The Perfect Retreat
Updated: Sep 15, 2019
A Cincinnati couple falls in love with Oxford when their son becomes a Rebel.
Written by Lesley Vance Walkington | Photographed by Joe Worthem
When Andy and Debbie Prefontaine’s son enrolled at the University of Mississippi in 1994, they had no idea how much Oxford would impact their Ohio-based family.
“We all fell in love with Oxford from the start and bought a condo to be here for Ole Miss ball games,” Debbie said. “Since we’re nearing retirement we decided to make Oxford our permanent residence, and we just finished building our new home. My daughter is also building a house right next to ours.”
When searching for property, the Prefontaines chose Oxford Commons because of its proximity to restaurants, shopping on the Square and Vaught stadium. They selected a larger lot in the development, enabling them to design a custom-built home with additional square footage and certain design elements to fit their active lifestyles. They enjoy the lake, rolling hills and walking trails that surround the community.
“I wanted to build a French-country home, and my ideas blended in with the overall look of Oxford Commons,” Debbie said. “Our builder, Kevin Bourne, helped us create an open floor plan that flows from room to room, to entertain our frequent houseguests. My goal was to lighten and brighten and create a joyous environment in which to live.”
Longtime friend and designer Mickey Marzucco helped Debbie select everything from kitchen cabinets and hardware to lighting fixtures and custom fabrics for draperies and upholstery.
“I focus my attention on the details like decorative vent grills, unique wall coverings and elegant wood embellishments from Enkeboll,” Marzucco said.
The entire family loves spending time in the pool house, which they affectionately refer to as “the locker room.” They envisioned the space as a fun game room with generous seating, high-tech embellishments and a vintage Ole Miss feel. Debbie and Andy both love salvaging and repurposing old architectural elements. With that in mind, they went on the hunt for the perfect embellishments for the space.
With help from Green Door owner Will Hopkins, they found a basketball floor from a high school in Rosedale that had closed in the 1970s. They installed the vintage floorboards on the ceiling in the locker room and along the kitchen backsplash.
Debbie found antique locker room benches that still had gum underneath them, and used the benches to create bookshelves. And Marzucco created a one-of-a-kind wallpaper mural using old photographs sourced from a friend of the Prefontaines who has a large collection of Ole Miss memorabilia. The mural features images from the past 100 years showcasing Ole Miss sports history.
“The locker room is definitely a ‘man cave’ in our home,” Debbie said. “I wanted to make it extra special for Andy because he is a history buff.”
Creating family fun spaces is what Andy and Debbie have done for 50 years as the owners of Family Leisure. Their son Kevin, an Ole Miss graduate, is now the CEO, managing 10 store locations around the country, allowing the couple to spend more time in Oxford. It was only natural for the couple to outfit their new backyard with an in-ground pool and comfy patio furniture from their Memphis storefront.
“During Mississippi’s hot summers, we really appreciate our pool and only trust Rebel Pools to maintain it for us,” Debbie said. “My grandchildren spend so much time with us splashing around, and it’s fun to host parties where guests can relax poolside or watch the game in the locker room.”
On lazy mornings, Andy and Debbie like to read in the keeping room, surrounded by floor-to-ceiling windows filled with beautiful views. Situated next to the kitchen, the cozy space invites guests to keep the cook company during meal preparations. The decor there pays homage to Ole Miss with a mix of toile and floral designer fabrics by Schumacher in red and blue.
Special pieces of art hang throughout the home. In one TV room, a commissioned painting by Trip Park depicts rows of cotton surrounding the family barn. Debbie wanted a reminder of their 500-acre farm in Indiana, so Park brought both worlds together on canvas. Another art feature: each television in the home is professionally framed and mounted on the wall to look just like a painting — until you turn it on with the remote control.
“While running our family business in Ohio for the past 25 years, we have been living part-time in Oxford, and we just can’t wait to make it permanent,” Debbie said. “Two of my grandchildren have grown up here and plan to attend Ole Miss when they graduate from high school. So, we’re here for the long haul.”