Heart Home

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By Leslie Criss // Photos by Lauren Wood and Lindsay Pace Daffron

When Robin and Ben Bolton built their former home in 2005, they built it with family in mind.

With three children between the ages of 6 and 12 at the time, the Boltons made sure there was a room upstairs large enough to accommodate all. The room functioned at times as a playroom and for a short season as a school room for homeschooling.

Some years later, when the Boltons were giving thought to selling their house – which they called their “heart house – it was listed for two years, on and off.

Meanwhile, Adair and Cal Laney, Ole Miss graduates both, were living in Lexington, Kentucky, where Cal was completing a cardiology fellowship. The couple – he from Jackson, she from Clarksdale – had married in 2006, lived in Jackson while he attended medical school at UMC,  spent time in Birmingham, Alabama, while Cal completed his residency in internal medicine, before moving to Lexington.

While in Kentucky, the Laneys became parents to twins Jack and Lucy, and later to Reid – a miraculous feat in light of news the couple had been given earlier in their marriage.

“We were told there was less than a one percent chance of our having babies,” Adair said with a large smile.

 When the time came to leave Kentucky, the Laneys ultimately decided to head back to Oxford.

“We’d gone to Ole Miss, we married in Oxford, we had friends and family there,” Adair said. “It just seemed like moving home.”

Truth is, Adair had fallen in love online with a house in Oxford, but it was not, at the moment, on the market.

“I’d been stalking this house,” she said, laughing. “It was my dream house. I even sent my mom, who lives in Oxford, over to the house to take pictures of the outside for me.”

Adair’s mother, Niecey Reid, was Facetiming her daughter from the front yard of the Bolton’s home when the Bolton children saw her and reported to their mother that a stranger was in their front yard.

Reid and Robin Bolton met. The two women talked and Robin learned about the Laney family – complete with a trio of children and Ava, the Yorkshire terrier.

In the weeks and months ahead, things would happened to convince the Boltons the Laneys were the perfect fit for the heart house.

“It amazed us that our heart house was built for three children and we were selling to a family with three children – and a heart doctor,” Robin said.

The Laneys moved in to the Cumberland Place home in 2013. 

“We lived in as it was at first,” Adair said. “But later, we started making a few changes.”

Of course, there were things the Boltons did to the house that the Laneys left alone – like the cypress doors the Boltons chose from The Bank in New Orleans and the floors of heart pine harvested from an old textile mill in North Carolina.

The first major change was to accommodate Cal Laney’s penchant for duck hunting.

“He had a Ranger and said we needed some sort of covering for it,” Adair said. “That’s how we ended up with a three-vehicle garage, with a finished area upstairs for guests, with a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. But it’s kind of Cal’s man cave really.”

Another nod to Cal Laney’s passion is the house’s entrance hall, which boasts cork wall covering. But the focal point is a painting by Hayden Hall of Clarksdale titled “The Benediction.”

The Laneys spend time each year at a hunting came, Fighting Bayou, near Ruleville. The evening before the hunt, the member families gather by the water, drink wine and watch the sun set, while the children wade in the water. 

“It’s a fun time of day,” Adair said. “It’s called The Benediction. That’s what I had Hayden paint as a gift to Cal.”

Three years ago, Adair consulted Jennifer Russell, whom she’d known socially, to come in and do some things in the house.

Russell is the owner of Jennifer Russell Interior Design on North Lamar Street in Oxford.

Russell is responsible for adding two cabinet beds in the sleeping area over the garage. Made in Canada, the beds look like cabinets when not in use as beds.

Inside the house, Russell changed out all the lighting.

“That’s so important – the lighting,” she said. “The lighting is the jewelry of your home.”

Upstairs belongs to the children

Most recently, Russell was asked to turn one of the four upstairs bedrooms into a nursery. The Laney’s three-child family became four with the birth of Mary Lyles six months ago.

“Adair told me her own vision for the nursery,” Russell said. “From there, we worked with swatches of fabrics and colors. A rose-colored painting of four butterflies – representing each child – became the focal point of the nursery.”

Russell said she’s pretty well tweaked every room in the Laney home in some way. 

“I believe in making a house beautiful, but also livable,” she said. “In a house with children, we chose fabrics that would clean easily.” 

In her business, Russell does everything from large jobs with new construction to just coming in to help choose throw pillows and paintings.

In the Laney home, Russell worked on the kids’ rooms and the playroom from start to finish.

The playroom, also referred to as the art room, was once carpeted, but with Russell’s help, the room has become extremely kid-friendly.

“We added laminate hardwood floors and the walls are covered with glossy paint that can be wiped off,” Adair said. “We wanted a place they could go and be messy.”

Daughter Lucy has a soft spot for slime – she has a slime lab at her desk in the playroom, and her mother doesn’t have to worry about a permanent mess.

There’s also a game station and plenty of room to work on art projects.

“They can shut doors, play games, do art and not be at the kitchen island,” Adair said.

While the playroom may be the heart of the home for the Laney kids, the family dining room is a special spot for their parents. 

“Although the children are involved in so many activities, we try to have a family dinner at the very least, three times a week,” Adair said. “That’s when we really get to talk as a family, hear about each other’s day.”

For an only child, Adair appears to have excelled at being Mom to a quartet. A kindergarten teacher for a time, she is a stay-at-home mom these days. 

“I used to do a lot of volunteering,” she said. “This is my mission field now.” 

 

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