Built to Host
Updated: Apr 13
Careful design choices create intimate spaces within the grand scale of this Oxford home.
Written by Maggie Crouch | Photographed by Joe Worthem
From watch parties for Ole Miss games to large-scale gatherings of 100 or more, Tom and Vicki Fowlkes’ home was built to handle a crowd. On any given evening, though, Tom and Vicki are more likely to be found relaxing on their enclosed backyard porch with their dog, Finn, enjoying the evening together.
“For us, our favorite part of the house is the porch,” Vicki said. “We can cook, eat and watch ballgames and movies out there. Unless it’s bitterly cold, we can sit out there for a while because the heater and fireplace keep everything warm.”
The porch is part of a U-shaped design that encloses the backyard pool, patio and hot tub. The custom bar and living room complete the other two sides and all three rooms open to the outdoors, providing an ideal setup for warm-weather parties.
Creating a home that would work equally well for hosting a grand event or a quiet evening was the couple’s goal as they began the design and building process in 2017. For Ole Miss football games, close friends and family will come together to grill and watch the game. At Thanksgiving, a full gathering from both sides of the family can add up to nearly two dozen loved ones. And at Christmastime, they will host a company holiday party complete with a live band and hired bartender.
Creating separate, ample suites for their three grown daughters and for guests was central to the plan as well.
The couple collected hundreds of images online to visualize different aspects of features they wanted to include in their own home. They researched color schemes, floor plans and building materials, bringing all their preferences together into a single plan.
To execute their vision, the couple hired Sid Coleman, a local builder who had worked with them on previous projects, and decorator Chancely Meredith, owner of Flower Bouquet + Interiors in Clarksdale. For the outdoor spaces, they worked with Lantz Foster of Madison County Rocks and Pools and with landscaper Joby Jackson.
“They built the home around entertainment and family,” Meredith said. “The biggest challenge was creating that balance so it could fit a good amount of people but also feel like a comfortable home to live in.”
This balance was achieved by incorporating both these goals from the beginning of the project. The couple created their own architectural plans, working closely with Meredith and Coleman to build a house that was multifunctional.
“We built it out of a concept,” Coleman said. “Tom and Vicki gave me an idea for a floor plan, and together we designed the rest from there.”
The experts helped them achieve their vision for their outdoor living space, too.
“They helped us create an inviting and relaxing backyard and pool for large gatherings of family and friends,” Vicki said. “We use the space nearly year-round, and it’s one of our favorite places to be in our new home.”
In designing the interiors, one of the biggest challenges the team faced was scale: Adjusting for the home’s scale added an extra step in the design process. The rooms were much larger than at the Fowlkeses’ prior home. Traditional coffee tables needed to be supersized in sitting areas, and light fixtures required more consideration than usual.
“The chandelier in the foyer felt huge when it was sitting on the floor, but once it was hoisted up, it fit into the space so much better than I could’ve imagined,” Vicki said. “There was a lot of trial and error for me in the process of choosing fixtures. We even made mockups of some pieces to make sure they would work in the given space.”
At the same time, the couple wanted to reuse as much of the furniture and wall decor from their previous home as possible. Vicki had sofas and armchairs reupholstered, and she reached out to Meredith for direction on how to make their old furnishings fit in the new, grander space.
“I found when I brought things in here, they weren’t nearly big enough or didn’t fit in perfectly,” Vicki said. “That’s where Chancely really helped me out.”
In addition to incorporating old furniture into their new house, the Fowlkeses worked with Meredith to bring in pottery, books and pictures collected through different seasons of their lives, as well as heirlooms from both sides of their family. With the new house as a broad, blank canvas, Meredith designed a perfect place for each treasure.
“When I work with a client, it’s important to me to get to know them well, so I can understand exactly what they like and how to accomplish their goals,” Meredith said. “I want them to be happy living in the space and seeing it every day.”
The couple also collaborated with Coleman to include custom-made shelving and storage throughout the house, to make every inch of the house their own. In the dining room, the china cabinets are actually installed in the wall, with curved pedestal feet suggesting a free-standing piece of furniture. Likewise, in the master den, pedestal feet on the TV stand give the built-ins their custom character.
“Guests in the home may not even realize that many of the custom cabinets are installed directly into the walls,” Coleman said. “Designing the specialty cabinetry was my favorite part of the project.”
Another of the couple’s favorite personalized spaces is the “funky monkey” powder room. Nestled just off the living room, it’s lined with red wallpaper featuring monkeys peeking out behind vines.
“This was Tom’s brainchild,” Vicki said. “He wanted to do something fun that people wouldn’t expect, and he just ran with it. It’s so quirky, and because the red contrasts with the whites and blues throughout most of the house, guests are always surprised when they open up that door and see monkeys smiling at them.”
The couple moved into their new home in September 2018. After a few months of getting settled, Vicki said their house truly felt like home.
“There were still a few walls to fill with art, but (now) it finally feels like it’s done,” Vicki said. “We definitely couldn’t have done it without our building and design team. We’re so thankful they were able to make our vision come true.”