Gesturing to the well-furnished, but overall standard living room, outfitted with plush chairs and family portraits, Larry said, “This is the boring part of the house. When we decided to build, our son was a junior in high school, and we thought once he was out we’d build a nice 2,200 square feet, you know, just what we need.”
Mary Sue laughs at this as her husband walks through the kitchen. The outside wall where the house used to end now opens into a small dining room with a rough-hewn table and chairs.
And beyond that, Tailgate Heaven.
A side door opens onto a spacious covered deck, complete with fireplace, flat screen television, grill, and bar. The back of the house holds a massive game room; site, Larry said, of many a karaoke competition.
“The front of the house is where we spend the work week, and the back of the house is where the weekends happen,” he said.
“It’s funny, though,” Mary Sue added, “The game room seems to be kind of creeping up into the rest of the house.”
The additions began with the deck, but as things developed, the game room became the true inspiration. Decorated with old golf clubs, funky lighting, and reclaimed wood, everything in the space has a story, like the grille of a Ford Galaxy mounted above one door.
“That was from my dad’s car,” Mary Sue said. “And the boards in the bathroom came from my grandfather’s pool hall in Louisiana.”
The wooden doors leading to the deck came from Boston, and have some sort of history Larry couldn’t quite recall.
“It changes every time,” he said with a grin. “We’d started construction on the game room when we took a trip to the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, and loved it. We thought it would be fun to try to create the same vibe in here.”
Larry, director of recruitment at Itawamba Community College, and Mary Sue, a speech professor at the same school, said they caught the creative bug real quick. Larry began experimenting with creative lights, starting with a trio of perforated minnow buckets that now hangs above the pool table. In the bathroom, the light bulbs shine through mason jars.
“We were in an antique store and Larry comes up to me with a cheese grater, and I said, ‘What are you doing with that?’ And he said, ‘I think I want to use them as light fixtures,’” Mary Sue said. “Some people have to have all their stuff match and be neat, but it’s been fun to break away from that.”
The structure of the addition took about six months to build, but the evolution of the vibe continues.
“Even our trim guy who helped us put up the boards on the wall got into it,” Larry said. “We’d come to him with an idea and he’d get excited about it. It got to a point where there wasn’t really an end in sight, but it became a question of, ‘What can we do?’”
The family has the cul de sac all to themselves, which is probably for the best on game days that bleed into karaoke nights. The singing equipment is a permanent fixture in the corner of the game room, and Larry has rigged a miniature light show for singers who become particularly enthusiastic, a fog machine, too. Throw in a few retro games – a Star Wars pinball machine! – and a 70” television, and it’s a hard place to beat for a Saturday of football, or, more recently, a highly-hyped pay-per-view boxing match.
“One thing I’ve noticed, for some reason, the Ole Miss fans always congregate inside, and the State fans always prefer the deck,” Larry said. “Mary Sue is from Louisiana and I’m from the Delta, so there’s always some good food floating around, too.”
Sure, Larry said, the whole space is great for an occasion. But it’s equally pleasing for the pure sake of relaxation, especially in a rare summer of tolerable heat. Standing on the back deck, the trees grow right up to the rail. It’s easy to forget you’re still in a neighborhood.
“When I come home from work, I just feel like this is my domain,” he said. “It’s just great to hang out, or maybe call just a couple of buddies, too.”
Mary Sue agreed.
“We wanted to build something we could really have fun in and enjoy,” she said. “We’re still just big kids at heart.”
Photos by Lauren Wood // Story by Riley Manning