By Jan Henning

Southern comfort meets casual elegance in the South Lamar home of Scott and Brandi Lewis.

During a Christmas visit with Scott’s family in 2020, the couple noticed a large home for sale on the beautiful tree-lined avenue. Undaunted by the massive 13,000 square foot size, the couple bought the home the following summer and began a 14-month renovation. This post-Victorian gem acquired a fresh perspective and is now a Bed and Breakfast called appropriately The South Lamar.  The original and front sections of the house are for guests, and the family lives in the back areas built in 1995 encompassing bedrooms and gracious living areas.

Scott grew up in Lafayette County and met Brandi while he was attending graduate school in Dallas, Texas. The couple lived there for 20 years but continued to return to Oxford often for visits. During the pandemic, Scott, a banker with Wells Fargo, began working from home and with this new dynamic the family decided they could make the move to Oxford.  “Scott is entrepreneurial and always interested in new businesses,” Brandi said.  The couple own rental properties, but Scott admits the world of hospitality was a new venture. After receiving approval from the city and just as importantly, Brandi added, the support of many neighbors, the bed and breakfast concept began to materialize. There were two caveats: The maximum number of rooms to rent was five, and the family also needed to live in the house. Brandi has many roles in the venture, and Scott’s sister Shannon Lewis is the house manager.

After sitting empty for several years, the house required a passionate transformation to keep its old-world style yet meld it with modern conveniences and appeal. Brandi turned to local talent and professionals to help achieve their dream of providing luxurious accommodations for their guests as well as comfort and practicality for their family that includes 17-year-old twins, Shelby Grace and Brandon, and 12-year-old Bridget.

Bruce Massey undertook the construction, and with interior designer Jennifer Russell of Oxford, the project began to take shape. “Jennifer coordinated the construction and held everything together,” Brandi says.  “We couldn’t have done it without her.  We were able to keep the original hardwood floors, fireplaces, and pocket doors because they had been so well-maintained,” she explains of the striking woodwork and intricate detailing that flows seamlessly from each room.  Allen “JJ” Jones, owner of The Wood Shed by JJ, custom designed many favorite pieces including the white console in the gracious foyer that contrasts attractively with the staircase’s dark wood. He built custom coffee bars in each of the upstairs bedroom suites and modernized the kitchen.  “The original cherry cabinets in the kitchen had to be reconfigured to fit the new and updated appliances and JJ did such a great job you can’t tell where the old and new meet.” Brandi said.

When entering the home, the foyer lays the groundwork for the secrets beyond. “Mrs. WIndham (the previous owner of the home) went all over the world to collect things for her home,” Brandi said of many of the home’s conversation pieces. The foyer chandelier that Brandi affectionally calls “our naked David” was left in place as well as an eye-catching chandelier in the original kitchen that came from a train station in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The living room boasts tall windows that soar to the ceiling flooding the room with natural light.  Jennifer chose Sherwin William’s creamy white paint for the walls and ivory linen draperies adorn the windows providing dreamy counterpoints to the period design details. The formal dining room showcases a large rectangular table surround by comfortable seating, an eye-catching silicone basket “Wiggles” the couple purchased in Venice, Italy, and one of the home’s many fireplaces.  “Too numerous to count,” Brandi jokingly described the home’s numerous fireplaces interspersed around the entire estate. A butler’s pantry separates the breakfast area and kitchen and is convenient for breakfast buffets on busy mornings. Brandi embellished the walls throughout her home with an eclectic blend of artwork that includes Savannah Jewell, an artist she discovered at the Double Decker Arts Festival, and Carlyle Wolfe of Oxford. “A little quirky and cool,” Scott said in describing the colorful art that pops with color and intrigue.   

The five bedrooms upstairs pay homage to previous owners of the house:  Longest Suite; Stowers suite named after the original owner and architect; Couey Suite named after Lamar Couey; East suite named after Scott’s late stepfather Sheriff Buddy East; and the Windham suite. The bathrooms undertook the most drastic renovation. “They were completely gutted to the ground with new tile, Carrera marble and dual modern sinks for a luxurious feel,” Brandi said. 

Russell chose crystal chandeliers and lighting that provides a glam mood. “Jennifer took me out of my comfort zone and talked me into these fixtures, but I love them now,” Brandi said of the chic lighting that adds a contemporary punch. Brandi’s favorite art work is showcased at the end of the long hallway called Marble by Catherine Erb of Memphis, a multi-colored painting that involves a heated wax medium and provides a luminous finish.

The rocking chair front porch wraps around to the side of the home and brick steps lead to the courtyard anchored by a calming fountain with bistro tables and comfy seating.  The property’s lush landscaping includes towering southern magnolias and is enhanced with stoneware containers in various sizes and shapes. Artfully designed by Wendy Carmean of Wend & Willow, the containers spill with hardy plants and delicate blooms including succulents, caladiums, flowing ivy and Sweet William.  Stepping stones lead to the rear of the property where Scott has turned the cottage into his office separate from the main house.

Perhaps fate brought the family to this place. In 1949, William Faulkner’s book “Intruder in the Dark” was made into a film and the Lewis home was featured as the lawyer’s house. A young boy runs from the courthouse square along South Lamar and up the brick pathway to the house. Among the crowd scene standing in front of the house is Scott’s late grandfather, young and handsome, an extra in the scene. Through thoughtful renovation that maintains the existing footprint of their home and a generous collection of art and thoughtful details, the Lewis family has created a present-day home that’s meaningful and primed for its next chapter.