Form + Function: Kelly Wiggins

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Story and portraits by Lindsay Pace

Kelly Wiggins’s connection to color, form and function existed from the beginning. The Booneville-turned-Oxford resident grew up in a family of artists: potters and interior designers, aunts who restored antiques. When she and her husband, Thomas, looked for their second home, she knew she wanted one with a story.  The housing market in Oxford can be unpredictable, especially for the middle class. Real estate in the southern paradise often goes to game-day rentals or other young families competing for a living space. When the Wigginses stumbled across their 1970s home in 2018, purchasing it was a no-brainer.

It’s not that the home was perfect for their needs. In fact, it required three months of remodeling before they moved in. What it did offer the couple was a big backyard for little girls who love bugs and stick forts and sky-blue playhouses. Kelly knew she could redesign the inside, but outsides like hers were impossible to find.

Wiggins has grown to love the home’s timelessness. New builds typically boast an open floor plan, but she loves that hers is closed. The division reminds her of the intimate spaces in her favorite childhood stories, like Little Women.

Some of her friends joke that the home feels Gothic, which is easy to conclude since the exterior is black. Rich navy-denims that imbue the space with depth and warmth don’t help, either. Wiggins thinks it’s cozy.

“I don’t feel like it feels Gothic. I’ve always liked dark colors,” Wiggins said. “But then I like to balance it with lots of white and bright stuff inside, too. So I like high contrast.”

Most of her mid-century modern furnishings are passed down by aunts from her father’s side. Wiggins’s father grew up economically marginalized, and Kelly suspects that’s why her family curates heirlooms. It’s a way to keep history alive and begin traditions they weren’t privileged enough to have.

Wiggins instills this stewardship into her own daughters, who are four and seven. She often finds the 7-year-old, Ellie, putting wildflowers on her bedroom dresser or rearranging her room.

Thomas is less like Kelly and the girls. He prefers an edited space: crisp, clean and objecting to anything maximal. But he is flexible and supportive. She stokes the vision; he executes the task.

Quite literally, Kelly is always redecorating something. Her space is an extension of herself: her mood, the season of life she’s in, the age of her children. Some see interior design as a means to an end. To Wiggins, the means are the joy.

“I enjoy the process of drawing inspiration and moving things around,” Wiggins said, “It’s kind of like a constantly moving puzzle. If it’s done, then I’m not inspired.”

Wiggins’s greater hope is that her children build a positive relationship between themselves and their home. She distinctly remembers space: the Victorian bed-and-breakfast her grandparents ran in Aberdeen; the childhood home her parents sold when she was in college; the stark cookie-cutter fixer upper that was her first home with Thomas.

“I just want [Ellie and Mary Evelyn] to remember our house as a loving house,” she said. “We have so many memories tied to where we [grow] up.”

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