By W. Derek Russell
It’s a 320-mile commute for Elizabeth and Braxton Coombs from their jobs in Peachtree Corners, Georgia, to their home in New Albany.
Though they may live in Georgia, their true home is in Union County – and that desire to keep their roots in Northeast Mississippi led to their purchase of a 1938 craftsman home last year.
“This is our hometown,” Braxton said of New Albany. “We found ourselves in Georgia about five years ago, but we love the area here so we’re back often, which is why we decided to do this little place.”
Braxton said after he and Elizabeth got married and started introducing kids and dogs to the equation, it was clear they needed a place to call their own back home.
They’re close to their parents, close to where they met at New Albany High School as students and closer to each other more than ever.
While it may be their second home, the 1,150-square-foot residence has often been home to more than 50 other guests during 99 nights the past year.
After purchasing the house in April 2017, the couple decided to open for business as an Airbnb in conjunction with Braxton’s family’s bed and breakfast in New Albany, The Concord Inn.
“We basically camped out here and worked on this thing for five straight weeks, tackling what we could,” Braxton said.
Opened in July and dubbed “The Downtown Cottage,” the two bedroom, one bath house has had lots of traffic from guests across the world, and with a busy calendar, more are on the way.
They’ve seen guests from as far away as London and as close by as Tupelo spending some time on the open-air front porch during their stay.
The sign out front calls it a “unique Southern experience.”
“There’s a big opportunity to revitalize a lot of the houses around here,” Elizabeth said. “So many of them have so much character and it’s a chance to improve the community.”
Working on the house, the couple managed to level the floors, give a fresh coat of paint, add support to the attic and reconfigure the kitchen and bathroom, all while breathing new life into the 80-year-old residence.
“It had original details that we wanted to keep during renovation,” Elizabeth said. “Original hardwoods, moldings, a butler’s pantry and operable transoms above the doors. On the exterior, we removed the screens on the porch to open it up and fresh paint went a long way. Braxton’s dad even built a couple of Adirondack chairs that I painted a light blue to match the porch ceiling and we added ceiling fans.”
Braxton also took to some of his own personal hobbies to add to the design of the house, building benches, vanities and headboards.
There’s still more work to be done on the property, as Braxton hopes to do more landscaping in the backyard and work on an original shed that still stands behind the home.
But the Coombses aren’t stopping here, as they’re using their Georgia business, Modern Antiquity, to flip other dilapidated homes in New Albany and breathe new life into them as rental properties.
“I love being able to come out here and work on a house a week at a time,” Braxton said. “I enjoy the hard work and getting to experience the transformational aspect – taking something someone would write off as an ugly home and absolutely turn it into something that can be beautiful.”
Back in Georgia, Elizabeth focuses on the design aspect of the business to work on interior redecoration and revamping, while Braxton came on board a few months back to find real estate to revitalize, both there and in New Albany.
The two haven’t looked back since they hit the ground running, making the business a family affair.
“This started as a hobby, but Elizabeth’s talent really got us into this because we can do it and do it well,” Braxton said.
Having jumped around from New Albany to Starkville and Washington, D.C., to the Atlanta area, Braxton and Elizabeth’s journey and work have led to a home away from home for them and their two daughters Alexandria and Lily – and their dog Dash.
“This started as us just wanting our own place, but I feel it’s turned into a pretty great attraction for guests from all over the place,” Braxton said.
To learn more about the New Albany Airbnb, visit concordinn.net or call (662) 539-1035. For more information about Modern Antiquity, visit modernantiquity.com.