A Southern Living Home

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by Kristina Domitrovich
photos by Lindsay Pace

Robbie Fisher and Beth Mayeaux remember being enamored with Southern Living as little girls, “flipping through,” and looking at the different house plans the magazine has featured and sold since its first issue. Fisher was born and raised in Greenville, and Mayeaux in Jackson. Throughout their lives, they both would move in and out of Mississippi, as lives and jobs required. Fast forward through a few decades –– and through Fisher’s careers as a lawyer, the state director of the Nature Conservatory and now as a Mississippi filmmaker, and Mayeaux’s career in software sales –– until the two found themselves back in Mississippi, one way or the other, Jackson to be specific. In 2016, the two met at a Lucinda Williams concert and hit it off. Not long after, they started looking at homes together.

At first, Jackson made the most sense –– they’d both been there for several years at that point. But then, they realized “we could have lived anywhere,” Mayeaux said. With Fisher as a film producer and Mayeaux in sales, their work could have any homebase they’d like. 

“We began looking in Oxford, and then we found this lovely little town of Water Valley,” Fisher said. “We decided to build a house together, and it was funny because we kept thinking, ‘We can’t build a house.’ I mean, that was the thing: My thought was we had never built a house.”

Mayeaux remembers when the two first visited the town, she told Fisher, “I feel like I am in Stars Hollow from ‘The Gilmore Girls.’” Fisher spent time in the New England area for her studies, Mayeaux said “so we went to (Water Valley) a couple of times, and there was just this feeling of being home.” The two would revisit Water Valley over weekends to make sure it was the town for them.

“When you move from a big city to a town of 3,000, you better fit in,” Mayeaux laughed.

They quickly got to know Water Valley’s residents, found a church and decided this was the place for them. Now they just had to figure out what house they wanted to build, but they knew they were looking for a relatively simple layout.

“We’re a couple in their 50s,” Mayeaux said. “We didn’t want a huge house. … We wanted a nice porch, we wanted a space to entertain.”

Remembering their love for Southern Living home plans, they decided to start there.

“It was kind of a neat circle-back to that from our earlier days,” Fisher said, “being a Southern Living fan.”

They narrowed their focus down to two plans. Their builder, Kenny Harmon, actually suggested which house to build and urged the couple in that direction. Mayeaux said that one house plan would look best on the couple’s 11-acre property. 

“The look of the outside and the floor plan, I think, were an initial draw for sure,” Fisher said. “We’ve had a lot of friends tell us that it looks like it really was meant to be here.”

“I wanted it to have really traditional, simple, classic features that kind of make it feel timeless,” Mayeaux said. “Delta meets the hill country.”

The house? One of Southern Living’s 12 best-selling plans: the two-bedroom, two-and-a-half bath, Tideland Haven. Plan #1375. 

When looking to build a Southern Living home plan, oftentimes, perspectives can connect with others who have completed their build. Mayeaux said each plan has its own Facebook group, and members “invite folks to come see their home.” That’s what Fisher and Mayeaux did with two Tideland Haven homes, one in South Carolina, and the other in St. Simons Island, Georgia. 

“It was really good, because it let us see the scale,” Mayeaux said. “That really helped us build the house; it made me see some of the things that just wouldn’t fit for us, or things that worked.”

They were able to size up the house itself, along with what types of furniture they would need. With both already having established households, the couple knew they would need to get some new pieces, but Fisher also had several family heirloom pieces they wanted to tie in. 

They were also able to see some changes they wanted to implement in their home, because “the Southern Living plans are really, really detailed,” Mayeaux said. They were able to connect with an approved firm to make changes to the blueprint. One thing about the couple’s home, originally, before the blueprints were handed over to Southern Living, is that it was built to be a weekend house in Georgia. Since it was intended as a vacation home, there was little storage space. To combat this, they added a large pantry-like area toward the back of the house. 

For most Tideland Haven layouts, the kitchen shares the open space with the living room, and the dining room is off the side of the kitchen in a nook. With their love for entertaining, Fisher and Mayeaux wanted to switch the two. They added a peninsula to the kitchen, fitted with bar stools, which acts like a divider between the living and dining rooms. Outside of those adjustments, there were just a few tweaks here and there: Adding a wood-burning fireplace on the master’s patio, and swapping the living room’s fireplace (what’s often a double-sided fireplace with the front porch) for a gas fire instead.

They also opted to install the Tideland Haven’s garage extension, too. There, Fisher has her office for Fisher Productions, LLC. It also more or less serves as an apartment for the couple’s guests, as they only have one guest room in the house itself. It’s also where the cats stay: They have three cats and four dogs. The dogs never integrated well with the cats, so they said it works out well. They’re always interested to see how other builders integrate the garage. For Mayeaux, she wanted the garage to be far enough away from the house to enjoy nature’s views.

“I think it’s just beautiful looking out,” she said. “And I wanted to be able to see the landscape through the beautiful windows, versus having to look right out to my car.”

With their customizations in place, the couple broke ground in the fall of 2017. The house was move-in ready in August 2018. Next, they filled their home with things that were important to them.

“The one thing we wanted was to live in Mississippi, and I think Mississippi was something that was really common to both of us,” Mayeaux said. “I think our house really reflects our love of Mississippi. We only have Mississippi artists on the walls. We’ve really tried to incorporate things that we love about Mississippi.”

With pieces by Chris Stebly, McCarty pottery, a tray on the coffee table was a prize from the Sunflower County Fair Horse Show, a friend’s painting of the Delta and bookshelves lined with mostly Mississippi writers, the two wanted their home to live and breathe Mississippi.

They also wanted it to showcase Fisher’s pieces from her family. Her mom and aunt collected bird figurines together, which she inherited, along with her mother’s collection of oriental rugs and a slew of furniture pieces. One side table from Fisher’s grandmother reads underneath, “Mrs. Jacob Peter Fisher, Jonestown, Mississippi.”

“A lot of neat, special (pieces),” Mayeaux said. “It’s just funny little stories.”

One of their biggest ties to family is their landscaping. Fisher remembers her mother, Georgie Fisher, being a wonderful gardener. She grew various flowers, and landscaped Fisher’s childhood home entirely on her own.

“My mother was a great gardener, that was her real passion and love,” Fisher said. 

When her parents died, and she and her siblings sold the home, the new owners hired a landscape architect, Brantley Snipes. The couple hired Snipes to come do their landscaping when they were putting finishing touches on the build.

“We’d gotten to know her, she’d done my parents’ landscaping, so Brantley Snipes came and did a landscaping plan for us, and helped us put in all of this. And there’s even a little spot back there that she calls Georgie’s flower-cutting garden,” Fisher said. “There’s a lot of connections that circle back to family ties.”

Last year during the pandemic, their builder, Kenny Harmon, who they’re now friends with, brought his tractor over and plowed a patch of land so they could begin gardening. Fisher has gravitated toward vegetables, while Mayeaux has opted for flowers and is “really trying to cultivate heirloom roses.”

If there’s one thing the pair has taken away from building their house, it’s community. Part of that is thanks to Water Valley and its residents. During the pandemic, Mayeaux took up bread baking, and one of their friends will trade with them: Fresh eggs for fresh homemade bread. But it extends to their contractors, too. 

“I mean, our HVAC guy lives right across the street, and if we see a dead mouse or something, we call him,” Fisher said laughing. 

“It’s almost like we have these people who kind of have become our family,” Mayeaux said. “So it’s been really nice.”

The couple also befriended the daughter of Tideland Haven’s architect, too, Suzzane Stern. James L. Strickland founded his architecture firm, Historical Concepts, LLC., where the Tideland Haven plans come from. His daughter, Stern, branched off and created Our Town Plans, a firm dedicated solely to blueprint plans via Southern Living.

“Suzanne and I have connected via the (Tideland Haven) Facebook group, but now she’s become our friend and we’ve met her brother, and every time they come to the area, we go out to lunch and they come see the house. Of course, we like to think that our house is her favorite,” Mayeaux joked. “But that’s been really cool, to kind of hear the history.”

“It’s a pretty perfect plan, for us at least. And the house –– it just feels like our house, it’s a really good reflection of the both of us,” Mayeaux said. “We love it, we really do. Sometimes I have to pinch myself because I can’t even believe that (it’s our) house. But when I’m gone, I can’t wait to get home.”

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