Quiet, kid-friendly streets lined with well-tended magnolia trees drew Jala and Rudy Caldwell to the west Tupelo neighborhood where they would build their family’s custom home.
Almost a dozen years after the family moved into the house in November 2004, Jala still finds joy daily in the surroundings she and her husband have established for themselves and their two children – 18-year-old Jackson, a Tupelo High School senior, and Ansley, 15, a freshman.
“I grew up in the country and my husband grew up in the city, so here we have a good blend of both the city and country,” Jala said. “There’s a cow pasture next door, and we’re always seeing deer in the yard.”
Jala and Rudy built their four-bedroom, four-bath home after living in two previous houses that didn’t quite meet their needs.
“We had lived in a two-story house when our son was born, and all the bedrooms except the master bedroom were upstairs,” Jala said. “We decided that was not the floor plan we wanted. We bought another house that was all on one level and lived there for a while, but at that point we decided we wanted to build something specifically for our family that we liked.”
The house design they chose is called a Florida house plan, though they’ve made major modifications. The design style puts most of the house on one level, except a bonus room above the garage. It also incorporates plenty of windows to bring in lots of natural light.
“It was important to us to be able to see outside from pretty much anywhere in the house,” Jala said.
To that end, the living-dining greatroom is flanked front and back by three sets of French doors. From the front you can see straight through to the back yard.
“We wanted to bring the outside in with all the windows and French doors we have,” Jala said.
From entering the house through the central living-dining greatroom, the open floor plan flows to the right into the kitchen, with its nearby breakfast area and den.
“We probably spend 80 percent of our time in the kitchen-den area,” Jala said. “We love entertaining and having people over all year long.”
Specially ordered Arizona stone was used to create the arched entrances to the den and kitchen, where an antique pine cabinet on one wall, refinished in the same stain as the other cabinetry, is a special feature. Another special piece is a refinished pine table for the breakfast area that incorporates some of Rudy’s family history. It was the table where his mother did her homework growing up.
“We love being surrounded by those special pieces,” Jala said.
The cork walls in the den showcase Mississippi State memorabilia, though Jala freely changes the décor with the season, and the cork walls don’t show any new holes that accommodate changes in placement of pictures.
“We live in our house, and there’s no part of our house that is off limits,” Jala said.
In addition to their two teenagers with their many friends, the home is also a very comfortable residence for two canine family members, white Maltese Oliver and elderly cocker spaniel Sam. With Jala’s cat allergies, the two feline family members, Snickers and Baxter, live outside. Thumper the rabbit lives in a hutch in the backyard.
Having grown up with a brother and sharing a bathroom with him, it was important to Jala that Jackson and Ansley each have their own bathrooms. Décor in both of their living spaces reflects their interests and personalities – Jackson, a lover of most sports and a Mississippi State-bound senior, and Ansley’s love of horses and Synergy show choir at Tupelo High School.
On the opposite side of the house is the master suite, where Jala’s favorite feature is the custom-made window in the bathroom, that gives her an expansive view of the backyard and a blooming redbud tree.
“I saw a picture in a magazine, and a local window company found a window manufacturer to make it for us,” Jala said. “We did the same thing with the brick on the outside. The original Florida house plan we chose had a stucco exterior, but I had seen this brick on a house featured in a Southern Living magazine. I was set on it, and we ended up getting it from a manufacturer in Virginia because the original manufacturer in Tennessee had quit making it.”
Jala said they were pleased to have the sand-faced brick give an impression of age and Southern architecture to the house, along with other features like gas lanterns and deep front porch.
On the main floor the fourth bedroom is furnished as an office, and includes an upright piano that both Ansley and Jackson have begun learning to play. Jala said she once had lessons and played, but those days are long past.
The space where Jackson and Ansley most often entertain their friends is the bonus room over the garage, which is furnished with a comfy sectional sofa and chairs, games tables and two built-in twin beds.
The Caldwells not only enjoy the interior environment they have created to nurture their family, but they also love being outdoors and working in their yard.
The architect who worked with them to lay out the orientation of the home on their lot also designed the swimming pool and included the pool patio, shrubbery and other planting placements in the schematic. They have used it as a guide as they have fleshed out development of the property in the past decade or so.
“We’ve added things as we could,” Jala said. “We planted the magnolia tree border on one side, then a few years later added the trees on the other side.”
They also added a covered patio behind the swimming pool. Each area is getting a share of attention for outdoor entertaining in the weeks and months ahead.
“We’re covered with scratches from trimming our rose trellis last weekend, and we’ve been outside pulling up dead plants and cleaning out beds getting ready to put in our new plants for spring,” she said.
Story by Lena Mitchell // Photos by Lauren Wood