By Emma Kent // Photos by Lauren Wood
When Jessica Watkins and her husband, Paul, bought their Oxford home, they painted everything, all the way to the floors, white.
The renovated 1980s house is home to Jessica and Paul, their three children and their rescue dog Jean Louise, more fondly known as “LuLu.”
With three young kids, most of Jessica’s friends think she’s crazy for having white floors. But she wouldn’t have it any other way. They clean up well, and Jessica loves that a little wear and tear makes them look lived-in and well-loved. Jessica said they played around with the idea of replacing the floors, but to save on renovation costs they decided to paint them instead.
“I really just love the white,” she said.
The floors also do some heavy lifting in making the once dark-and-dated home feel bright and open.
“The house was so dark when we bought it,” Jessica said. “Everything was just done in shades of brown.”
They’ve lived in the house, which sits on 2.5 acres, for about eight years. It was a three-bedroom, two-bathroom house when they bought it, but with some creativity they’ve turned it into a four-bedroom, three-bathroom home with a large outdoor living space.
“It took about six months of just living in a construction zone,” she said.
They expanded the screened porch to create an outdoor living space that features a dining area, swing and sitting area. They also tore a storage building on the property down and built a small house for Jessica’s parents in its place.
The home thankfully came with a good bit of storage, and they added storage elsewhere as needed.
“It’s crazy that for a house built in the early ‘80s, every bedroom has a walk-in closet,” she said.
Off of the dining room, the Watkinses added a butlers pantry and bar area for convenience when hosting dinners and gatherings.
In all of the bathrooms, the kitchen and the screened porch, they opted for a simple color scheme of blacks, whites and grays along with some wood and gold accents.
When it was finished, the house was bright and new, giving Jessica a neutral palette for her colorful, eclectic furniture and decor.
THE MASTER “OASIS”
One of the home’s biggest transformations was turning the garage into their master suite. The room includes a wall of built-in storage and a built-in bench and a large wooden sliding door that leads into the master bathroom. There’s also a TV for watching in bed.
The bathroom is a true show-stopper. The space maintains the black-and-white theme that flows throughout the house with a black clawfoot tub, patterned floor tiles and clean, white surfaces. Jessica has added pops of color to the bathroom with art, but the biggest piece of art is the wall behind the tub itself. The black-and-white mural was done by Memphis artist Frances Berry. Jessica admits that it was a risk, but she loves the reward.
“That totally brought the space together,” Jessica said.
Jessica said she wanted the home to be laid out so that the kids’ bedrooms would all be on one side of the house and the master would be on the opposite side. That way, the master suite could truly be a getaway for her and her husband after a long day.
“This is our oasis,” Jessica said of the space.
The kids do get to enjoy the space with them sometimes, though. Jessica said they like to get in bed and watch TV or movies.
“My oldest daughter loves cooking shows, so we curl up and watch ‘Top Chef,’” she said.
Jessica says her decorating style is inspired by her mother, who was an artist and a collector.
“Our house was always filled with things she loved — she loved her things — so I kind of got that from her,” Jessica said.
By far, her favorite pieces of art in her home are three custom-painted portraits of her children that currently sit on the mantle in her living room. The pieces were painted by her daughter’s art teacher, Hannah McCormick, in Water Valley.
“If the house burns down, those are the first things I’m grabbing,” Jessica said.
The Watkinses’ home is filled with interesting furniture and art, and Jessica admits she prefers vintage pieces to buying new items.
“I like to mix and do weird things,” she said. “I don’t want it to be just one style.”
She also loves to repurpose pieces she already has. In fact, most of the furniture in the house are things the couple bought or were given when they were first starting out.
“I may paint it or move it around, but it’s mostly things that we’ve had since we got married,” Jessica said.
Their living room couch, for example, lead a past life as a simple white sofa. When they moved, Jessica had it reupholstered in an emerald green velvet. She always includes green, whether it’s through an accessory, piece of furniture or a house plant. Throughout the house you’ll also see collections, another one of Jessica’s favorite ways to decorate. In the living room, her collection of ginger jars brings blue into the space’s color scheme.
She gets a lot of her inspiration from following designers she admires on Instagram and Pinterest. She also shops online for trendier home decor that she can mix with antiques and one-of-a-kind pieces of art.
“I’m probably more of an art person than a furniture person,” she said. “I love learning about new artists.”
Her love for art doesn’t limit her decorating, where some might only frame and display their finest pieces, she proudly hangs favorite family photos and her children’s art too.
Family played a huge role in all of the decisions the Watkinses made as they renovated and decorated their home.
“We’re just really family-oriented and that’s why we wanted the home, to be able to have those gatherings,” Jessica said.
Jessica grew up in a 115-year-old home in Hernando that her parents eventually sold to move to the Watkinses’ property in Oxford.
“It was really hard letting go of my parents’ house,” she said. “But I love that now this home could be what that house was for us.”
Growing up surrounded by the character in that house gave Jessica an eye for detail, like the beadboard and wood ceilings in the home. Details like that make their house feel closer to 115 years old than nearly 40 years old. There are nods to her family throughout the home, including a framed photo of her great-grandmother’s house hanging in the kitchen breakfast nook. The Watkinses’ home is clearly inspired by the house Jessica grew up in, but her style is distinctly her own.