At the age of 80, Barbara Mattingly is living out a childhood dream. “I remember in fifth grade, we had a project where we built a little Indian village,” says the former Germantown resident, who now makes her home in Oxford, MS. “Ever since then, I’ve just had a love for (Native American) culture. I love to travel out west.”
Through her years of travels, Barbara amassed an impressive collection of Native American art, crafts and artifacts. The items never quite found their place in her polished and stately Aintree home, which was filled with fine art and antiques. “Even with my more elegant furnishings, I always thought, ‘Oh, I should take one room and put everything Western and Southwestern in there,’” she says. “All the colors and the art.”
Years passed, and then decades. And then Barbara’s eldest son, Mitch Mattingly, proposed that she build a home on his family’s property, gently sloping farmland eight miles outside Oxford that once belonged to former Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt. “Rolling hills, lots of trees and a gorgeous lake right in front of my house,” says Barbara, who was immediately taken with the idea.
The family worked with MossCreek Communities to complete the rustic, two-story structure, which is sheathed in warm, honey-colored wood inside and out. The cabin, tucked back from the highway in a mantle of green, has a broad front porch with sweeping lake views, as well as an intimate back porch with a stacked stone fireplace that creates a cozy, outdoor room.
Mitch and his wife, Cindy, who raise Clydesdales and a trio of miniature donkeys, have a home on the property, as well. And that’s by design. “I’m just a five-minute walk from his house,” Barbara says. “And in the event that I ever need assistance, he and his wife would just move in.”
Barbara’s other son, David Mattingly, was also instrumental in the home’s design, says Elizabeth Masterson, an interior designer with Chestnut Hall Fine Furniture & Interior Design. Elizabeth worked with the Mattinglys to integrate Barbara’s collections and create a cohesive design for the space.
“David knew it would be overwhelming for (Barbara) to do piece by piece,” says Elizabeth. “He and I really worked together to get the overall theme of what she wanted.” The home needed to be rustic, but with a poise and polish that reflected Barbara’s own poise. It needed to incorporate her collections and display them in museum-like fashion. But it also needed to be livable, comfortable. And it needed to connect Barbara’s collected Native Americana with Oxford’s and the South’s own rich history.
A tall order for Elizabeth, but one she was prepared to tackle.
“It was one of those houses that you love to get, because it’s very unique and it’s a spectacular house,” says Elizabeth, whose past experience includes work on a rustic Montana home with Memphis designer Lee Pruitt. “A lot of detail with the wood, the stone; I tried to take all the parts and combine them into a look that was updated, but not too updated, that held to the integrity of the structure.”
Barbara had already downsized once, moving from her large, suburban house to a smaller home. With this move, she downsized even more, keeping only pieces that fit the new space and worked with her collections and the home’s aesthetic. It was Elizabeth’s task to blend the old with the new, the whimsical with the practical, in a seamless way. “I wanted the house to be plain,” Barbara says. “I like color and I have enough of it, but I didn’t want to put out a lot of accessories and just cover the place up with them. I wanted to enjoy what I do have. I could not have achieved what I have without Elizabeth’s help.”
Amid furnishings and accessories that range from polished and traditional to bold and contemporary, Chestnut Hall dedicates a portion of its Germantown showroom to At the Cabin, which carries items with a rustic, woodsy vibe. “At the Cabin has a lot of great, one-of-a-kind pieces and unique furniture, and we were able to get great rustic furniture from our vendors,” Elizabeth says. Throughout Barbara’s home, she incorporated existing pieces, like a leather sofa in the great room, with new pieces, like a pair of side chairs, an iron console table and a striped Pendleton rug. A mounted elk head above the mantel is from Chestnut Hall, while a mounted bison came from Barbara’s family. In the dining room, Elizabeth found a pair of tall cabinets to anchor the space, as well as a cane-back settee with kilim upholstery that connects with other textiles in the space.
The kitchen is current, but understated, featuring glazed cabinetry and granite countertops with movement that mimics the lines of the surrounding forest. A large island distinguishes the space, while keeping it open and connected to the rest of the living area. Throughout the downstairs, vignettes display Barbara’s collected pieces. For example, a niche beside the stacked stone fireplace displays a weathered chest and rustic wood chair with a painting David found for the space and a grouping of Barbara’s Native American figurines.
Nearby is another vignette with a Native American bust, a Windsor child’s chair and a Carl Rungius print Elizabeth brought in. “We really collaborated,” Elizabeth says. “It was very intense and so much fun. Very detailed.”
Barbara’s downstairs suite has ready access to the lakefront porch. Upstairs, two additional bedroom suites offer ample space for guests, each with its own theme. The first celebrates hunting culture, with décor inspired by the Deep South. The space contains a barley-twist canopy bed Barbara already owned and a hand-carved fox table Elizabeth brought in for a touch of whimsy.
In the other guest suite, a Victorian feel permeates the space, with an antique iron bed, a Victrola and a quaint grouping of black-and-white family photos. “David and I went through old family photographs and picked out the best ones,” Elizabeth said. “People used to hang photos in groupings of ovals and rectangles. I wanted it to have that old-fashioned feel.”
Between the upstairs suites sits a spacious landing where a collection of framed Native American lithographs fan out above a flat-screen TV, blurring the line between past and present.
Elizabeth enjoyed the process of blending rustic with historic and urbane, creating a home that captures all facets of Barbara’s personality while embracing its bucolic setting. But her favorite moment on the project was the last one: seeing her vision come to life. “At the end of the day, it was great to be able to step back and see how it came together so wonderfully.”
Now that she’s settled into her new home, Barbara can’t imagine ever leaving her rustic enclave to return to city life. “I have a little pet deer that I’ve raised with a bottle since she was a baby,” she says. “She’s great friends with the little barn cat. They used to eat together, sleep together and play. Two or three times a day, she comes up when she’s hungry.
“I’m just enjoying it so much. It’s so quiet and tranquil out here.”
Special thanks to Julie Wage Ross for today’s images. Also, thanks to Barbara, Mitch and Cindy Mattingly for opening the gates to their stunning property. (We even got to pet the Clydesdales!)