Ali Ballard is a collector of friends, experiences, and things, and her Joyner home is her museum. The walls and surfaces are lined with thrift store and antique store finds and souvenirs from past adventures.
“I just buy things I like, and I don’t even care if it matches, because if I buy things I like, I know that when I get home, I will still like it,” Ballard said.
The Tupelo native also has handmade items, and thrifted pieces she has modified for her own purposes. A painting of two women in colonial-era dresses, one playing the harp and the other, the piano, sits on a bench in her dining room. Ali has scrawled Psalm 90:14 across it in white paint.
“Combining art and interiors is a creative outlet for me,” Ballard said.
When creating a space that feels like home, she feels particularly inspired by “The Selby is in Your Place” by Todd Selby. The book is full of photography, interviews, and doodles that showcase unique people and their living spaces, each mirroring the personality of its owner.
In each room of Ballard’s quaint cottage, there are clusters of items hung gallery-style on the walls. Sometimes she chooses a color scheme or similar items in different patterns, like the plate wall that hangs above her dining table.
“I just nail and I don’t care if I mess up. If it doesn’t work, I hang something over it,” she said. “Sometimes, when I’m in my home, it reminds me of the set of ‘Gilmore Girls.’ It just feels homey.”
Even if she likes the set-up, it’s likely to be moved soon.
“I rearrange a lot,” Ballard said. “I had to rearrange before y’all came. I didn’t sleep last night.”
A few collections, however, are permanent fixtures in Ballard’s home, like owls and personalized mugs.
“I bought my first name mug for a college professor that I had a crush on, and I was too nervous to give it to him, so I kept it,” Ballard said. “The next time I was at the thrift store, I saw another name mug and I had to get it. Then, I started getting all these name mugs; I get one every time I go somewhere. There’s never a mug with my name on it.
Then, in the morning when I drink coffee, I can be whoever I want to be. I can be Debbie Downer, or I can be Flo, or Betty from Reno. Sometimes I’m Sam. Ann is my break-up mug.”
All of Ballard’s collections begin like this, with finding one unique item, then deciding it “needs a buddy.”
Holiday-themed items sometimes become year-round décor, if Ballard likes the aesthetic. Her Christmas villages still sit perched atop her kitchen cabinets, and strings of Valentine’s Day hearts divide the kitchen and dining area.
“I love all holidays. That’s why I became a teacher,” said Ballard, who teaches at Joyner Elementary in Tupelo.
Recently, Ballard has been trying to minimalize her décor and lifestyle.
“I don’t think you should have something unless you love it,” she said. “I think I’m visually stimulated. I don’t watch television, so I sit and look at my things — at my walls. It’s my hobby.”
For Ballard, the most important thing is not theme, color scheme, or keeping up with trends, but being surrounded by things that bring her joy, like her mounted deer head, Betty.
“When I was de-cluttering and putting price stickers on all my things, I put one on her that said ‘Not For Sale,’” Ballard said. “If I’m going to backpack across America, she’s going in my backpack.”
She displays memories — post cards, photos of friends, event posters, and quotes. One of her favorite pieces is a jeweled mirror that hangs in her hallway.
“My mom made me that mirror. She made that for me for my birthday one year from brooches of hers and my grandmother’s, and from a bracelet I wore to prom,” Ballard said. “It has a lot of sentimental value. Sentimental rhinestones.”
Photos and video by Lauren Wood // Story by Carmen Cristo