that mirror, I knew I had to have it.” The mirror was once the siding of an 18-wheeler that read “Southeastern Trucking.” Today it’s one of Mary-Kathryn’s most cherished pieces in her home.
When asked about her design inspiration, she laughs. “We had this book that I had borrowed from a friend called ‘Modern Rustic,’” she says. “We looked at it so much it was nearly falling apart when I gave it back.”
To Mary-Kathryn, sophisticated comfort is the key. “I just wanted it to be unique and really interesting, but comfortable at the same time.”
“I wanted it to be the kind of place where people could just be and not feel like they had to worry about breaking something. Like, hello, we eat on our sofa.”
Function and practicality played a significant role in decorating, as well, “We have a navy blue sofa because we have a black lab,” Mary-Kathryn says, pointing to the dark velvet couch sitting beneath a Bradley Gordon painting of the same dog.
“I wanted (our home) to feel like our personalities,” she says with a grin. “We might have taken that to the extreme.”
The Herringtons’ home is exactly that: a synthesis of two people’s distinct styles and passions executed in a way that is both livable and artistic. To them, their home is more than a residence; it’s a statement of who they are and what they love, and a beautiful invitation into their lives.